Thursday, January 31, 2013

Last Day of January

This month has been a blur, but I've accomplished a great deal so far. I owe a lot of my productivity to my vision board.
Three things on my vision board are now reality.  I've written about visions boards in the past, but for the new followers, it's a board the size of a poster (about 2 feet x 3 feet) filled with pictures of the things I want to do this year.
Jilda and I both do one at the first of January, and my vision board this year had a picture of a cruise ship, and I booked the cruise on Monday. I had a picture of us playing coffee shops, and we played twice in January, and we have five more dates during the first quarter of the year.
I had a graphic for meditation, and I've meditated more times in January that I have in many years.
The trick is to fill your board with pictures and words that have emotional impact. Things that make feel that yearning deep in your gut. Things that make you smile when you look at them.
That's what my vision board does. Each morning as I drink coffee, I take a few minutes to look at every picture on it, and read every word.
I'm not sure how it works, but it does.
If you don't have a vision board, I highly recommend you do one for yourself. You'll thank me one day.
Here's a link for how to do a vision board and what one looks like.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stormy Weather

I slept fitfully last night. Before going to bed, we'd watched the local weatherman pointing to an approaching cold front and jabbering like a spider monkey cranked up on speed and Red Bull energy drinks.
It sounded like we'd be paying dearly for the warm weather the last few days. 
He said the front would cross the state line from Mississippi around 3 a.m.
I didn't set the clock, because I knew I wouldn't have to. About 2:55 a.m. my eyes opened and I slid out of bed. I walked to the deck to get an analog weather report. These reports don't need radar, infrared satellite images, or computer analysis. 
It involves stepping outside, looking up at the sky and listening to the wind in the pines.
Stormy Weather, shot back in the summer
Even though the front was a few hours away, you could hear high-level winds roaring like the Indi 500 race in the clouds.
I could hear the wind chimes on the deck and from the side porch tinkling non-stop. Even the large chimes that weigh as much as a Buick, were banging like gongs.
A visual inspection of the horizon showed no lightening, and I could hear no thunder in the distance. All I could hear was the angry wind. I thought to myself, I would hate to be flying over Alabama tonight.
I tentatively slipped back inside and back into bed.
About 5:30 our house phone, and both our cell phones started ringing, with incoming calls and texts. 
After the devastating outbreak in 2011, I signed up for a weather alert system that notifies us whenever there's a tornado warning in our zipcode.
I went back out to the deck, and not only was the wind still howling, but lightening flashed on the horizon.
When I looked at the weather on TV, the approaching storms looked bad, but nothing like they they do in the springtime. I punched the brew button on the coffeemaker, pulled out a deck chair and listened to the wind. 
As it turns out, the bad part of the storm went north and east of us. Tennessee and Georgia weren't so lucky, as people in both states died as a result of the storms.
If there's one thing I've learned living in the south, it's that you respect Mother Nature, and you ALWAYS sleep lightly during stormy weather.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On A Roll

 I've been on a roll today. My first book Remembering Big, that I published in 2008, is out of print.  But everything I'm reading on self-publishing says that authors should format all their work as eBooks. 
So I pulled up the old files and began the tedious work of reformatting it. 
I poured myself a strong cup of coffee, and headed to the office early this morning. 
I learned a great deal with the first book, not the least of which was that marketing it is much harder that writing it.
I also realized too late, that I hadn't done a good job editing it before sending it to press. I had three different editors working on different sections, and at the last minute, I added more stories that I'd edited myself - MISTAKE.
With my last book, Life Happens, I still had three editors, but they ALL edited the entire book. As a result, a manuscript that I thought was tighter than spandex pants on a sumo wrestler, had a ton of errors. 
Thankfully, everything we found got fixed before I published.
So I'm taking my time editing and formatting the old book before I put it online. 
My target date is to have it up and available for 99 cents to anyone with an eReader by Valentine's Day.
If any of you have the urge to self publish, I'd be happy to share knowledge and resources with you.
And when I sell thousands of books, I'm getting this car.

Monday, January 28, 2013

GPS takes us off the beaten path ~ My Column from Sunday

I’m not sure I’d be labeled an “early adopter” by folks on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, but I’m comfortable with new technology and not afraid of wires and switches. 

When the new iPhone 5 came out, I was one of the first people to have one here in Walker County and one of the features I’ve come to love is the GPS.

My time installing phones with MaBell honed my directional skills, and I can say without hesitation that I’ve never been lost. Jilda would beg to differ, but she always takes the short view. After all, I’m sitting home right now typing these words, and if I’d really been lost, well, I wouldn’t be here. I rest my case.

Anyhow, the stars lined up against us on my birthday so we couldn’t get out of town, but this past weekend we decided to head to the beach. We haven’t been in about two years and I was having sandy withdrawals.

Jilda and I have been to Gulf Shores and Mobile more times that I care to recall. Either of us could drive to Gulf Shores blindfolded and snockered. I do want to clarify with my insurance agent, who reads my column, that neither of us make a habit of driving blindfolded or snockered. But I digress.

We packed our bags and headed out for a little sunny bliss by the Gulf. Just for grins, I tapped the address into the GPS on my phone and she dutifully found several routes. 

About 40 miles south of Montgomery, the sexy voice of a woman spoke to me — Turn here.

Hmmmm, I thought. This is a little early, but maybe she wants to take me a new and interesting route. Jilda was fiddling with the CD player and didn’t object to trying a new route to the beach.

Almost as soon as we turned off, we got behind an eighteen wheeler driving as slow as a hearse. 

Normally, that’s not an issue, but we were on a two-lane road that had more curves than a go-cart track. So I followed behind gritting my teeth and saying unkind things about his parents.

The road took us through Brewton, Castleberry, Flomaton, and eventually Pensacola. 

Apparently this route had been mislabeled in my GPS. It should have said: This route is for intoxicated truck drivers hauling toxic waste or bales of marijuana who want to dodge roadblocks and weighing stations.

At any rate, it was not meant for a cranky couple with stiff joints and stomachs growling like they contained angry ocelots trying to gnaw their way to freedom.

We could have taken the route through Denver and arrived sooner. If Jilda could have pried the iPhone out of my hand, it would now reside at the bottom of Pensacola Bay.

When we finally rolled in, the sun had dipped below the ocean an hour earlier, and all that remained were clouds tinted with traces of maroon and magenta. 

After checking into our room, we headed out for seafood. 

When we returned, we went out on the seaside balcony to listen to the pounding surf and feel the salty breeze on our faces. Soon the drive down was a faded memory. 

A few days in the sun and sand rejuvenated us. As we loaded the car for the return trip on Sunday, Jilda started to say something about the GPS, but I interrupted. “Say no more,” I said as I put the Volvo in drive and headed home the old familiar way.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bon Voyage

Jilda and I are booking a cruise. We've been married since 1974. We've flown across the globe, and we've driven all across this country, but we've never taken a cruise.
We live fairly close to demarcation points, but for one reason or another, we've never sailed the ocean blue.
Her sister has been on several cruises and she always asks us to go with her, but it never seemed to fit. But the one she booked this summer seemed right so we're going on a Caribbean cruise and we're excited.
I'm interested to learn if they have yoga classes and/or singer songwriters who perform on voyages.
Maybe we could play music and see the world at someone else's expense.
I could write books, play music, do yoga, and see the world.
What could be better than that?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

That is the question

I did a Google search on the "Most Famous Quote" and the first ones that popped up was by my old friend Will Shakespeare who said "To be, or not to be, that is the question."
BAM! It hit me right between the eyes.
I think the question is one that each and every human should ask themselves.

Am I going to be a writer, or not?
Am I going to be a good father, or not?
Am I going to do what I promised I'd do, or not?
Am I going to do what it takes to succeed, or not?
Am I going to live life like every day is a gift, or not?
Am I going to live my dream, or not?
Am I going to make this earth a better place, or not?
Am I going to _______________, or not? (You fill in the blank).

That is the question.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Why is it that some words seem to stick with you while others fade like a warm breath on a cold morning?
The lyrics to songs, bible verses you learned when you were a kid, or the words to a poem all can seep deep within your mind, and bubble up at unexpected times.
Some how the writer strings together a handful of common words in an uncommon way, and the result is a verse, or line that resonates.
Last week while walking at sunset in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico, the words to my favorite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem came rushing back as fresh as the first time I read his poem Psalm of Life. The verse that's stuck in my mind like a sailor's tattoo is:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can live our lives sublime
And in passing leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.

Longfellow died in 1882, but his words live on.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All Gravy

I've immersed myself these last few weeks in trying to understand how to promote books. With the entry barriers knocked down by Amazon, Apple, and other literary content providers, new writers who have dreamed of writing a book all their lives, can now publish their books.
In the past, legacy publishing houses were the gatekeepers, and only a select few writers were allowed inside the kingdom of Authorville.
But these days with CreateSpace, and a good story, you can be a self-published author. This is great news, but it also means that it's easy for new authors to get lost in the tall weeds.
There are a lot of successful writers who've published books through the big publishing houses who have moved to self publishing because they have total control of their creative content, and they get a bigger share of the profits.
It's an exciting, and a scary time to be a writer. I'd love to earn enough to pay for our travel, with money I make from my books, but as I have always said, "If you're only in this business to make money, you're in the wrong business."
I write because I love writing, if I learn how to make a few bucks, that that's all gravy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hard Day At the Office

It was a hard day at the office today......OK, for you that have followed my blog for a while know that I'm a freelance writer and only work when the mood strikes me. But, my niece called and asked if we'd babysit our great-nephew Jordan today. So, all the stuff I'd planned to do, I rescheduled and I palled around with him all day.
He's four years old and way smarter than he should be at this stage in his life. Today, every time he wanted something, I made him spell it out.
He loves to be tickled more than any child I've ever known, so the CLAW OF EVIL, and the CLAW OF DESTRUCTION had their way with him. In the past, he would say STOP, STOP, so that he could catch he breath. But today, I made him spell STOP or I'd keep on tickling.
When he wanted something to drink he had to spell WATER or TEA or whatever he wanted. He was sick of the game by days end, but he could spell like a second grader :)
Here or a few of my favorite pictures I've taken of him over the last few years.
Jordan in the Magic Tree

Jordan and his concrete watermelon

Cowboy Jordan

Farmer Jordan

Jordan and the Rickster at Micky Ds

Moving On Up

Hey All,
 One of the things I've learned in the Google + Writing Communities is that I should be focusing on building a community of my own.
So, I have an offer for anyone interested in having a copy of my book Life Happens. The blog buddy that recommends my blog to the most people (and they start following) will receive an autographed copy of my book. OK, the top two referrers. (Is that a word)?
All you do is suggest to any of your followers that might be interested in following me to come here and leave comment saying, for example, Jane Dough at the Donut Blog recommended you. That way I'll know who did the referring.
Tell them Marilyn loved it :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Best You Can Do

A friend lost her father late Sunday night, so we attended the wake tonight. Her dad was 80, and had been ill for a long time. These last few months, he'd begun drifting too far from the shore, as the old gospel song goes.
Our friend called us several times recently, just to talk. She knew that both Jilda and I had lost our parents, and that we'd have a sense of what she was going through. 
Even though she knew deep in her heart the time was approaching, she said could not bear to let her dad go. 
Tonight as we spoke to our friend, I wanted so badly to come up with words of comfort that could somehow lift her spirits, but I know from experience, there are no words. 
So before we left, Jilda and I hugged her and told her we'd be thinking about her. In the end, that's the best anyone can do.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Life 101

I got a life lesson this evening. I went to Jilda's yoga class and when we got home, I should have taken out my contacts, but I didn't.
"I'll take them out after we eat our snack," I thought. Ordinarily that would have been hunky and dorey, but today when I picked up a few things at the store, on impulse I picked up wasabi almonds.
Most of you probably know that wasabi adds a little fire to things like green peas, sushi, and almonds.
We had Thai Tomato Coconut soup from Campbells. It comes in a box and it's delicious. Anyhow, after the soup, I opened up the wasabi almonds and ate a handful.
We headed to the office to write our blogs and I remembered I hadn't taken out my contacts. I rinsed my hands off a little and when I touched my eye to remove the contact, the wasabi lit my eye up.
So from this day forward, I will NEVER have to be reminded to be mindful of my hands before removing my contacts.
Lesson learned.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Home Again

I'm all for taking the road less traveled, but Friday I got more than I bargained for. Jilda and I have been to Gulf Shores many times.
We actually lived in Mobile for almost a year in 1980 after Hurricane Fredrick ravaged the coast. I worked for MaBell then and volunteered for hurricane cleanup duty. It involved climbing poles, and stringing wire.
I went down the first week in April and Jilda came down the following week. There are soooo many stories to tell but they'll have to wait for another time.
So it's a mystery why I flipped on the GPS on my iPhone when we headed down Friday. We could have driven there blindfolded.
But about 50 miles south of Montgomery, the GPS with the sweet Australian voice said to turn here.
Hmmm, I thought. A bit early, but maybe she knows a better way. So off I went. The trip normally takes five hours, but almost seven hours later, we rolled into the hotel at Orange Beach. We'd missed sunset. We were both hungry and cranky.
I think if Jilda could have pried the iPhone out of my hand, it would have ended up in the Gulf of Mexico.
But after we unpacked at the hotel and got a bite to eat, our cheery moods returned. Yesterday was remarkable.
We did, as nature intended when you're at the beach, ate seafood at every meal, except breakfast, and we walked for hours in the sand. Last night we sat on our balcony on the forth floor and listened to the surf. 
The beach in Alabama in winter still gets a little cool on some days, but most days are filled with sunshine and it's comfortable to stroll in the sand wearing a light sweater.
We've known this for a long time, but in winter, the state's beaches are overrun with folks from up north. Canadians, Michigans, and other "ans" from other states up north. Apparently it's cheaper to rent a place by the water during winter than it is to buy heating fuel to keep the pipes from bursting when those northern winds howl.
They're called snowbirds and we've never met any of these folks we didn't like. They are fun to talk with and they seem happy to be where they can walk on the beach in January without wearing long-johns.
On our parting walk on the beach this morning we met lots of snowbirds, and we all seemed to feel blessed to be in such a lovely place.
Below are a few parting photos I took today. Tomorrow, it's back to the grind stone. I'm going to be writing, so don't try to stop me.....I mean it. I'm writing.


Sunrise on 1/20/13

Sea Oats

Saturday, January 19, 2013


The stars lined up against us and we couldn't get out of town for my birthday earlier in the week, but soon the Universe was right again.
We found a house sitter that didn't charge money, but I'm guessing the fridge is bare, and the wine cellar is empty enough to echo when we go back in. But that's a small price to pay for a few days at the beach.
I headed down to the lobby early this morning and snagged a couple cups of coffee and some muffins.
The clack of the door roused Jilda, and I stepped out on the balcony to listen to the pounding surf until she became conscious enough to swallow coffee, without dribbling down the front of her PJ's.
It's hard describing the feeling of being near the ocean with words that are not used so often by much more accomplished writers, that they don't sound shallow, and cliché'ish.  But each time I find myself near the water, I want to try. Perhaps in piglatin. Ice-Nae Ound-say, or something like that.
This evening we found a public access at Gulf Shores and pulled in to watch the sunset.
It was absolutely stunning.
And while we stood there soaking in every ounce of beauty Mother Nature had to serve up on this winter evening, Jilda and I decided to buy a beach house at Gulf Shores.
After the sun dipped below the ocean, and the clouds had their way with the sky, we headed back to the hotel.
We stopped by a quick mart to buy lottery tickets. After all, we'd need a way to pay for the house.
Once we're settled in, you're all invited to summer with us.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kindle Reviews

I'm trying to market my second book a little but I need reviews. If you have a Kindle reader (it's only available on Kindle for another few weeks), and would be willing to write a short review for Amazon, I'll give you a free copy of Life Happens. I signed up for the free promotion, but it might not be available until tomorrow. Click here for a direct link to the book.
Marilyn Loved it, but was unable to do a review.
The more I read about eBooks and publishing the more I discover that reviews drive sales. Since I'm an unknown, I need to try and get some reviews.
Please share this with any friends who might be interested. Life Happens is a fairly short read. I would be eternally grateful.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Who Ordered a Snow Pie?

It seems as though it's been raining since November. We've had a few days of sunshine, but it's been unseasonably rainy. I'm thinking about stocking our garden with catfish.
Last night it rained through the night but the forecasters said snow would come today around 10 a.m. They weren't far off. When I went out just before 10 to open the gait for to let the dogs run, sleet peppered my face.
A few minutes later the snow began to slowly fall. Soon we heard a knock on our door and our great nephew Jordan was beside himself.
 We bundled up and walked out back. I grabbed this photo milliseconds before the snowball hit me right between the eyes.

He kept saying "Who ordered a snow-pie?"
"Who wants a snow-cake?"
"Anybody up for large snow-ball?"
Jordan and his fancy boots
When he came he wore thin tennis shoes and his feet got cold quickly.

We'd started to the barn, but he'd seen about as much snow as he could take.
So, I picked him up and carried him back to the house were we sat him down next to the fireplace and gave him a cup of hot chocolate, which suited him just fine.
When he warmed up, he was ready to go again, but this time Jilda put on a pair of thick sox, and bundled his feet up in a fresh pair of shoes but these she bundled up in Walmart bags and duct taped them on his feet.
The snow began to fall much harder and before long the ground was covered completely. I'm guessing we had between 3 and 4 inches by noon.
It stopped a short time later and by 2 p.m. the sun was out and the snow began to disappear. But that is usually the nature of snow here in Alabama. It comes and looks beautiful long enough for some photo ops and then the sun comes out and it's gone.

Snow Cyprus

The Barn
Snow Discs


Self Portrait

Jordan at the gate

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bird Watching

I got up early this morning and meditated before the coffeemaker started gurgling. When I finished, I sat in front of our windows and watched the birds feed.
As you can see from this photo (I toyed with the stain glass filter on Photoshop), our windows are floor to ceiling which gives us an unobstructed view of the birdbath and the feeders in our front yard.
At one time I counted eleven male cardinals in the Rose-a-Sharon and huckleberry bushes.
Then almost as if an alarm sounded, the Doves stormed in cooing and feeding from the split-log feeders.
Last week Jilda saw a single Purple Finch land on a branch of the white pine and peer through the glass as if to say "WE"RE HERE."
That afternoon when I finished writing, I went out to the shed to get the Finch feeder.
I hung it close to the window and away from the other feeders. Then earlier this week when we looked out there were six Finches feeding with a host of others on nearby branches awaiting their turn.
Every now and then a sparrow will come to the feeder, but I guess their beaks are too broad because they quickly get frustrated and fly over to the big-bird feeders.
A few years ago we had an abnormal year which brought snow several times. I took this picture that I call Snow Doves.
The weatherman is forecasting snow tomorrow, but it should be short lived because temperatures will be in the 50s by the weekend.
Welcome to my new blog followers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

They Say It's Your Birthday

Sixty-two years ago today in the back of a three-room camp house in Sloss Hollow, I was born into this world.
Doctor Baker, who lived close enough to our house that you could have knocked his living room window out with a sling shot, bundled up on that gray morning, and walked the few hundred yards to my parent's house and brought me kicking and screaming into the world with a slap.
Some people feel they were born too late, and others too soon, but I feel I was born at precisely the right time.
I was a child of the 50s, and came of age during the turbulent 60s. The vortex of the civil rights movement was in Alabama and one of the turning points was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which is not 30 miles from where I was born. It's not a time most people here of proud of, but I like to think we learned from it.
I was among some of the last Americans to get drafted into the Army. The year before I was draft eligible, they developed a lottery system. They put all the days of the year into a basket and drew them out one by one. The order in which you were drafted depended on what order your birthday was drawn out of the basket.
The first year my number was so high that I felt emboldened, and instead of trying to get a college deferment, I blew it off and said, "I'm lucky, they'll never draft me."
The next year when I became eligible, my number was something like 17. A few weeks later I got the letter from Uncle Sam in my mailbox. "You've been selected by your friends and neighbors to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America."
I never did figure out which of my friends or neighbors ratted me out to Uncle Sam.
At any rate, I made it through the military and after I came home, I hooked back up with my high school sweetheart and we married the next year.
I managed to land a job that paid for my education, and I worked with technology. The company trained me on how to work on computers long before there were computers in everyone pocket.
These days the velocity of change seems to be accelerating at a staggering pace. The more I learn, the further behind I seem to fall.
But I'm sitting here tonight tapping keys on my computer, and when I hit update, people from all over the world will be able to read what's on my mind tonight.
Even though it's only about 10 miles as a crow flies from where I was born, it seems that I'm spending my 62 birthday lightyears from where I started.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Recycling's in Our Blood ~ My Column from Sunday

As I cleaned out the dishwasher this morning, an epiphany blossomed in my mind like a morning glory flower. 

Down on the bottom tray toward the back, there was an empty pasta jar that had contained the Paul Newman sauce we’d used to make spaghetti the night before. Without thinking, we’d washed the jar in our dishwasher.

Both Jilda and I always wash the jars, although they frequently sit around collecting dust on our counters.

When it gets too cluttered, we reluctantly toss the jars into the trash. Recycling is an option, but it’s a pain for those who live here in Walker County.

But this morning as I reached in to retrieve the jar, I asked myself: “Why do we always wash these, knowing we’ll probably never use them?”

I contemplated the question for a moment and then it occurred to me that both our parents and grandparents did the same thing.

As I flipped through the dusty pages of my memory, I realized that recycling for them was not a fad, and they weren’t doing it because it was “the green thing to do.” They did it to survive.

They lived during the Great Depression where resources were scarce. They could reuse a quart jar to preserve food in the summer, so they could eat in the winter. 

In today’s disposable society, that is such a strange concept. We’re conned into thinking the stuff we buy that’s made overseas is cheaper. We use an item a few times, and when it breaks, we toss it in the trash and go buy another one. Things that last are rare these days.

When Jilda’s mother passed away, we worked months in her old house to dispose of all the things they had accumulated through the years.

In the basement were shelves of canned beets, tomatoes, pickles, blackberries, peaches, and okra. There were old rusty tools hanging on the walls that were made early in the 20th century. With a little oil, along with some love and care, the tools would last another 100 years.

Ruby and Sharky left those tools and other stuff from the basement workshop to the kids. When it came to divvying out the tools, Jilda and I chose a long-handled hoe, a tray of wrenches made of real steel and plumbing tools. My other choice was an odd one.

As long as Sharky lived, he collected nuts, bolts and other hardware. If he was in the grocery store parking lot and saw a nut, bolt or washer lying on the ground, he picked it up as if it were a shiny dime. When he got home, he tossed them into a five-gallon bucket.

I inherited that bucket of bolts, and to this day, if my truck, lawnmower, tiller or anything else loses a nut or washer, I always take a long screwdriver and rattle through that bucket of bolts. Nine times out of 10, I’ll find exactly what I need to make repairs.

I guess what I’m saying is that our impulse to save jars, plastic containers, and other things is one that was ingrained from a very early age.

I can’t help believing that our country would be better off if we all learned from our ancestors and recycled more.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mr. Chilcoat

Last September I got a call one evening just after Jilda and I had finished eating dinner. She answered the phone and after a moment handed the phone to me.
I could tell by the gentleman's voice he was elderly. His breathing was labored. I correctly guessed he had COPD.
He said, "Rick, my name is J. B. Chilcoat." He then stopped and took some deep breaths as if he had just completed a marathon.
"You don't know me, (pause) but I read your column each week, and I feel like I know you and your wife."
I actually get that a lot from people I've never met. It goes along with writing a column for the local paper.
"I've always enjoyed talking to people, but I made a mistake a while back," he said.
"When I told my old friends I was in hospice, and would die soon, many of them stopped coming around."
He sounded lonesome, so I let him talk without interruption. We talked for a long while before saying our goodbyes.
Then when my second book came out, he called me up to say he wanted a copy. That was in October so he came to hear Jilda and I perform at the Frog Festival. He bought one of the first copies of the new book.
Then in early December I wrote a column about Aging Gracefully, and it resonated with him.
He called and we talked for an hour. He told me about his family and his work life.
He loved to fish and it was my intention to take him fishing this spring when the weather warmed up, and the striped bass started running in the Black Warrior.
We'd planned to spend the evening preparing for upcoming recording sessions, but when Jilda picked up the paper this morning and scan the obits as she always does I heard he say "Oh No!"
I was doing some recording, and I heard he call my name.
There was something about the tone in her voice. When I walked into the living room she told me that Mr. Chilcoat had died.
Tonight we bundled up and went out into the torrential rain to attend his wake at the funeral home. We spoke briefly with his son and told him his dad was a fine person.
His son said that his dad had wrung ever ounce of living out of his life, and that the last few months he'd tied up loose ends and was ready to go. I felt badly for the son, because it's never easy losing a father.
I was saddened by the passing of Mr. Chilcoat. I hope he rests in peace.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Bear with me, as this gets a little convoluted, but there's a point, I promise.
Last week we played at a singer/songwriter event in Opelika. For those living outside Alabama, Opelika is a stones throw from Auburn. And, if you're not from Alabama, you probably don't know that Auburn University is the OTHER college in Alabama. And the Auburn Tigers are the arch rival, footballically (is that a word?) speaking, of the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide.
So, it was like we were spies doing undercover work right there in the jaws of the enemy. We took lots of notes in case we needed to report back to mission control in Tuscaloosa.
I bought a pair of sweat pants and an Old Navy jersey, just like we were regular tourists. Jilda posed for this photo at the local mall.
Kidding aside, we had a delightful time playing at Opelika Unplugged. The next day we took a leisurely drive through Auburn and stopped for coffee at  Gnu's Room, a non-profit book store. They have a great stash of books and we could have stayed there all day reading and sipping high-octane coffee, but we headed home just after lunch.
We're going to the beach soon to celebrate my birthday. We haven't been to the beach in a very long time.
I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Baked Potatoes and Slim Jims

Jilda's still under the weather from her treatment this week and she kept saying all afternoon, "I don't want anything to eat this evening." Some folks might actually think that she didn't want anything to eat this evening, but after almost 39 years, I'm now able to decode statements like this.
When she said, "I don't want anything to eat this evening" what that actually meant was "Get out of my face or I will carve you up with a paring knife and leave your body parts twitching in the kitchen."
I know it's a subtle difference but a significant one.
I kept at my work and every so often I'd go in to check on her. Then around five, she said, "I wish I had a baked potato."
Bingo. I tossed Ol' Buddy in the truck and headed down to the produce stand in Sumiton which is 11 miles away. I picked up some baking potatoes as big as twin chihuahuas. While I was at it, I scarfed up some sweet/tart apples which are her favorite.
At the register, I picked up a couple of 18" long Slim Jims and settled up at the register.  I don't eat Slim Jims, but they are Ol' Buddy's favorite treat.
Once in the truck, I bit off a chunk and handed it to the little mongrel. He almost took my index finger off at the second joint. Did I mention that Slim Jims are his favorite treat?
Anyhow I called to say were were headed home, and Jilda fired up the oven so it would be ready when we got home.
Tonight we watched Crazy Stupid Love and ate our potatoes. I think the starch made her feel better.
Life is good.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Old Rainy Day

It's been an old rainy day here in Alabama. I had a meeting in Birmingham today so I got out early and tended the critters.
We got a new rooster a few days ago and he had the girls hemmed up in the henhouse, otherwise the girls would have been out in the rain. Have I mentioned that chickens are not that clever?
Afterwards I headed in to town. My windshield wipers whisking clack, clack, clacking all the way.
I was mistaken about the start time so I had about 40 minutes to kill. I stopped at O'Henry's Coffee House, ordered up a Mocha, and headed out to the sidewalk tables to watch city life as I sipped my coffee.
Jilda lived in Chicago for a time and my family lived in Indiana a few months when I was in kindergarten, but I've spent most of my life in the country.
I found it strangely comforting today sitting there with drizzle dripping off the canope. I felt as though I were observer sent there from another place and time. It's funny what your mind can conjure up when you least expect it.
I could have stayed there all morning, but I finished up and headed out. Normally we have a full house at our media professional's meetings, but today several people were sick so only a few people showed up.
Tonight as I write this entry, I can hear the wind in the trees, and rain ticking on the tin roof. The weatherman says we could have some angry straight-line winds later tonight, so we might wear our football helmets to bet tonight.
Take care, and y'all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Gnat in My Tea

Today was treatment day for Jilda, so we headed out to the clinic after breakfast. Once there, the nurses started hooking her up, so I headed over to the cafeteria.
I bought a tall cup of coffee, flipped open my laptop, jammed headphones knuckle deep in my ears, clicked on my Focus  mp3, and started working.
I've found a corner near the back close to a power outlet that's become my office away from my office. I made calls, followed up on correspondance, and wrote my weekly column.
After I finished the column, I edited a story that's due Friday, and I even found time to work on my novel.
I've gotten to the point that people, sounds, and activity around me fade to edge of my perception. I know there is something there, but it doesn't gen in my space. I'm in the zone there.
Today just after noon, I snapped my laptop closed, coiled up my earphones, and headed back to the treatment room.
When I went in, Jilda was sitting next to an elderly lady who is obviously very ill. They were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.
The woman was telling Jilda about her escapades when she was younger. They hushed down some as I approached. Girl-talk Jilda said conspiratorially. It made me smile.
I know what my wife is going through is no picnic,  but in looking at the bigger picture, it could be much worse.
It's almost as if the Good Lord has put her in that place to help raise the spirits of people whose burdens are much harder to bear.
She is one of those rare people who can talk to the Pope, or to a pauper, and make them both feel as though they are the most important person on earth.
My wife frets sometimes because she feels she's putting my out by having to accompany her to the clinic. But in the scheme of things, working from a remote office is not a gnat in my tea.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Something's Rotten in Rick's Truck

Since late summer, I try not to drive my truck unless I can ride with the windows down. Fortunately here in Alabama, the weather permits me to ride with the windows down most of the time.
On the few days when the temps dropped below freezing and I had to turn the heater on, it was AWFUL.
You see, something crawled up into the innards of my truck and died. Not in the cab, not under the hood, not underneath, but somewhere in the ventilation system.
I took it to the shop and the mechanic stuck his head inside briefly before retreating for fresh air. "You got a dead rat in your heater coil."
"Get him out," I blurted. Well, he can do that, but he will have to remove the dashboard and some of the other parts which will cost upward of $500.
He said, "You could just run the heater for a day or two and eventually it will go away." That was in September and my truck smells like a hyde and tallow plant.
So, I'm guessing I'll have to bite the bullet and fork out enough cash to resolve this stinky situation. If any of you have any odd jobs, I'd like to be considered. I can rotate your tires, change oil, get leaves out of your gutter, or general grunt work.
Keep me in mind.

Monday, January 07, 2013

I'm hoping it's the Tide

It's almost game time. For those of you who don't follow college, tonight is the National Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame.
I have on my Alabama Crimson Tide lucky shirt, my luck pants, lucky sox, and the Tide flag flying out front.
I've done all I can do besides scream myself hoarse during the game that starts at 7:30 Central. Notre Dame, according to some record books,  has won more championship games than Alabama but the math is funny for both schools. Our athletic department say we have 14 as of this time last year.
The Fighting Irish are undefeated this year and Alabama has one painful loss. All of that matters not come 7:30 because both schools have great teams and it will depend on who shows up to play tonight.
I'm hoping it's the Tide.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Column from Today's Paper

I’m glad we misinterpreted the Mayan calendar and the world didn’t end on Dec. 21, 2012. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, maxing out all my credit cards probably wasn’t a good idea. Now that I think of it, I should have flossed my teeth those weeks before the predicted exit date, but alls well that ends well (or doesn’t end, I should say).

I read where people started years ago building safe rooms and stockpiling food. Some people bought guns, ammo and wilderness property so they could build fortresses.

I, on the other hand, took a long nap. Here’s the thing: I’m not sure I’d want to survive a world calamity where I lost all my friends, neighbors and family. 

I watched a movie back in November entitled “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” It was a sad movie and I’d never watch it again, but it got me to thinking.

What would I do if there was a giant asteroid on a collision course with Earth, and I knew for certain that the world as I know it would be destroyed in three weeks?

There is little doubt my priorities would change. For example, I wouldn’t waste time worrying about work deadlines and planning. I would not bother with our financial planner.

New tires on the truck or painting the barn would no longer be a priority.

In fact, I would forget all the things that I keep transferring from one day to the next on my daily planner. 

I think I would go down a list of the people I love and go see them. I would spend quality time visiting, talking, eating our favorite meals and listening to the music of our lives.

I can tell you, the impending calamity would add a sense of urgency to whatever I decided to do.

The longer I thought about what I would do if the world were ending, the more I wondered why I haven’t done these things all my life. 

I’ve managed to spend time with my loved ones, but too often I didn't visit because things got in my way.

At times I was spending too much time making a living and not enough time making a life.

I think we all are guilty of chasing the dollar to buy new cars, houses, computers, phones and other stuff. 

I’d be the first to say that acquiring things offer a sense of satisfaction, but that heady feeling is usually fleeting. Before you know it, you’re after something else. 

I dare say you could have all the things you ever dreamed of and still not be truly as happy as when you spend quality time with good friends.

I recently reread “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, and the following quote resonated with me. 

It sums up what I was thinking as I wrote this piece.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Good Night

Bear with me because I'll get to the point of this post.....For the new followers, I worked for MaBell for 33 years before a voluntary/involuntary separation in 2010 (another story all together).  But one thing that happens to phone company employees is that whenever we meet someone, and mention that we worked for the company, the person ALWAYS asked, "Well did you know Jane Doe or John Smith?"  I always acted like I was paging through my memory trying to picture Ms. Doe/Mr. Smith, before saying, "I don't know her/him." They ALWAYS say, "Well they WORKED for the phone company." What I wanted to point out, but never did, was that  AT&T at one time had almost a million employees.
Fast forward to last night.  After the soundcheck at the Opelika Unplugged event, several of the songwriters gathered in the hospitality room to hang out before the show.

We exchanged business cards and war stories about playing and talked about our day-gigs.

When it came to me, I told them that I retired from the phone company a few years ago and did only freelance work now.
Laura Lynn Hardy who lives in north Alabama was in the lineup said, "You worked for the phone company? Where?"
"Birmingham," I offered.
"Did you know my dad?"
Here we go again, I thought. His name was Pat Hardy.
All of a sudden, bells and whistles went off in my head.
"Actually, I did know your dad. He was in my group for 10 years," I replied.  What a small world.
For the most part, phone company people were tight. We were closer than many families. Her dad, and all the other guys in our group frequently baled me out of jams. They made me look good, and that wasn't easy.
Not only did we have a great time playing music, but we met the daughter of a good friend. That's a good night in my book.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Pickin' and Grinnin'

It's later than usual for me to post. In fact, it's past my bedtime. You know how old folks are :) But tonight we played at a singer/songwriter event and the people playing tonight were all remarkable. We were all really different, but I think each of us connected with the audience.
The only downside is that we were outsiders and didn't have anyone to shoot pictures for us.
So this will be a short post, and I'll do better tomorrow.
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


The holidays messed me up this week. The deadline for my newspaper column is Thursday at noon. In all the years I've written for the paper, I've only been late one time and that was after the tornadoes slammed through our area and blew my power to South Carolina. We didn't have electricity for almost two weeks, so the editor cut me a little slack.
But this week, I've worked on goals and intentions for 2013, I've worked on my vision board, and I've eaten till I almost spewed. The only thing I didn't do is work on my column.
It hit me yesterday that it was Wednesday and that my column was due today.
When I'm not under pressure, ideas swarm around me like flies at a barbecue. But at other times when I procrastinate, it's almost as though I can hear the deadline whistling at me like a fastball, and ideas get scarce.
Some people work better under pressure, but "I ain't one of them folks."
I got up extra early this morning and snorted a line of dark-roast coffee before I locked myself in my office.
I opened my MacBook, shoved my headphones first-knuckle deep into my ears, cranked up my Focus mp3 and got down to business.
I tapped keys for a while and then decided to scroll back through recent blog entries to see if anything resonated.
I stopped on the blog entry I wrote in mid-December about the end of the world prediction by the Mayans.
All of a sudden, the creative gates opened and the words flowed. I had the first draft by the time our new Cuisinart gurgled out the last few drops of coffee. I heard Jilda's feet hit the floor and when she came through the bedroom door, her first words (as they always are) was COFFEEEEEEEEEEEE.
The freshly laser-printed column was still warm when I laid it on her lap. After her second cup of coffee, she found her glasses and proofed my work. A few minutes later my editor had a copy in her inbox.
I've already made a list of ideas for next week because I don't like it when it comes down to crunch time.
So my question to you is this: Do you work better under pressure, or do you function better when the dogs aren't nipping at your heels?  I could use some advise for the next time I wait till the last minute to write.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

APE ~ How To Publish a Book

I read my first Kindle book from start to finish this past week. The title was APE ~ How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki with Shawn Welch.
I've written and published two books so I actually know something about the topic, but I downloaded it based on the table of contents.
The book goes far beyond writing, and publishing. It gives very good tips, and resources, for all phases of publishing a book.
I was most interested in tips on design, editing, marketing and promotion. All four of these sections had very good information.
I've mentioned it before, but I've picked up quite a few new followers lately so I just wanted to say the books I've written originated in the pages of this blog.
I will write an entry that's promising, I'll polish up the entry and use it as one of my weekly newspaper columns, and then I select the best of the columns and publish them in paperback books and on Kindle.
Neither of my books has gone viral, but I'm making a little money locally.
I picked up some tips that have already helped me to sell books that I might not have sold. As I've said before, writing is the easy/fun part. Learning how to put books in the hands of readers is more of a challenge.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

We had black-eyed peas and collard greens for lunch today. I'm not sure how many of you reading this tonight are from the south, but it's the law here.
"Yes ma'am, I got a report that you had pizza for New Years Day lunch. I'm afraid I'm going to have to run you in," said the county sheriff.
Every New Years meal that I can remember included black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread.  If you asked a random person in the south over 40 years old, they'd tell you that eating those foods on New Years brings you luck and money throughout the year. I'm not sure what younger folks would say.
The only times I can remember not having this meal was the two years I spent in the Army.
The first year I was in New Jersey and when I asked for for black-eyed peas and greens, the mess sergeant , who was from Asbury Park, looked at me is if I had lobster claws protruding from my ears and snapping at him.
The second year was when I was in Panama. I asked for black-eyed peas and greens and the Panamanian cook plopped two egg rolls and a spoonful of chow mein on my plate, and smiled expectantly. He spoke very little English, and even less Appalachian English.
So folks from other parts of the world might ask, "Does eating black-eyed peas and greens, bring you luck and money all through the year. Absolutely!
Those two years I didn't have my New Years meal, I dressed in olive-drab green all year and received less money than most welfare recipients.
Happy New Year.

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