Thursday, June 22, 2017

This is not a drill

I had an appointment with my knee doc today after lunch. Taking the backroads gets me there faster, but I go through no man's land when it comes to cell coverage. My phone read NO SERVICE most of the way. When I reached the crest of one of the hollows, my phone began screeching. This can't be good, I thought to myself.

When I got to a wide spot in the road, I pulled over to see the message. The National Weather Service had just issued a Tornado Warning. This is not a drill campers – duck and run for cover.

I wasn't sure if the alert was directed at my home zip code or where I was currently idling beside the road.

I had a strong enough signal to call Jilda. I knew she was taking a short nap before heading to her job but this was important. She grabbed the phone and in an instant was in the TV room watching the weather.  She said the storm is headed for you. CRAP. I had no place to seek shelter where I sat so I jammed the truck in gear and scrambled toward the doctor's office where I knew they had a safe room. Less than five minutes later, I parked and was heading inside. The county tornado sirens began to wail before I got inside the building.

At the front desk, all the nurses and admins were glued to the TV set in the lobby. The tornado was on the ground but it was a few miles east and south of us. They showed me where the safe room was and we all watched the electronic progress of the storm on a wide-screen TV.

As often happens, this storm lifted. A few minutes later, the warning moved to other parts of the county. All I saw were angry clouds and torrential rain.

Nothing like a little excitement to test the blood pressure medicine.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rainy day

It's been an old rainy day. The outer bands from Tropical Storm Cindy swept north from the southeast drenching everything in its path. It could rain for days.

Jilda and I were both off today. We took her to the dentist early this morning for a temp tooth. I'll let her tell about that here.

Neither of us has slept well for the last several days so tonight we plan to get an early start.  If you live in the path of Cindy, keep an umbrella handy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

If I were an ocean

If I were an ocean, I'd be at low tide. Some people say that Bio Rhythms are a bunch of new-age hooey. I'm not a scientist, but I do know this – I seem to go through cycles. Most of the time I feel "on top of the world" but at other times I feel lower than snail poo.

I had a bucket full at work today and it seemed like I spent most of the day spinning my wheels. I figure it's only a matter of time before I get traction and get back on the "high" way.

How about you? Do you go through this stuff or was swimming too close to the nuclear barge back when I was in Panama a bad idea?

I didn't take a photo today, but I looked back in my photographs and found one that I took on this day back in 2013. It has nothing to do with this post but that's how it goes sometimes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Yoga Sunset

Normally I post my column on Monday nights, but it was too much like the one I posted after returning from Cleveland so I decided to post the picture I shot on the way home from Yoga class tonight.

The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but the cloud portrait it painted was stunning.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

It's been a low-key Father's Day here. Jilda's dad and my dad died years ago. The day has
changed for us when they were gone. It's sadder now. Both of us looked at Facebook a good bit today. I wanted to tell the ones who still had living fathers to appreciate them while they are here. They will be gone too soon.

This evening we went to our great nephew's birthday party. He celebrated his seventh birthday. His mom and dad were wise. They rented a  snow cone machine for the front porch and water slide for the front yard. The kids were in heaven.

It wore me out just watching them rip and romp up and down that bouncing slide.

The temps were in the 90s with humidity that was actually more dense than the water sprinkling down the slide. I wish I'd taken my swimsuit with me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bush league

Several years ago we planted a lantana bush in the small flower bed beside the back deck. It's a beautiful bush and hummingbirds adore it, but it was never pleased to be there. Each time it tried to spread its wings, we had to trim it back because it cast shadows on the other flower vying for sunlight.

Jilda's sister Pat has a lantana bush as well, and it's in a perfect location. It gets sun-o-plenty and subsequently has grown to roughly the size of Rhode Island.  I snapped the picture below the last time we were there.

When Jilda got home, I saw her heading for the shed. "What's up?" I asked. I'm relocating the bush. She's one of the least competitive people I know except when it comes to her flowers. She gets all foldy-army when she's horticulturally bested by one of her siblings. That doesn't happen too often, but when it does, she's ready to take action.

We found a place at the back of the fence that is perfect for the bush. It gets plenty of sunlight and has room to grow. We cut it back before transplanting it, and I fretted for a while that it might not make it. However this week the blooms began appearing. I'm hoping that by summer's end, it will be as glorious as her sister Pats. If not, I may have to move it again next spring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dumpster Diving

Hello. My name is Rick and I'm a dumpster-diver. HEY RICK! That was easier to admit in front of my blog buddies than I thought. But it's true. Having storage space in the old house and barn is a good thing. Whenever I find myself running by a dumpster to toss in REAL garbage, I always have a look to see if there's anything interesting that someone has tossed.

A few weeks ago, I drove up to the dumpster at the college to toss in some old boxes and stuff left over from a shipment of books. As always, just before I tossed the stuff in from the back of my truck, I had a look inside the dumpster. This one is not for household garbage so it wasn't stinkyfied (is that a word?)

Inside the dumpster was an old rusted stool. It looked old. Seeing that old stool sent me down memory lane. There was a stool just like this one at Harry Shaw's Drug Store in Dora when I was a kid. In the late 1950s, I spent hours sipping chocolate malts on a stool at the soda fountain at Harry's. My legs dangled off of that one. My new treasure was a little shorter, but the resemblance is striking. I leaned over inside the dumpster and snagged a leg from the stool and when I sat it down on the pavement. The stool was solid. The vinyl cover over the seat had faded and cracked. It was once bright yellow at one time, but now it was the color of butter.

When I brought it home I wasn't sure how I'd use it. The instant Jilda saw it she smiled and said this is a perfect stand for one of the ferns on the screen porch.

When I sat it down out there and placed the fern on it, the stool looked as if it had always been there.

What about you. Do you ever go dumpster diving?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Vantage point

At the gate last night, people were getting testy. A blaring alarm was busy alerting security that unauthorized terrorists were invading Concourse A. It sounded like the buzzer at a basketball game except I thought it would never end.

I'd been at gate A9 for twenty minutes and I hadn't seen any sign of danger. With years of data center experience, I diagnosed the problem as a faulty door alarm switch. After an eternity of buzzing, it shut off. Applause from frazzled commuters erupted. It doesn't take much to make them happy when they've been through a late-night airport beat-down.

Thunderstorms to the north delayed flights. That would not have been an issue for us except for the fact that our stewardesses were circling the airport waiting to land instead of preparing our cabin. Again, when they pushed through the crowd at the gate, they were applauded.

These weary passengers boarded in record time. Male passengers helped smaller females heft their bags into overhead bins and people stepped out of the way to remove jackets, instead of holding up the line of boarding passengers.

Once the plane began taxiing to the runway, everyone fell silent. The only sound was the rise and fall of the thrusting engines as it maneuvered the maze of runways to the main strip.

It was closing in on midnight Eastern Time when we finally lifted off for the final leg of my journey home.

We rose through the clouds quickly and left them behind. Soon we were 30,000 feet above West Georgia and East Alabama. The only sound was the rushing whisper of the engines. From that vantage point, the sleepy towns looked as if they were a part of a larger Christmas tree.

Watching the lights slide beneath me made my stress join the vapor trail following the plane.

I snapped a picture to capture the moment.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

High in the clouds

I fretted as we boarded the plane for the trip home. I always book an aisle seat, but somehow my ticket showed a window seat. Hmmm. I sidestepped down toward the back of the plane and my seat 30A, I got uneasy as my seat come into view. Two guys that looked as if they could play linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons were sitting in 30 B and C. When I got to my row, I pointed to the window seat and the two guys chuckled. They realized at the same time as I did that the seating assignment gods have a sense of humor.

They stood and I slide into a space that would not accommodate Ol’ Hook. I scrunched as much as I could and shoved my laptop under the seat in front of me.

The shades on the windows had been lowered. As we sat idling on the tarmac, I flipped the shades up to get a look at the weather. Someone had told me at the hotel before we left that there were thunderstorms approaching. As I looked to the north, I saw a bolt of lightning jab the Earth off in the distance. 

Thankfully the pilot announced that we were first in line for takeoff and we taxied to the north end of the runway and took off to the south.  A few minutes later, we left the clouds behind us.
Somewhere over Kentucky, more angry clouds loomed off to starboard. Pulling the phone from my shirt pocket, I snapped a picture.

I was happy when we touched down in Atlanta. I’m writing this during a 3-hour layover. It will be midnight before I make it home tonight.

It’s a safe bet that I’ll sleep late tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Missing my bed

Today was jammed with sessions starting at 9 a.m. after breakfast. By the time the last speaker finished at 5 p.m. my head was full.

Even thought these conferences can be grueling, I always learn something new. Today was not different.

This evening, the organization hosting the conference did a dinner cruise on the Nautilus Queen. It looked like a big tug boat. There were about 150 of us that it took out the canals and into Lake Erie. Clouds obscured the sun as it slipped down toward the horizon, but it was still stunning.

As we headed back to dock, I stood on the stern and shot a few pictures of Cleveland.

I'll be happy to head home tomorrow. I miss sleeping in my own bed.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Long Live Rock and Roll

My niece Samantha once said something when she was 12 years old that is a Universal truth. It could have been said by Mother Teressa, the Dalai Lama, or Confucius.

We had some extra SkyMiles and invited her to visit San Francisco with us. She was cranked and hounded her parents until they allowed her to go.

On the morning of departure, she "dolled up." She worked her cutest clothes, shoes, and she musth have spent hours doing her hair.

When we rolled into BHAM airport, she looked like a rock star. By the time we arrived several hours later in San Francisco, she looked as if she'd ridden a motorcycle out there instead of flying. As she leaned on her luggage while we waited for ours to inch around the turnstile, she said, "You know, flying sucks the beauty right out of you." Unfortunately, I'd just taken a sip of coconut water and I was laughing so hard I snorted most of it out my nose.

Those words came back to me today. I arose at an ungodly hour this morning to make it to the airport to fly to Cleveland, Ohio for a conference. Jilda was supposed to come with me, but something came up and she couldn't come.

The other coach at the college came with me and the only free time we had was today after we arrived in Cleveland. The Rock Hall of Fame is within walking distance. We didn't have a lot of time but saw enough to realize that we'd like to come back when we have more time.

Bad lighting, great background.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pleasing dad

The roosters were yawning when I headed out to the cemetery this morning. We have to be there early to catch the early decorators.

Maintaining the historic grounds is not cheap. The old headstones, markers, and family plots are not lawnmower friendly. Some of them must be mowed with a push mower or with a weedeater. In the past, the cost was negligible, but the cost of gas and groceries skyrocketed. To keep it presentable, we must pay a service to maintain it. The guy that does the work is a Vietnam vet and he does a great job. I'd like to double his salary, but we need funds to support it. Soooo, that's why I was there early this morning.

My dad took this shift. We let the others attend church on Sunday morning and we hang out under the funeral home tent taking donations.

We raised enough money to pay three-fourths of what it costs each year. We'll have to do fundraisers to raise the rest. 

It's not easy work, but it's something my dad helped with while he was alive. Whenever I think I"ve had enough, I close my eyes and think of him. Then I stop whining and get to work. 

This plant with blossoms that resembles Queen Ann's Lace grows around the cemetery. It also grows in our backyard which is where I shot this picture.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Happy birthday Daisy

Today's been busy. After morning chores, we headed to the local Country Club where my nephew James has a membership. They'd planned a Hawaiian luau under the gazebo by the pool. 

By 10 a.m. when we arrived the pool was buzzing with swimsuited kids with silk leis fluttering around their necks.

The older folks sat under gazebo where ceiling fans were whirling. We watched the kids splash and longed for the days when we had that much energy.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Linely Lilly

The flowerbed down near the mailbox is sad. It needs a little love and kindness, but all it has gotten so far this spring is neglect. Even so, the lonely Lilly hold's it blossom up high and gives all that it can. It does its job whether I do mine or not.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Back Roads

Normally I'm off on Wednesdays and work Thursdays, but the workforce team scheduled a Career Expo yesterday, so I swapped off days. Since this coming Sunday is Decoration Day where my people are buried, I loaded up the weedeater and some hand tools in the bed of my truck. 

Jilda worked today, so I took the long way to the cemetery. I stopped at my "old sister's" house (she loves it when I call her my old sister.) I took her a gallon of blueberries and a dozen fresh eggs. She was happy. We sat on her front porch and watched the traffic pass for a while. When we said our goodbyes, I continued down beyond her house to take a road I haven't traveled in a long time.

At one point, I noticed an old barn in a pasture. The sun was not at a high angle, but I decided to chance a shot anyhow. It turned out OK.

The drive through the old town was a little depressing. When I was a kid, the entryway to the Masonic Lodge looked impressive. I always wondered what they did in there behind closed doors.
The lodge moved out when the businesses moved to the new highway. The old town began to wither like corn in a drought.

I pulled up to a stop and snapped a picture of the archway. Nothing but weeds and poison ivy clinging to the once beautiful entryway.

When I got to the cemetery, it looked as if it had a manicure. I didn't even unload any tools. 

It wasn't a waste of time. I got a couple pictures out of the deal.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Remembering Big

The old high school from which I graduated burned over 20 years ago from mysterious causes. But the floors in the structure were made of heart pine. Every month or so, the maintenance man would mop them with linseed oil to keep them from rotting.

All that's left standing is the old gym that was built in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. And the entryway to the Watkins Field where the Bulldogs played home-games on Friday nights during the fall.

I first started going to football games when I was in grammar school. A herd of us kids from the community walked the two miles to the September games, but once the temps dropped, we'd hound our parents until they took us.

The entryway to Watkins Field seemed as vast as the Coliseums I'd read about in ancient Greece. I hadn't seen the archway in over 30 years but when I drove by a few years back, I was amazed by how small it was.

Did you remember things as being much bigger than there were when you were a child? Or is that just me?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Best Camera in the World

It's raining again. The yard is full of mushrooms. The variety has expanded. We started out with white ones with orbs that looked like large. But once grown, they have caps as big as beach umbrellas. Next came mushrooms the color of snuff but look like the ones you buy in the supermarket.

Today after Jilda and I got home, the rain moved off to the east. We decided to take the dogs out for a long-anticipated run. Halfway down the garden path, I looked down to see tiny mushrooms with caps the color of a summer sunset. I leaned down and snapped a picture with my phone.

I'm often asked what kind of camera I own. I have a high-end Canon digital camera, but it languishes on the shelf in my office. Most of the pictures I take are with my iPhone. I've heard it said that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you when you need it. I agree with that.

Monday, June 05, 2017

As repair bills pile up ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This week has been aggravating and costly here on the home front. Modern machines are wonderful things while they are working. They save time and make life easier. But when they go south, it can be frustrating and expensive — in more ways than one.

I do a maintenance check on my vehicle weekly. The list includes checking the fluids and a “walk around” to make sure the tires are sound. A few weeks ago, I began to feel a slight bump coming from my left-front tire. It still had a good bit of tread left, but I made a mental note to run it by the shop to have the tires checked by professionals, just to be sure.

Last Thursday, I had a list of errands that exhausted me just looking at it. One stop was at the Daily Mountain Eagle office to pick up tickets to the East Walker Chamber of Commerce banquet. After fetching the tickets, I hurried outside and hopped in the truck. When I put it in drive to head out of the parking lot, I felt a bump, bump, bump.

Shoving the beast into park, I stepped out to make sure I hadn’t run over a critter. The tire was flat. When I slid underneath to get a better look, I discovered the inside of the tire had worn worse than the outer part. It was so thin I could have seen the air in the tire had there been any in there. On the upside, I’d just found the source of the bumping I’d felt as I drove.

After changing the tire, I continued with my errands. One of the belts on my riding lawn mower broke last weekend, so I stopped by the parts place to get a new one. When I looked on my phone for the model number of the mower, all I had were the numbers from my old machine. It was exactly like the new one except a little older. I flinched when the parts guy told me the price for the replacement belt. Saying an ugly word under my breath, I handed him my debit card.

The next day when I tried the new belt, it was too short. I mumbled a few more curse words. Since the mistake was my fault, I had to suck it up and get the right one. The only problem was when I put the new belt on and went to cut the grass down by the barn, the new belt slung off! It seems that worn pullies throw the belts out of alignment. The new belt won't work until I replace the pulleys.

When I discovered this, I said some more unkind things about the lawnmower and to those who manufactured it.

Meanwhile, I was still driving my truck without a spare. The next day I took it in to get new tires. When the shop manager raked my card through the reader to pay for the four new tires, I think I saw the lights in the shop dim.

If foul language alone can doom one’s soul to Hades, I’m investing in asbestos underwear, and I’ll ride my lawnmower into the fire.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Yes, I have a bleeding heart

The bleeding heart on our back deck has been there since we built the structure over 25 years ago. I dread each winter because it's one of the plants that must come inside. It weighs as much as a blacksmith's anvil.  Just after I "bust-a-gut" dragging them inside, I ask myself why I don't give it up to the winter's frost. 

Once the plant is inside, it's no trouble. A little water every now and then and move it around so we can keep the area clean around it.

The drought had its way with a lot of trees and shrubs last summer and autumn. The bleeding hard dropped its leaves sooner last year than it normally does and I wondered if it would make it through.

This year, it was slow to leaf out and we feared the worst. Then in early May, it came back with a flourish. A few weeks ago we saw the first blossoms appear. 

This past week it was back in full force. Sitting on the deck this morning drinking our coffee, I realized why I break my back in late fall taking it inside.


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Getting ready for Decoration Day

Today's been busy. Tomorrow is Decoration Day down where some of Jilda's people are buried. We bought flowers last week, and she put the arrangement together yesterday. The flowers were for her oldest brother. Billy, like many children in the 30s, died in infancy. Even so, Jilda's mother put flowers on his grave every year since 1933. It's a tradition that we've honored Jilda's mother died.  

Each year at country churches all around the south, people come the weeks before Decoration Day and clean the graves of their relatives. If you visited one of these cemeteries late in the evening or early morning during this time, you'd often see clumps of old friends and neighbors sitting on headstones talking and laughing.

Next weekend it Decoration Day where my people are buried. I'll spend Sunday morning under a funeral home tent collecting money to help maintain the cemetery throughout the year. With the rising cost of gas and labor, we rarely collect enough money to get the job done. But we do a few donations. It seems each year, the till grows smaller. The older folks are dying off. I'm not sure who will carry on when we're gone. 

This much I know – the younger folks will either step up, or they won't. If they choose the latter, they will lose a connection to their family history. It's a connection that I've always treasured. Time will tell the story one way or the other.


Friday, June 02, 2017

Crepe town

The next wave of color is moving in. The crepe myrtle bushes/trees are blooming. Some people keep their crepes topped so they are like hedges, but ours are free range. The tallest towers over the peak of our roof.  When it blooms, you might never see them unless you perchance looked up.

This photo is of one of the crepe myrtle bushes outside my office at the college. I love this color, but the white ones are nice too.

Not much happening in Empireville this evening so I'm cutting this one short. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Mushroom weather

I'm thankful that we're finally our of the drought here. Last summer and fall were scary. Thousands of trees in our area died. Pines are shallow rooted, and the Leyland Cyprus which aren't native to this area were hit hard. But I've seen oak and magnolia trees that didn't make it until we started getting rain.

We got four inches of rain a few days ago. When the sun returned, the humidity was so high and the air so thick, it made breathing a challenge. 

I call it mushroom weather. A few days ago after the rain, I walked out back, and there was the mushroom (pictured below) in the yard.  Yesterday when we went out there was a ring of them. Yesterday, Jordan was curious, but he knows not to touch wild mushrooms. He asked where they came from. Instead of going into a scientific explanation, Jilda decided to tell him what her grandmother Mamie told her – "those are caused by dancing fairies." He seemed happy with that answer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


I had to work today, but our great nephew Jordan stayed with Jilda after she returned from the morning class she teaches on Wednesdays. She had a long list of projects. He loves projects. That trait passed down to him from his mom. She too loved projects and Jilda is a master at project creation.

Today, Jordan picked a gallon of blueberries and checked the tomatoes plants for hornworms. She then had him paint flower pots for the floral arrangements she's making for upcoming "Decoration Days." She'd warned his mom to send him in old clothes that she could toss if he got too much paint on them. That was a fortunate decision.

I went to work early, so I left sooner than I normally do. I wanted to join in the fun. Gathering eggs was one project I had for him. Sometimes gathering eggs is like an Easter Egg hunt because the chickens tend to lay them all over the backyard.

After we did our chores, I remembered something he needed to see. It was a watermelon plant that volunteered to come up by the firepit benches. His face lit up when he saw the young watermelon plant. "Do you know how that got there?" I asked. His face got pensive as he tried to solve the puzzle. He was unsure but made a few guesses. I asked if he remembered eating the first bowl of watermelon while sitting on the bench back in March. It was a melon that I'm sure came from Mexico or South Florida. He smiled at the memory. I asked if he remembered spitting his seeds out while he ate. He remembered and he began to giggle. I told him he planted that watermelon and didn't even know he was doing it.

Both Jilda's and my grandparents said that when plants come up from discarded seeds that they were "volunteers." This thought brought a smile to my face because our little volunteer planted a "volunteer" and didn't even realize it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Picture night

It's been a while since I did picture night but I'm doing one tonight. There is no theme, just three pictures I shot this afternoon.

I'll do better tomorrow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pay it forward ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Something interesting happened to me on the way to work this past week. It had been a particularly bad news day with news out of Manchester, England. It seems there was an act of terrorism and people died. Children died. Social media and all the news channels were abuzz. I found myself getting sucked into a swirling vortex of doom and gloom until a stranger shed a little light on my day.

The day usually begins for me with a bowl of cereal for breakfast but we’d been out of town over the weekend, and there was no milk in the fridge. I went to plan B which was to pick up a biscuit and coffee at Jack’s before heading to a meeting. The morning rush is always hectic there. But the restaurant “slams and jams” at that hour. I didn’t have to wait long. When I was two cars away from the window, I slid the gear shift to park, and I leaned over to pull the wallet from my pocket. Counting out the correct amount of money, I pulled to the window as the car in front of me drove away.   

The young window-worker smiled as she leaned out and handed me my coffee and a bag with my biscuit. When I gave her the money, she said, “The lady in front of you paid for your order.” It took me a moment to process what she’d said. I looked over and saw her car pulling from the parking lot, but I didn’t recognize the vehicle. I wanted to offer a wave of thanks, but she never looked back. The random act of kindness touched me.

I started to put the money back in my wallet, but on a whim, I looked in my rear-view mirror. Two teenaged boys were in the car behind me. “How much is their breakfast,” I asked. Handing the money to the smiling window-worker, I told her I wanted to pay for their meal. Clicking my shifter into gear, I drove away and didn’t look back. 

My breakfast cost me the same amount it would have cost had I bought it myself. But that the exchange at the Jack’s breakfast drive-thru window turned my day around. I let world news bubble and spew without my participation.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the world is a cesspool and that humanity is hurtling headfirst into a tunnel of darkness. Ten minutes of any news channel or talk radio would supply an abundance of evidence to support this theory. But there’s kindness all around us. The problem is that good news doesn’t sell as good as bad news. While bad news travels like a virus, good news tends to travel from smile to smile which is often much slower.

I can’t change the fact that there are a few mean people all over this planet. But the next time I pull into the drive-thru at Jack’s for breakfast, I can put a smile on the faces of the people in the car behind me.

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