Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pure joy

We're home now. We arrived weary just after lunch and promptly laid down on the couch for a nap. Both Jilda and I were so tired from the road that we couldn't rest. We got up, unpacked, and sorted a mountain of sandy, salty clothes. I had one tee shirt that could have stood in the corner on its own.

Later this evening, I ran to the grocery store to fetch some organic chicken and crusty bread to have for supper. I was afraid of being too tired to enjoy the meal, but it was perfect.

I shared a couple pictures from the weekend already. I took over a hundred. At the risk of posting too many, I'll leave you all with one last picture of pure joy. I'm my great nephew Jordan boogie boarding in the surf.

It's been a delightful weekend. Even as tired as we both are, neither of us wouldn't trade it for anything.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Snippets

Today was windy. Our nephew Haven, his wife Alesha, and their young son Anthony joined us at the water's edge.

Our great nephew Jordan was ecstatic. He had a partner in crime. When they play together, they leave it all on the field (or beach.) The run, jump, dive, chase, tag, and wrestle over water rights, sand castle stomping rights, or dibs on who gets the first snow cone.

Life is about snippets of time that linger long after they have passed. This weekend has been a good snippet.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday stuff

Jilda and I had a pre-wedding gathering this evening. The daughter of one of our dear friends will tie the knot tomorrow and they invited us to a small gathering this evening to celebrate. It was fun seeing many of our old friends. I know the wedding tomorrow evening will be hectic and they won't have much time for meeting and greeting so today was special

We did find time to have lunch with the youngun's. That's always a treat. Samantha snapped a picture of Jilda and me at the table. Jilda is sharing a picture outside that I took of them.

We're both whupped this evening so the words are sparse.



Thursday, May 18, 2017

I wish I could bottle it

Beach vacations were rare when I was a child. We went once, but my mother and brother got toasted in the Florida sun. She didn't want to go back. I think I must have had Native American blood flowing through my veins because I was slow to burn and I've always loved the beach.

As I grew older, got a job, a car and a girlfriend I went to the beach often. Later after Jilda and I married, we had a good friend that had a house at the beach which made long weekends at the beach affordable. 

We took all our nieces and nephews down for extended vacations.  Now we're taking our great nieces and nephews.  

A while back, I shot this picture of Samantha and Jordan at the beach. Jordan could barely contain the joy and excitement on the ride down. He didn't want to stop for food or to pee.

When he got to the water, it was hard coaxing him out to go eat. I remember that joy and excitement. I wish I could bottle it.




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Smensday

I'm devoid of thought tonight. I'm not sure if some squiggly insect crawled into my ear and eat my brains or if I was out in the sun too long today. It was some kind of hot for May.

I headed north to appear on a community access station promoting upcoming workshops. I've been on the show before and the host is a hoot. But I felt cheated that I didn't get to enjoy my second cup of coffee before I headed out. Is having two cups of coffee too much to ask?

I also met with a human resource director after lunch trying to build a pipeline for some of our candidates who are looking for work. So I finished work earlier than normal.

Once home, I stepped down to the garden. Our tomatoes look as if they've grown a foot since Sunday. they are full of blooms and small tomatoes. It won't be long before the plants are hanging full of red gold.

The last time we visited the local produce stand here, the tomatoes on the shelves were from Florida. I picked one off the shelf and smelled of it. You can tell the difference in a vine-ripe tomato and one grown in a greenhouse. These were definitely vine-ripe. tonight when we ate our salad, you could taste the "homegrown'ness" in them. They were scrumptious. I did think to snap a picture while there in the produce market. That's what's below, but I should be posting pics of our tomatoes soon.

Happy Wednesday.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cost of doing business

Whenever we invite people over the kids are always welcome. We have plenty of space for them to run and rip as my mother used to say. They often play for awhile in the backyard and in the field down toward the barn, but they always end up on the screen porch.

The screen porch has a ceiling fan whispering overhead and we have a stockpile of toys in a plastic box that we store under the glider. In the box are building blocks, watercolor paint, water guns,  and bubble wands.

You can always tell when they've spent time out there because the residue of playdough is stuck between the cracks in the tilework. The orange, red, and yellow granules of dried goo have to be scraped off with my pocket knife. It doesn't bother me. As a businessman might say, "It's the cost of doing business."


Monday, May 15, 2017

Naaaaaa

I wasn't my intention to get on a wildlife and farm animal kick, but I shoot 'em as I see 'em. Yesterday while driving down to my nephew's house, we passed a pasture with goats. They watched curiously as we drove by. They seemed as interested in us we were in them. But naaaaaaaaa. Truth be told, they probably just wanted to eat the interior out of our car.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Looking through Facebook posts of my friends this week, I felt a little envious and sad. It seems every other post is someone’s smiling mother.

I especially like the older sepia toned and hand-tinted pictures. There’s something about those old photographs that makes them lifelike. When my mom died on Feb. 20, 2012, she
left an empty place in my heart that will never be filled.

My mother was a piece of work. Her life path took her through hard times. Like many families back then, her’s was a big one. She and her siblings could have fielded a football team with an extra one serving as a water boy.
Born in 1924, she suffered through the Great Depression and knew the taste of hunger. As a result, she was reluctant to throw anything away. Even aluminum pie plates were washed and reused after the pies were gone.


She was quiet and easy-going most of the time, but when something got her hackles up, we all knew to give her some space. We found it necessary to do homework, or chores that took us outside. She also didn’t make it a habit of telling her kids to do something more than once. As a kid, whenever I considered ignoring one of her requests, I remembered the hickory stripes on my leg. That gave me the motivation to take out the scuttle of coal ash left from the fireplace hearth each morning or empty the slop jar.

She was slow to cry. In fact, it was years before I saw tears in her eyes. Maybe it was growing up during those hard years that made her feel that crying was a sign of weakness. The first time I remember seeing her cry was when my older brother Neil graduated from high school. Of course, those were tears of pride. Neil was not a model student. There were some report cards during his high school years that bled with red “F’s.” She was unconvinced that Neil would walk down the aisle wearing a cap and gown. But he pulled it together, and she was as proud as I’ve ever seen her.

One by one, the kids all moved from the old house in Sloss to make lives of their own. When my dad died in 1986, she lived alone in that house for years. Each Sunday she cooked dinner. At first, it was for her kids and grandkids, but it evolved into a community event. It was not uncommon to arrive at lunch on Sunday with a yard full of cars. Our family, cousins, friends, and her church buddies all broke bread together. The laughter was loud and no one left without a go-box with butter beans, cornbread, and a slice of pecan or lemon meringue pie. If anyone left hungry, it was not her fault.

I have one of those old hand-tinted pictures of my mom and dad on the mantel of our fireplace. A friend of theirs snapped the photograph on their wedding day. Some of our pictures and knickknacks blend into the background of our home and become invisible. But not this one. I look at it every day and think about my mama.Happy Mother’s Day.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cemetery Bird

Today I headed out early to help my nephew Haven (the plumber) move into their new house. The place where he and his wife have lived for the last 10 years or so is was nice place, but it's further in the sticks than where Jilda and I live. I'm not sure they took American money there.

He got an opportunity to buy a beautiful place nestled in a quiet community with huge lots. The house has more windows than our house, and I wasn't sure that was possible.

He does a lot of commercial work for chains with deep pockets, and that's his bread and butter, but he also does residential work as well. He has a soft heart for widows and people going through hard times and winds up doing a lot of work at or below cost. The upside of that is a LOT of people owe him favors.

When he put out the word that he needed help moving, a swarm of big burly guys showed up to help him "Git-R-Done."  I worked the Uhaul moving things to the back of the truck, and a never-ending train of muscle was waiting to whisk it inside. I've never seen so much stuff get moved and set up so quickly.

Tomorrow is decoration day where Jilda's parents and grandparents are buried, so she worked on floral arrangements while I helped Haven move.

When the sun got low in the west, we headed down to the cemetery to place the flowers on the graves. Going to the cemetery is often like a reunion. We see people we haven't seen in years. Today was no different.

When Jilda first walked up to the gravesite, she heard a bird in distress. She walked over to investigate, and the bird fluffed out and chirped in a pleading tone. She seemed to be saying, "PLEASE stay away from here." Jilda waved me over to show me the bird. Upon closer investigation, I could see the bird was guarding her nest. Four tiny eggs were between the footstone of Jilda's father and the headstone of our brother-in-law. I snapped a picture and slowly backed away. Jilda alerted her sister and other relatives as well as the people who maintain the cemetery. We're hoping that people visiting the cemetery tomorrow are kind to our new feathered friend.
NOTE: when I looked the bird up online, it's a Killdeer.






Friday, May 12, 2017

Phase one ~ Check

The first phase of my dental work came to completion today. The bone graphs installed over the Christmas holidays healed and implanted railroad spikes settled in a few weeks ago, so I went to my dentist to get fitted for new caps.

I've been eating wonky since the first of the year and kept my tongue gnawed raw. But today after a brief visit, my new caps are on. I can now eat a little more naturally. I still need three more spikes and caps installed before the job is done. It hasn't been cheap. Gone are the days when you can pay part of your bill with fresh eggs and home grown tomatoes. They now only accept hard cash. I could have fed a third world country for a year on what it cost me. I'm just glad they don't charge what it's really worth.

While reclining in the chair sniffing glue, I had a view through the window to the south. Dark clouds had moved in during the 30 minutes I was there. Jagged bolts of lightning as wide as a county road stabbed the ground a few miles away.

I had to run from the door of the office to my truck to keep from getting soaked. The asphalt was still hot from the morning sun and steam rose from the streets as I navigated toward home. On the long stretch of isolated road to our house, I passed a farm with grazing cattle in a field of grass with yellow flowers (I can't remember what it's called.)

The road was deserted in front and behind me, so I stopped, rolled down my window, and shot a few pictures.

All in all, it's been a good day.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

A shrub

Jilda wrote about our rhododendron a few nights ago. The drought last summer and fall almost did it in. The plant was once almost as tall as our house, but it died down almost to the roots. Thankfully, I'd learned how the plant propagates and had gotten a young one started a few years ago.  Even though we watered the plant when it was dry, it went into shock and dropped all the leaves except the ones on the very bottom.

This spring, I had my fingers crossed that it would come back. The top part of it was dead, but new limbs sprouted from the lower limbs and the younger plan survived too. When the blossoms came out several days ago, we both breathed a sigh of relief.

I'd forgotten how we came to own a plant that we both love. It was a gift from my mom. Through the years, each time she'd ask me what I wanted for my birthday, I would tell here I wanted a shrub. We all had a good laugh at the running joke. But one year when I went to her house to get some birthday cake, she had a potted shrub on her porch. It was the rhododendron.




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Key to happiness

Jilda's been feeling a little puny the last few days, so I decided to act as her chauffeur for the early morning class she teaches on Wednesday.

Dropping her off at the front door, I headed to the local Micky D's for breakfast. I'd taken my laptop, so after I ate, I pulled the computer from the bag and settled it on a small table in the corner.

I was short on ideas until I Googled May holidays and realized that this coming Sunday is Mother's Day. Column riddle solved. Shoving the headphones knuckle deep in my ears and selecting Deep Focus track on Spotify, I was off and clicking.

By the time my timer beeped telling me it was time to head back for the spousal unit, I was putting the finishing touches on my Mother's Day column. I'll share it Sunday evening after it runs in the paper.

I'd planned to spend the day practicing, doing garden chores, and napping but the phone was ringing when we walked in the door. It was a babysitting emergency from next door. They needed someone to watch my great nephew Jordan until after lunch.

A few minutes later he was at our door.  We suited up and went for a long slow walk. The path through our new property took us through a canopy of oak and hickory.  When we finally rounded the barn and back toward the house, I saw some muscadine vines dangling from an old arbor. As luck would have it, I had a small set of pruning shears in my pocket. I snipped off a few 10-foot pieces of dangling vine and told Jordan I was about to teach him a new skill.

When we got to the house, we went out front and sat in the shade on our garden bench. Starting at the big end of the vine, I rolled it in a circle and then wound what was left into a wreath. "I could make mommy and nana wreaths for Mother's Day," he said. I thought that was an excellent idea. We had to fetch more vine, but that wasn't an issue. He worked for about an hour and made two wreaths by himself.

Sometimes life throws you a curve. It happens to everyone. But it's not about what happens, that matters. It's what you do about what happens that is the key to happiness.




Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Wacky Weather

The wacky weather drove the butterflies away. They were here to welcome March in with fluttering wings, and now that it's May, they are nowhere to be found.

All the trees and shrubs around here are scratching the bows and saying, "What the heck is going on here?" Our peach tree generally wants to blossom in late February. But this year, it didn't start until the end of April. I figure it said, "Hey, Easter is late this year, and I'm not going to get excited until the bunny comes."

On the other hand, the fig tree jumped out early and strong and then a frost bit all the new leaves. It put on a fresh set in April and fruit is just now coming onto the branches.

I'm not here to debate climate change, but I will say this: In my 66 years on this planet, I've never seen weather this wacky.


Monday, May 08, 2017

Anniversary ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My wife Jilda and I were slow in tying the knot back in 1974. I first met her before she was old enough to drive but didn’t date until May of 1968.

We’d been dating three years when I got the “Greetings” letter from Uncle Sam. We grew apart while I was away in the service, but not long after I returned we started dating again. Just when we were about to do the deal, tornadoes stomped through Walker County and blew the roof off the courthouse.

Some folks would have taken that as a sign and put things on hold but not us. We drove to Jefferson County for the marriage license. I worked at “The Community News” then and Jilda worked at Keynote Fashions in Dora. After we finished our work that week, we headed south on May 5.

Coy and Brenda Phillips lived in Brewton, Alabama then. He’d been the minister at Dilworth Church of God where Jilda’s family attended but they had since moved southward. We were married standing on the front porch of their trailer under the shade of a pecan tree.

My Canon F1 camera was state of the art back then and cost more than the car I was driving. Our friend Brenda had never taken a picture. Even with cutting edge technology, there was not one photograph on that strip of film that was printable.

We said our goodbyes to Coy and Brenda before the ink was dry on our marriage license. Stopping at a nearby convenience store, I bought some Hostess Twinkies to use as our wedding cake and a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. I could have settled for Red Dagger, but it was nothing but the best for my new bride.

We spent our honeymoon in a cinderblock house at Laguna Beach, Florida near Panama City.

Once home, we moved her things into a 12 X 60 house trailer. It was gray and ivory with orange shag carpet throughout. As I mentioned, it was nothing but the best for my new bride.

It wasn’t much to look at during the weeks I lived there alone, but the transformation began shortly after she moved in.

We struggled those first few years and made some goofy mistakes, but we managed to survive and thrive.

The beach was one of our favorite anniversary destinations during the lean years, but after I landed a job with MaBell, we widened our net of possibilities. We spent one anniversary in Boston and had clam chowder and Boston Baked Beans for lunch that day.

A few times we celebrated in San Francisco, which is a city we both love. We spent our 35th anniversary in Sedona, Arizona. That morning we drove to the Grand Canyon and stood silently on the edge and let the beauty of that place seep deeply into the marrow our bones.

We both agree that the most remarkable anniversary was our 25th which we spent in Ireland. We got a room in a hotel by the sea. At dinner, we ate crab claws almost as big as my hand and “tinked” a toast with glasses of bubbly. We have photographs from that anniversary on the mantel of our fireplace.

I’m writing this column on Wednesday and this year we plan to celebrate closer to home.

People ask if there are any secrets to staying together. I do not think there are any secrets, but there are some important factors:

• You find someone you enjoy being with

• Someone who has common interests

• Someone with similar life goals

• Someone who makes you smile

It doesn’t hurt if that someone is a great cook.

If you're on Facebook, I did a little slideshow that you can view here.



Sunday, May 07, 2017

Missin' Ol' Buddy

One of the best little critters that ever owned us was Ol' Buddy. My mother-in-law got him about a year before she fell and broke her hip. Ruby's health started a downward spiral on that day. She was in the hospital for weeks. While she was recovering, I had to take care of Ol' Buddy who HATED ME, and wanted me to die a painful death...something involving rusty spikes, or maybe rabid spiders.

But during the weeks his mama was in the hospital, I had to stop by to feed him and let him out to do his business. Over time, he gradually came around and tolerated me.

When she got back home, Ol' Buddy was thrilled to see her.  But after a few days, he kept getting underfoot and she was afraid he would make her fall. She asked if we would consider taking him.

By then I'd become attached to the little mutt and so we agreed. He lived with us for eight years until he got cancer. Losing that little dog broke my heart.

He died four years ago today. I miss that little critter.

To read a blog I wrote when we first got him, click here.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Small town festival

I was out early this morning. I take pictures for a hometown festival and it started at 9 a.m. It was in the upper 40s here last night which set a record for Alabama. So this morning as I rounded up my camera, I threw on a blue jean jacket to be on the safe side.

I shed the jacket as the sun rose higher in the sky. By the time I left just before lunch, my shirt was drenched. I shot just over 200 pictures of folks enjoying a warm day at a hometown festival.

This evening we visited with family and friends. It's been a good day.


Friday, May 05, 2017

Number 43

May 5, 1974, was a Sunday. Jilda and I had been kicking around the idea of getting married for a while. There had been a super outbreak of tornadoes in Alabama in April and one swept through the county seat and blew the roof off the courthouse. When we decided to do the deed, we had to drive to Jefferson County to get our marriage license.

We both had full-time jobs and worked on Saturdays. So early Sunday morning, we packed the trusty rusty 1964 Plymouth Valiant and headed south.

Jilda knew a pastor in Brewton, Alabama. We were married standing on the porch of his trailer.

A lot of our friends have been married as long, but with multiple spouses.  I'm not sure people thought we'd stay together.  All I can say to the naysayers is Na Na Na Boo Boo.

My column Sunday is about our anniversary. I'll post it on Monday.


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Taller

We took our first cruise a few years ago toward the end of May. At the time, I felt a little disconnected on the ship. I didn't have access to email, the news, my blog, or other things I depend on daily. For someone who is "connected" losing that connectivity even for a short time is disconcerting.

But then there was the ocean in every direction. The colors and the sunsets were stunning. I don't remember spending so much time resting as when we were on the cruise. When we got home, I felt taller.

I said all that to say this: I think I'd like to take another cruise sometime later in the year.  Maybe the sea gods will be with us and help make that happen.


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bougainvillea'ville

Yep, we bought a Bougainvillea this past weekend to round out our deck display. Now we have a Mandavilla and a Bougainvillea. One has flowers almost as big as my hand, and the other has blossoms that look like as small nimble Japanese gardener made folded origami flowers our of crepe paper. Both are beautiful to behold.

Not much else to report tonight. My bones are weary and I'm out of words. So maybe I'll borrow a few from Jimmy Buffett.

Wasting away again in Bougainvillea'ville
Searchin' for my lost – shaker of salt
Some people claim there's a woman to blame
But I know.........


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Blooming lilies

The chickens have decided the grasshoppers are fatter on the other side of the fence so they started flying for freedom each day.

Our dogs rarely take notice of the chickens so they are safe inside the fence, but outside is a different story. Most of the chickens we've had in the past that met tragic ends were outside the fence. Stray neighborhood dogs ran into the yard, had a chicken dinner and headed out with feather stuck to their mouths.

To keep them inside the fence, I'll have to clip their wings so they can't fly. It's a pain because they squawk as if I'm lopping off their heads, but clipping their wings is painless.

This evening as I herded them toward the back gate, I noticed color out of the corner of my eye at the edge of the woods. After getting the chickens to safety, I stepped back over to investigate. It was the lilies that Jilda planted years ago. I feared the drought last year did them in, but there they were.

Stepping over, I snapped a few pictures for the blog.

Not much else to report from Empireville. Have a great Wednesday.


Monday, May 01, 2017

Honoring a good friend ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Today I’ve been thinking about our friend, Louis. He is dying. He's almost 90 and in congestive heart failure. After surviving several bouts with cancer, a defective valve that could have been fixed several years ago is now beyond repair. His body is shutting down.

After several days in the hospital, confusion set in. He called us at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning to ask if we would call his nephew and have him to come to the hospital. I hated ringing his nephew at that hour, but I promised our friend I'd call. Steve is the caregiver for our friend. He was apparently no stranger to calls in the wee hours of the morning. "He's sundowning," Steve said to explain his uncles’ call. Sundowning is a term used to describe patients when they are toward the end of their journey. They can't tell night from day. As a result, they sleep little, and their behavior becomes erratic.

I told his nephew I'd guessed what was going on. Jilda's mom experienced the same thing just before she died. He apologized, but I told him there was no need. We understood.

Fast forward to last night — my eyes opened at 3 a.m. For an hour and a half, all I could do was stop, rewind and play old mental movies of the good times we have had with our friend.

We met Louis six years ago while Jilda was undergoing infusion treatments. He took weekly treatments to keep his health numbers stable. After meeting Jilda, he changed his clinic days so that he was in the infusion room the first Wednesday of each month when Jilda was there.

On infusion days, she and Louis first got the treatment-room news from all their chair buddies. Then they moved on to solve nagging problems like world peace, true happiness and the rising cost of sweet potatoes. During the hours they hung tethered to beeping machines, I took my laptop to the cafeteria and wrote my column.

Louis was the mayor of the infusion room and knew everyone that came into that space. He knew not only their names, but also the names of their parents, children, and pets. He wasn’t nosy, but a great conversationalist. People opened up to him. Whenever he clicked into the room with his walking cane, he raised the vibration level. He could make people smile and smiling is rare when people are sick.

Most of the other people in that infusion room during the three years of Jilda’s monthly visits are gone now. They succumbed to cancer and afflictions with names I can’t pronounce.

When Jilda stopped taking treatments a few years ago, our friendship with Louis continued. He attended our annual Empire Fish Fry every year. Holding court in the shade of the back deck, he used the tip of his cane as an exclamation pointer. We laughed so hard at his wisdom and dry wit until the muscles of our bellies were sore.

When we saw him this past Sunday tangled in tubes, white sheets, and hospital gowns, he looked frail. As the old saying goes, life is a circle. Sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down. I believe in miracles, but the money of Las Vegas odd-makers would be on the hospice nurses who say the end is near.

We plan to go this afternoon and visit with Louis again. If it’s like every other time we’ve been together, he will find a way to make us laugh. That is something I will miss when our old friend is gone.

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