Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It's all about the light

Today is a picture day. I worked late this evening so I had to look back in my archives for a picture. I searched for Autumn leaves. This was the first picture it returned from the thousands of pictures in my files.

I shot it last October. The oak and hickory stand on the hillside overlooking the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River. This was taken about 9 a.m. in the morning. The sun had just risen over the trees to the east. It looks like late afternoon light, but the evening sun comes from the opposite direction.

The one thing I've learned about taking pictures is that each frame is all about the light. Once my eyes picked up on that one fact, my pictures improved.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A lot to love about October ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s a lot to love about October. Aside from high school and college football, the month has much to offer. The colors alone are worth the price of admission. If you don’t believe me, take a walk in the woods and “see” for yourself. But there are also some great festivals in October. And then there’s Halloween.

Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a kid. It was right up there with Christmas. Back when I was trick or treating, we didn’t buy our costumes. One year I decided on an old pair of overalls and a plaid flannel shirt. A red bandana tied around my head seemed just the ticket. Using fireplace soot, I made a black patch around my right eye. I thought the getup was a great pirate costume, but none of the other kids “got it.”

The houses in our community didn’t do much decorating like people do today, but they all had candy. The candy in those days was made with real sugar. My bags were full enough after that night to keep a sugar buzz until Thanksgiving.

After Jilda and I married, we became one of those houses where kids hit the candy jackpot. We bought candy by the bushel. On Halloween during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, our doorbell jangled like a bluegrass banjo. The next morning, our candy bags were empty. Except, of course, the handful of Mary Jane candy that I held back. I love Mary Janes. It’s one of my favorite pieces of candy. I once lost a tooth while eating that tacky stuff. But it was worth it.

These days we buy a little candy, but we end up giving most of it to our great nephew, who lives next door.

A few years ago, Halloween fell on Saturday. My nephew, James, asked if we’d do a birthday weeny roast for his son, Stone. Stone was born on Halloween, and it’s haunted him all his life. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) We agreed. And a tradition was born.

Each year toward the end of October, we have an outdoor party. Some people dress up, but most just show up for the food and fun.

We pull out all our lawn chairs and benches so that our friends and family can sit around the campfire. There’s no better aroma than hickory and oak wood burning on a small fire.

A few years ago, we did a hayride for the kids. My nephew, Haven, has a tractor and a large trailer. We filled the trailer with bales of hay and a herd of kids. The adults with good knees jumped on the trailer to help supervise the ride. Haven pulled us around the property. Most of the kids had never been on a hayride. Before the ride was over, he drove the tractor under the apple tree in our field. Each kid had a chance to pick their own apple from the tree.

Through the years, Halloween has gotten a bad rap. A few mean people tainted candy and hurt some kids. Evil has no conscience. Churches also became vocal about the spooky holiday. Something about celebrating Pagan holidays, but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

All I know is that I never once thought I was turning my back on the Good Lord when I was stuffing my face with Halloween candy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can mushrooms cry?

The weather is changing. Even though it was still warm today, you could see changes in the sky. And there is a promise of rain A front dropping down from Kansas City or somewhere up to the north and west.

We walked early. A quick text to our niece Samantha and her son Jordan confirmed they were in. So we walked a few laps around the Empire Walking Club track (a private joke.) We actually walked around the perimeter of our farm. It's a good walk.

Climbing the steep sides of the hollows gets the old heart pumping. On the second lap, Jilda noticed something by a stump from a tree we lost in a storm a few years ago. It was a mushroom. She didn't have her phone, so she pointed it out to me. When I took a closer look, I found it interesting. It has a weed growing through the cap. When I leaned in closer to snap a photo, I noticed a drop of water. I'd never seen that before. It looked like a tear.  

Can mushrooms cry? What could have made it that sad?

Saturday, October 14, 2017


We had chores on our to-do list we've been dreading for months. My shed is a disaster area. It should have been condemned. A wiser man would have struck a match to it, taken the bucket loader on the tractor, loaded onto the truck, and hauled the debris to the dump.  But that's not what happened.

Cleaning the guest room was also on the list. That where gifts land. The room is rarely used so each time there's a birthday, graduation, or other gift-buying occasion, we put the gifts in there until they can be wrapped and delivered.  We never invite company over during Christmas because we have no place to store the stuff.  Cleaning that room was long overdue. 

We also, we have a deep freezer. Its been in our laundry room for years. In the past, we cleaned it out and defrosted it annually. We missed a year. Then another. The last time I looked, frost was creeping around the lid. It was so bad that the lid wouldn't seal. I was beginning to worry that it would break free during the night and freezer would cover everything in a frosty crust. We wouldn't be discovered until the next power outage and our frozen bodies thawed.

So, those were the chores on our list today. I considered calling in drunk, but I didn't We got busy after breakfast.

Jilda headed to the guest room and I headed outside to the shed.  We both worked until lunch. By mid-afternoon, we'd checked all three chores off our list. Tonight I feel like I"ve run a marathon. But I ran down to civilization, picked up some Chinese food, and we are kicking back.

I actually feel taller tonight.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Old Maids

I have fresh Old Maids (zinnias) in a small porcelain vase on my bathroom vanity. They are pink, burnt orange, yellow and red. Jilda picks them every few days from the patch on the edge of our garden.

We start picking them in early summer. There aren't many at first, but thanks to the warm sun and summer rain, they flourish. They do better than any other flowers in our yard.

These are perennials. All we have to do next spring is to dig around them and work a little compost around the roots. They return the favor with beautiful bouquets until frost.

The rain these last few weeks turbocharged the grass. When we walked this morning, the dew on the grass soaked my sneakers. I knew it was time to mow. 

This afternoon after the sun dried the grass, I hopped on the John Deere and let it do its thang. When I cut close to the Old Maids, the butterflies had a fit. 

The weather is changing. Soon we'll have frost and I'll have to mow the Old Maids down for the coming winter. But they'll be back.

Old maids from 2014

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Do something fun

I've felt a little down today. Folks I've been working with the last three years heard that my grant was not renewed. Several of them stopped by the last few days to make sure I was OK. The thing is, I don't have to work. I work because it's enjoyable. I have a feeling the next few months won't be as much fun.

I'm already thinking about moving my personal items back to my office at home. There are shelves of books to consider. I'll leave my college diplomas up until my work there is complete. But I'll move the potted plant this coming week.

In a few months, someone else will sit at my desk and watch through the window at the kids performing Death of a Salesman on the Courtyard. 

I'm putting out feelers – looking for opportunities for writing, or a job where I can take pictures. I love doing both. 

After work today, I decided to walk. The sky was cloudy for several days after Hurricane Nate passed through here, but the last few days have been sunny. Today was cooler than yesterday. This weekend should be even cooler.  I'm not breaking out the longhandle underwear yet, but maybe it won't be long. 

During my walk, I came across another interesting growth on a fallen limb. This one looks like a mushroom blossom. 

Both Jilda and I are off tomorrow. We are planning to do something fun. As your social advisor, I recommend you take the day off and do something fun too. Tell the boss I said it was OK.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Ray Bans

The ragweed has been brutal this fall. And my eyes are the proof. I wear contacts and they don't play well with irritated eyes. I can wear my regular prescription glasses but during daylight hours, the sun makes me squint. 

I kept telling myself to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. I'm picky about my shades. I know I could have gotten a cheap pair somewhere, but sunglasses are more than about protecting your eyes. Or at least they are to me.

I've been looking for a decent pair that would make me happy. Today, when I went to pick up my new contacts, I browsed the sunglass section while the fetched my order. I found a pair of Ray Bans. I've never bought a pair of Ray Bans. I own two pairs but one pair belonged to my younger brother and my mother gave them to me after he died.  
My sister also gave me a pair that she'd had since Clinton was in the White House. Young people stop me in malls to ask where I found those glasses. When I tell them they are antique, they skulk off. But, I can only wear these shades when I'm wearing my contacts.

The Ray Bans I found today are exactly what I've been looking for. I keep my mad money in my wallet. It's the money I earn writing my columns and doing my sideline work. When I saw the glasses, I whipped out a few crisp bills and ordered the glasses. The ones on the showroom floor aren't prescription so it will take them a week to put my lenses in there but I'm excited.

As your sunglass consultant, I urge you to NOT settle for cheap sunglasses. Save your money and get the ones that make you feel like a rockstar even though you're an old fart.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Red Leaf

It's been dungeon dark today with intermittent rain. I walked outside a few times today at work to try and snap a picture for tonight's blog, but the sun seemed to be playing hide-and-seek. Later this evening before going home a downpour splattered on the cobblestone outside my window. I knew it would be an archive kind of night.

When I got home I scanned back through pictures from last year and came across this picture of a sweet gum leaf doing what it does best.

It made me think of the old saying, "Red leaf in morning, SAILOR YOU'RE TOO DAMN CLOSE TO THE SHORE!!!!!!!!" 

Sorry, I couldn't resist.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Autumn color

I see the colors of autumn even though is hotter than a blistered baby on the beach. This past weekend, the festivals we visited had pumpkins, dried corn stalks, mums and bales of hay. 

The colors are earthy and comforting to the eyes. It's hard for me to pass by an autumn display without taking a moment to take it in. More often than not, I'll shoot a picture.

The weatherman swears this coming weekend will be cooler, but I'll believe it when I see it. I hope autumn is in the air where ever you are.

Comment Moderation

Hey Folks,
 In an effort to combat the Online Gambling Spammers, I'm enabling comment moderation. Google says that doing that allows the Google system to learn the spammers and put their comments in Spam automatically.

Let's hope that works.

Sunday, October 08, 2017


Hurricane Nate made landfall last night near Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi is just over 50 miles from Mobile. When hurricanes come into Mobile, it affects our weather here. Even though we are over 250 miles inland, the wind rolls over our state.

This was not a major storm and we didn't expect damage. We were correct. But the rain started before we went to bed last night. The winds were normal, but it rained all night. I could hear it ticking on the roof.

Sometime in the night, the wind picked up. I could hear the Rose-of-Sharon brushing against our bedroom windows. We have shades, but I could see dancing shadows around the edges. The streetlight in our front yard captured the movement of the wind as his swept through the branches.

This morning, I stepped onto the screen porch to see if any trees were down.  Only one branch had fallen on the front walk.  But it wasn't much bigger around than my thumb. We were lucky. The one thing that I didn't expect was that it was still muggy. It was that way all day.

We ran out briefly to get a few things for supper this evening. When we drove by the blinking bank sign at 3:30 p.m. it was 80 degrees. 

This evening the winds have died down. Radar shows that the clouds are moving off toward the northwest. Watch out, Lisa and Jack.

Other than keeping an eye to the sky, today was uneventful. That was exactly what we needed today. Around noon, we took a long nap.

It's been a restful day.

The picture below is not from today. I shot it earlier in the year when we were on the coast. 

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Festival O' Plenty

Jilda and I both are about festival'd out this weekend. We played at the Frog Level last night and I do the website for The Frog Festival here at home.

We go there early today and I shot over 200 pictures.  When I got home this afternoon, I had to ice my knees. We both looked at each other a few minutes ago and exchanged looks that said, "Tonight will be an early night."

I hope you all have had a remarkable weekend...but I hope your knees don't hurt as bad as mine.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Small town festivals

Playing festivals is the best part of being a singer/songwriter. Tonight we played the Frog Level Festival in Fayette, Alabama.

Fayette is a town situated not far from Mississippi. The city is doing a lot of things right. They have old buildings that they've restored.  I see improvement in the downtown area every time I visit.

After we played our set, we sat on a bench not far from the stage and had shrimp Po' Boys. Our friend Fred went with us so he could keep an eye on the sound crew, but this time he didn't have to. They were a great crew.

We have another festival tomorrow closer to home so this will be a short post.  Do yourself a favor and go to a small town harvest festival. The food alone is worth the trip.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Inner voice

I'm doing a success story on a lady who came through my program back during the summer. She's worked for years at a national grocery store chain. A reorganization from corporate HQ mandated restructuring. All that looks good on paper, but pencil pushers rarely see the down and dirty results of those decisions.

My candidate was one of those who got the letter. You've been an exceptional employee, but we're letting you go. Don't worry, you'll have access to COPRA insurance.  Obviously, I'm making this part up, but I've worked in management and I can work out how it usually goes down.

My candidate walked away, with a stack of awards and commendations for her years of work with the company. 

Before she came to my workshop, her inner voice had chided her into submission. I've actually heard those conversations myself. They tell you "You're worthless. Who's going to hire someone as "OLD” as you? You'll die broke" and so on.

One of the main things I do with people who have been devastated by situations like this is to tell them how remarkable they are. And that they are worthy of finding a great situation.

This lady attended every meeting we had. She took notes, and she did her homework.  She landed a job a few weeks ago. 

When I talked to her today, she was a different person. She smiled. That made me happy.

This evening when I got home, it was getting late in the day but I needed to walk to get my steps in. A few hundred yards down our path, I saw a patch of yellow flowers with some purple things mixed it. I didn't have time to research and identify what they were, but I did get a picture.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Persimmon Forecast

Our great nephew Jordan was still having issues today. His mom started to school with him but he still didn't feel well. She called and asked if I'd pick him up.

Jilda taught an early morning class for the staff where she works, but when she got home, I headed out.

On the way home, he told me about things he'd been learning in school. He described the difference between similes and metaphors. I thought he'd just learned the terms. I wanted to check, so I asked him to give me an example of a simile. He said, "Aunt Rick smells like a rotten egg." Hmmm, I thought. He went on to say that an example of a metaphor is, "Aunt Rick IS a rotten egg." Holy crap! I couldn't believe he was learning this stuff in the 4th grade. Why he calls me Aunt Rick is a story for another time. 

When we got home he laid around for a while. Jilda cooked homemade spaghetti which is one of his favorite meals. He has eaten like a bird (simile) since he got sick last week. But he ate two bowls of spaghetti. Well, after looking at his shirt, he ate a bowl and a half and was wearing the other half bowl.

Jilda got an email that talked about how a woman does a forecast for winter by looking at the innards of persimmon seeds. We decided to do a science project and Jordan was in.
We have persimmon trees in the front yard and down in the field near the apple trees. When we walked down there, we found a ripe persimmon as big as a golf ball. It looked like a tiny pumpkin. 

When we cut open the seeds, three looked like spoons and one looked like a knife. We compared his results to the forecasting sheet. Apparently here in Empire, Alabama we will have a cold and blustery winter with three snow events. He loves snow so he was VERY happy with this forecast.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Being of service

I learned last week that my grant at the college will not be renewed when it ends January 31, 2018. I didn't see it coming. While I only work three days a week, I've invested a lot of energy in what I do. But so it goes.

I'm currently looking for other part-time projects where I can use my skills to help people. I read once that a best use of our time is to be of service to others. Truth is, helping others is one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever done. 

One of the women that came through my program lost her job in August. She is brilliant and has a stellar work record. Budget cuts are brutal and this round put her on the street.  She was devastated.

The first coaching session I let her vent. The next one, we got down to business. She was driven. Her son is still in high school and her husband is struggling with a disability that limits his career options. 

A few weeks ago she got a nibble on one of the resumes she submitted. They called her for an interview and she asked if I'd do a mock interview with her.  I looked at the job description and asked her questions I thought the HR manager might ask. 

As it turns out, the questions I grilled her on were very similar to the questions they asked. She nailed the interview. She starts work tomorrow at a salary more than what she earned in her last job.

When she called to tell me the news, she sounded like a different woman. No longer did she sound beaten or depressed. 

The sound of her voice telling me she'd gotten the job, is why I love doing the work I'm doing. I will miss it.

This is a random picture. If you're looking for a connection
to this post...move along. There's nothing to see here.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Eternal search for lost things

Jilda and I lose things. It seems the older we get, the more we find ourselves searching. I’ll bring something into the house, put it on the table and it disappears. When I ask her where she moved it, she swears she hasn’t seen it. That’s when the squabble begins. Often I have no one to blame but myself.

When I work on the truck or lawnmower, I head to the shed to fetch tools. About half the time, I can’t find the wrench I need. My hands are the only ones that touch those tools, but that is no comfort. I use bad language. There’s a good chance I’m on the devil’s “A-List.”

Jilda is as bad. She devotes a significant portion of her life looking for her reading glasses.
And our house is not that big. Back during the first part of summer, she found a 10-pack of reading glasses from Home Shopping Network. When her package arrived, she had a smug smile on her face as she opened it. “By George, I’ll be able to find my glasses now,” she said triumphantly.

In late August, I heard her storming through the house mumbling. When I asked what was up, she said. “I’m looking for my reading glasses!” “Didn’t you buy 10 pairs a few weeks ago?” I asked. She wheeled around and gave me a look that said: And what do YOU plan to cook for dinner. I clammed up and started helping her search.

Fast forward to this past week. While petting our collie Caillou, I pulled a flea off his ear. His hair is so thick that fleas are rarely a problem, but I knew it was time for some meds.

On Monday, I stopped by the local vet and bought a flea pill that cost more than my first car. The vet tech saw me flinch when she told me how much it was and explained that it was an expensive med. I started to ask if I could pay for it on the installment plan, but I was afraid she’d fail to see the humor. I took the pill home.

Caillou is finicky about taking meds, so Jilda fixed a special mix of rice and hamburger meat so that he would take the tab without a tussle. When she got ready to put in the pill, she couldn’t find it.

She called me at work asking where I’d left it. “On the table, where I leave everything,” I said. She looked, and it wasn’t there. I asked if she’d thrown the bag in the garbage by mistake. “I didn’t, but I’ll look.” She took the bag of trash outside and went through everything. No pill.

I racked my brain trying to retrace my steps for the previous day. I could not remember for sure where I’d put the pill. When I got home, I went back through the garbage. It had gotten a little ripe sitting in the sun, but I knew that pill had to be in there somewhere. It wasn’t.

Back inside, I stood at the sink scrubbing the stink off my hands. I chided myself for being so forgetful. While drying my hands, I glanced through the window into the backyard. Sitting on the workbench outside the shed was a paper bag. In the bag were things I’d bought for an oil change for my lawnmower. I knew before I walked out that the pill would be in the bag. Drying my hands, I stepped outside. When I reached into the bag, the pill was at the bottom.

The hard part was telling Jilda where I’d found the medicine.

Sunday, October 01, 2017


My Internet connectivity has been spotty all day. When I did get on long enough to check for outages, it seemed there were thousands of reports from across the southeast.

I decided to move to plan B. Forget the Internet and read. I'd stopped by Starbucks yesterday and picked up a New York Times.  

Jilda and I sat on the couch and read three newspapers.  It's interesting to see how each entity handled a particular topic. 

The news comes at me in real-time. If something happens, my phone buzzes in my pocket (when the Internet isn't down) and I can check the latest. A lot of the younger people prefer consuming their news that way. But there's something about a newspaper that is inviting. The smell of the ink on paper, the feel of the thin pages in your hand, the sound it makes when you fold pages back so that you can read the funnies.

Newspapers are struggling. The only exceptions are local newspapers that report who attended Joy's birthday party or how the home team did on Friday night. 

After we read all three papers from cover to cover, we stacked them in the recycling bin and went for a walk.

It was much cooler this morning with a nice breeze out of the west. The dogs were happy. They played nip tag. It's a game where they chase each other and nip each other's rear-ends. They are hilarious to watch as they pay on cooler mornings.

When we rounded the barn, Jilda spotted a Monch Aster next to the trail. I snapped a picture for the blog tonight. 

It was a good day, even though we spent most of the day unconnected to the outside world.

Monch Aster

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