Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Deer and fairies

I left work later than usual today. The holidays on Thursday and Friday have everything wonky. Of course, every Friday is a holiday for me....but I digress.

I turned onto our narrow lane and was a few hundred yards from my driveway when twin fawns ran in front of me. They stopped and stared at me as if I were a trespasser. When taking the larger view of the Cosmo and what not, I guess they were right. So, I put the truck and park and watched. The one on the side of the road munched on grass. They heard a dog bark off in the distance and they both
became hyper-aware. 

Sensing that they were about to bolt for the cover of the woods, I pulled the phone from my pocket. The smallest deer jumped to the edge of the road, but the other one stood for a moment. I managed to snap a picture before it scurried off into the underbrush.

When I arrived home, I went into my bathroom to take out my contacts. There on the edge of my vanity was a fresh bottle of bath gel. I'd used the last bit during my morning shower. Thank goodness the shower gel fairy was on duty today.

Monday, November 20, 2017


NOTE: I used pieces of past blogs to write this column for Sunday's paper.

I’m coming to another intersection in my life, and I need a good thinking place. Some folks reach out to others to help make hard life decisions. I tend to look within.

All this was running through my head this past weekend. I’d gone to Lowe’s to pick up a heater and some plastic sheeting. We plan to enclose the screen porch. The sheeting and heater will keep the cold winter wind from turning the porch into a fridge. Our tender plants could winter out there.

Outside the Lowe’s entryway was a garden bench. With eyes closed, I could picture it under the oak and hickory trees down by our barn. It would be a perfect thinking place. And if I got tired of thinking, I could take a nap. At least that’s the movie that played in my mind. I bought the plastic and the heater for the porch. Before leaving, I stepped back and asked the cashier about the garden bench. It was on sale. I decided to buy it with the money I’ve made writing this column. Before she rang up the purchase, she asked if I was a veteran. When I told her I was, she also gave me a veteran’s discount. Nice, I thought as I put some of the money back in my pocket.

When I got home, my great nephew Jordan was in the yard playing with my other great nephew, Anthony. Jordan helped me unload the bench. He’s curiously strong for a nine-year-old. We placed it in the shade and moved it around to a few locations until we found where the feng shui and the afternoon light felt right. Anthony supervised.  

Once the bench was in place, we all sat for a long time in silence. “This is my new thinking bench,” I told the boys.  Anthony who just turned seven nodded
his head as if he understood. Jordan’s mom came down to check on him, and she snapped a picture. I never pass up an opportunity for a photo op with the young’uns I love.

The change I mentioned earlier is my work at the college that I’ve been doing the last three years. Unless something changes, it will end soon.

I’ll get a chance to practice what I teach when it comes to careers. I’ve learned that life is like a gently flowing river. No matter how hard one tries to hold on, things change. How I react to change can make all the difference.

I plan to continue working, but I want to do work that makes a difference, not just work that makes money. I spent years working for the phone company. The friendships I made while working there are enduring. At times the work was interesting, but I can’t say that I ever got the feeling that it “made a difference.”

Over the coming few months, I plan to spend some time on the garden bench reflecting on the things that matter most to me. Hopefully, my thinking time on the bench will help me to set a new course on the river of life.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Jilda cooked turnip greens, butter beans, mashed turnips (with butter) and I baked a pone of cornbread. 

We have friends that rarely use their kitchens. They prefer eating out.  Going to a restaurant is a treat for us. But rarely do we have a meal at a restaurant that's better than we have at home. I know that sounds like I'm boasting. But I don't boast. 

The reason people eat out is that cooking at home is "not convenient."  It takes thought, planning, and some skill.  But when we eat, we know the chef cooked our food with care. We know the ingredients are fresh, and things always seem better when you have to work for them.

If you haven't had a home-cooked meal in a while, I suggest that you have one soon. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bumpy ride

I finished the screen porch today. Cold weather is headed this way. I've been up and down a ladder all afternoon. After the job was done, I gathered up my tools and returned them to their place in the shed.

When I went inside, I stepped out onto the porch. It was much warmer on than it is outside. That's good news for our plants that we bring inside for winter.

I washed up and made myself a cup of hot peppermint tea. Jilda has the self-cleaning feature on to clean the oven in preparation for Thanksgiving Day cooking so it was hot inside.

Taking my tea to the back deck, I sat at the wrought-iron table and watched the ending of the day while sipping my tea.

The wind aloft sounded like an angry surf. The pine trees were swaying and acorns pinged the metal roof. 

The clouds thinned to the south and what remained of the sunset painted the sky amber, turquoise, and rose. I snapped a picture, but the lens didn't pick up the color.

Up in the sky, I saw a commercial airplane winking across the sky headed toward the southeast. I can promise those passengers had a bumpy ride this evening.

It looks like a line of thunderstorms will move through here in a few hours. Hopefully, we won't lose power, but I'm posting a little early just in case.

I hope your Saturday has been a good one.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sunset grass

I was on the road at sunset today. A project that I started earlier today was 90% finished, but I needed a few things from Lowe's to finish up. 

We plan to turn it into a temporary Florida room this winter and maybe make it permanent next spring. So after Jilda headed out to work, I headed to Lowe's to pick up a few things. I bought some things, but they were out of the thin wooden strips that I needed to secure the plastic sheeting around the screen porch. 

After checking two store locations, I decided to call it a day. I drove across the mountain on my route home. Jilda drives this road every day and she's been saying how beautiful it is this time of year. Today I got a first-hand look. There were several places where the leaves were incredible, but I came upon a stretch of grass highlighted by the setting sun. It won the photo op moment. Rolling the truck window down, I snapped a few frames. A car behind was approaching fast and I expected a blast from their horn, but they must have thought the view as special too because they slowed down and snapped a picture too. Copycats.

I hope today has been a good day for you too.

This is a "no filter photo" in case my friend Julia reads my blog tonight :)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Autumn archive

We just rolled in from Sylacauga. It's about 40 miles south of Birmingham or about 80 miles from here. We played until after 8 p.m. and then we loaded our equipment.

It's past our bedtime. Since I didn't get a picture today, I dove into the archives and retrieve a picture from nine years ago today. I call it Autumn Archive.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Beautiful autumn afternoon

I worked late last night so today was a short day for me. Since I was getting off early, I decided to work through lunch and head out even earlier.

I had my head buried in my laptop knocking out my coaching notes and designing a tee shirt for our upcoming success celebration.

Around noon, the sound of distant drumming wormed into my consciousness. Stepping over to the window of my office, I pulled the shades aside to get a better view of the courtyard.

There was a group of people gathered and I wasn't sure what was going on. Snapping my laptop closed, I got my hat and shades and went out to investigate.

I was a group of Native Americans putting on a demonstration of various dances used by their tribe. The drumming was hypnotic. There were several tables with Native American crafts.

Stepping into the shade, I watched a few of the dances. Some of the dances were used in their spiritual ceremonies. The chants were ethereal. 

I snapped a picture of one of the dancers who was tending the tables before it was her time to dance. It was a delightful way to spend a few minutes on a beautiful autumn afternoon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Do what you love

My coaching partner and I did our last workshop today. It was in Northwest Alabama not far from Tupelo, Mississippi. It sun had set before the session ended so I drove home in the dark. 

The work I've been doing for the last three years is winding down. That fact came into clearer focus tonight. Lost in thought, I found myself harmonizing with the low-pitched whining sound my tires made on the asphalt. 

I'll miss this work. Some of the work I've done in my life I did to make a living. I did this work to make a difference. Our numbers were small, but those who came in and did their homework found jobs. 

I've had offers these last few weeks. But I'm going to be picky about the kind of work I do going forward. 

Jilda and I had a good friend who played with the songwriter/musician John Denver (Rocky Mountain High.) He said that once when the band was road weary from months of performances all across the country that everyone got snippy. He said John called them all together and said, "If we're not having fun doing this work, why are we doing it?" That question is simple yet profound. 

We're only here for a while, so why not do what we love. Jilda and I wrote a song entitled "Do What You Love." I'll post the lyrics to the second verse below.

I know that I will be selective as I move into the next phase of my career.

There are so many people who work day and night
At jobs that they hate, they're wasting their lives
There's a lesson worth learnin' they don't teach in school
You gotta do what you love, and love what you do

Monday, November 13, 2017

Epic AC Event

When the weather turned off chilly the week before last, Jilda was giddy. She stripped the cotton sheets from our bed and put on flannel sheets. Those sheets feel like the red and green shirt I wore when I was a kid. We put out the fall decorations. With steaming mugs of hot cocoa and blazing-blue hickory logs snapping in the fire pit, we were ready for cooler weather. But then last week, it got hot again, and that’s when the “real fun” began.

On Thursday night, as we got ready to hit the sack, I checked the thermostat. The digital reading said 76 degrees. Flipping the unit from heat to cool, I dropped the setting to a comfortable sleeping temp. A click coming from the outside unit was a sound I’d never heard before. Hmmmm — that didn’t sound right, I thought.

We went to bed, and just before midnight, I woke up. My pillow was as damp as a dishrag. I’d been sweating. Stepping into the hall, I flipped on the light. The fan was still blowing, but the temp showed 75 degrees. Not good. I went through the process of resetting the unit but no biscuits, and no cold air, either.

The next day I called Glenn Sargent with Sargent Heating and Cooling. He’s helped us out in the past when ants ate our outside unit. He knows I’m pretty handy at fixing stuff, so he gave me a few things to try. None of them fixed the problem. He told me he’d run by and have a look. The old unit had been in place since Clinton was in the White House, so I wasn’t encouraged that a simple solution was in the cards. It wasn’t.

After some tests and a lot of head scratching, Glenn said, “We’re going to have to replace this unit.” Apparently, the old AC used a type of coolant that the government outlawed just after the dinosaurs left the planet.

He checked his sources and quoted me a price. He said he could get started as soon as I moved the water heater. WHAT?????

The old unit has co-existed with the water heater since we built the house in 1983. But the new inside part of the unit would need the space where the water heater was sitting. He said something about air flow and bla, bla, bla. I didn’t hear much after the water heater bombshell.

I whipped out my phone and called my nephew Haven, who is a plumber. “I have some bad news for you buddy,” I told him. “You have to move my water heater.” I think that is the point where he dropped his cell, or maybe he hung up on me. But he called back later.

This past Sunday, he and his dad showed up with pipes, tools, and new-fangled fittings and moved the tank. The job was a beast, but he didn’t whine. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I was kind to that kid.

Well, kind might be a stretch, but I treated him right most of the time, and he’s always been there for me.

Glenn juggled his schedule and showed up a day before he said he’d do the work. When he handed me the bill, it was a little less than his estimate. I admire people who “under promise and over deliver.” And I love the fact that our air conditioner is now blowing cool air through the vents. Did I mention that the temps dropped like a stone the day after we replaced the unit?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I thought that was fuzz on your nose

There was not a great deal on our agenda today. We fired up the fireplace and slowly sipped our coffee while reading the Sunday papers. 

Jilda whipped up some gravy and biscuits along with sausage. We don't have that often, but it was a perfect fit today.

Our great nephews came over after breakfast and we walked. Anthony had never walked the new path so it was an adventure. There was a tense moment when Ol' Hook dug up some more yellow jackets. We saw them in time to shoo the boys to safety but I slapped one off the back of my head. Jilda wasn't as lucky. While she was getting Anthony up the hill, one stung her on the calf of her leg. 

I made a mental note of where the nest located and tomorrow evening they will go to insect heaven. 

There's a ring of concrete blocks around the ironwood tree by the barn. I sat the boys down for a moment to take a picture. Anthony has formed the habit of posing for pictures. His picture face is not what I was after so I pulled out an old joke to distract him – "Hey, I thought that was a fuzz on your nose, but it's not." Say that real fast and you'll understand why it's a kid's joke. When I told him that, Jordan cracked up. I've played that joke on him a thousand times but it was a first for Anthony and he immediately put his hand to the nose to make sure there wasn't a booger issue. I love jacking kids around :)

Hope your Sunday was an enjoyable one.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


The colors this time of year is why I love it so much. Yes, I love college football and the smell of hickory smoke in the firepit. But the colors are what make me smile. 

The rain that swept through earlier in the week left the sky as clean as a new window. When you have a sky this blue, almost any color pops. I shot the picture below on Thursday when I took the sumac picture. As I headed back to the truck, I shot this autumn grass on the other side of the Interstate.

We have a gig this week and our practice sessions have been intense. I'm spent.

I hope it's been a remarkable day where you live.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Blue mushrooms

It's not every day that you see a blue mushroom. I thought at first I was having one of those flashbacks from the 1960s they said I'd have. I expected to hear Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along The Watchtower, or Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, and For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield. But all I heard was barking squirrels and mourning doves in the distance.  I didn't say, "Where am I? How did I get here? And,  What's that smell?"  So I knew it wasn't a flashback. 

As it turns out, it was only just blue mushrooms. I'd never seen one of those before. Jilda asked if it could be those magic mushrooms. I had no idea because I'd never seen one before. When I G0ogled blue mushrooms, the closest I got was an Indigo milk cap though I wouldn't bet my life on it. So I just snapped a picture.

But when I stepped into the office to write this blog,  I did crank up the stereo and I have Jimi blaring through my speakers. 

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief

All along the watchtower
by Bob Dylan



Thursday, November 09, 2017

A sunset of sumac

We had our last workshop in Fayette today. This is off topic, but I love the name Fayette. It's like Andalusia, Alabama. It sound musical when you say it.

Anyhow, I headed northwest before lunch. About halfway there, it felt like my rear end was going to sleep so I pulled to the edge of the Interstate to get out and stretch. It was raining when I left our campus, but the further west I drove, the clearer the sky became.

I stood on the shoulder and did a few yoga stretches. Touching my toes must have impressed a passing trucker because he tooted his horn. 

I chose the place where I pulled off because of a growth of sumac which had turned the color of an autumn sunset. I waded into waist-high sage and at type of grass with tops that look like fuzzy caterpillars.  I really need to research and learn what that grass is called. I snapped a few pictures so I'd have one for the blog tonight. The picture below is the one I chose.

My partner Danny and I always eat lunch before workshops. It gives us time to formulate a game plan. We ate at "Das Good" diner. It opened a few weeks ago in an old dairy bar that closed for over 30 years ago. Many of the original stools and old signs were still there. It was a good experience and the food was excellent. I will mis going to Fayette every few weeks.  

I hope your Thursday has been a good one.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Laid back day

The day was overcast with intermittent rain. Last night after midnight, the temps outside dropped like a stone. Jilda had an early yoga class this morning for the staff where she works. She left me writing on the screen porch. I had to crank up the radiator to keep my fingers from getting too cold to type.

My column this coming Sunday will be the story of the AC incident. I added a little humor because people really don't want to hear me whine. 

When Jilda got home we took the dogs for a walk. It was a short one because it started raining. Unlike a summer rain where it feels refreshing on my face, an autumn rain can chill me to the bone. So we hustled inside before we got soaked. I did manage to snap a picture of some autumn leaves behind the barn. 

It was a laid back day. I needed that for a change.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

AC love

I'm in love. No, not with the AC repairman, although he did move up on my list. But I do love the new AC unit.

It took a while today to remove the old unit and install the new one. The duct man had to tailor-make new ductwork. What was surprising to me was that they under promised and over delivered.

A few days ago when we talked about pricing, he gave me an estimate. He also said he could do the work on Wednesday after I'd moved the hot water heater.

When I sent him a text Sunday afternoon to let him know the tank had been moved, he asked if we could do the work today. I had to shuffle my schedule at work, but I told him yes.

This evening after completing the installation they flipped on the breakers. When I checked the thermostat it was 78 degrees inside our house. When the new unit kicked on kicked on,  I could barely hear it running. When the repairman handed me the bill, it was for less than he had quoted. I could have hugged his neck.

Standing under a vent with cool air blowing in my face, I almost wept with joy. Of course, a front is moving through tonight and the temps will be closer to what they should be in November.

It was good putting the house back in order.

Monday, November 06, 2017

When the going gets tough

We normally have good luck with our garden, but this summer it was just sad. We kept it clean as a carpet the first month, but then the rain came. When the roots of weeds take hold, they grow like kudzu on steroids. We got a few tomatoes, but most of the rest rotted on the vine. That's the way it goes some years.

It would be easy for us to throw up our hands and give up. But NOOOOOOO. When the going gets tough, the tough plant collards. 

We love collards. When I was growing up, we had collards a lot.  I never developed a taste for them I hated the smell of them cooking. In those days I would have preferred jabbing a sharp pencil in my eye rather than have collards for supper. Did I mention that I hated collards?

After I married, things changed. Long-held prejudices against foods from my childhood vanished. Well, except for tripe.

Now, when Jilda tells me we're having collards and cornbread I smile. When she piles my plate full of the green stuff, it's all I can do to keep from getting naked and eating everything without a spoon. Perhaps I've said too much about my love of collards.

Let's just say I was happy when Jilda's sister Nell gave us collard plants this past weekend. We planted them in raised beds. Soon we'll be having collards and cornbread for supper.  I can't wait

Collard art

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Part of our AC opportunity had an unforeseen component. Our hot water heater has lived in the same closet as the inside unit of our central heating and air unit for over 30 years. It was happy there.

The unit always smiled when I changed the AC filters every few weeks. It sends us a Christmas card each year. It planned to retire in the shadow of the rumbling AC unit.

The AC guy came Friday and he said the newer unit would require more space to be energy efficient. "If we're going to do this right, we'll need to move that hot water heater. When I broke the news, the hwh was obvious broken hearted. It buzzed and gurgled.

Today, my nephew Haven came by after lunch and moved the unit to a pantry in the kitchen. It took about two hours to do the job. But the house, as you remember, still doesn't have airconditioning and it was 80 degrees in the shade.

By the time we finished, I felt as if I'd run a marathon. The hot water heater acted as if I'd put it in a nursing home at first. But as luck would have, it made quick friends with the microwave and the Yellow Label Sopping Syrup which lives on the shelf above the new digs.

A while later, a single mom called and asked if they could do a photoshoot at the barn and the creative space this evening. Even though my knees were protesting, we said of course.

The evening was much cooler and the foliage was remarkable. I guess we'll see if the pictures looked ok.

I hope you all had a remarkable day.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Stay cool

I stopped by the small lake again today to get a first-hand foilage update. Jilda says it will be another week before it peaks. All I know is that it gets more beautiful every day. This afternoon when I stopped by, I heard quacking from the far side of the lake. I think they thought I was the lady who owns the property. She feeds them each afternoon along with the catfish. They swam over to check me out. I snapped another picture to show you the progress.

Day two without AC. It was 80ish here today with humidity as thick as peanut butter. Thank goodness our house is shaded by oak, sweet gum, and pine trees.

We have ceiling fans and a box fan to lull us to sleep at night. But they weren't moving enough air. I ran to Walmart and bought an oscillating fan. It's small but hopefully, it can help us survive until the AC components come in. The AC man will be here Wednesday.

Y'all stay cool.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Part of it

Today was not a fun day. The cool weather was short-lived, and the temps inched back up. When I went to flip the central heat and air unit back to AC, I heard a click, Hmmm. I've never heard that sound before.

I didn't think much about it until a while later the house was still warm. I looked at the thermostat, but I knew before flipping on the hall light what it would say. 

Stepping to the back deck, my suspicions were confirmed. The unit didn't power up.  I stepped out and did a cursory check. Back inside, I reset the system. Again, I heard the click. 

I sent a text to my AC guy. He's talked me through a couple situations when the unit quit working correctly. He told me a few things to check. Nada. Then, he asked if I had a volt-ohmmeter. I said I had one. He told me a few more things to check. I called him with the results of the last test. "That ain't good." 

He came by a while ago to checked the system. The compressor is defective. The problem with that is the system is over 15 years old and used the freon that has since been discontinued. 

When he stepped back to his truck to check his sources, he came back with news I dreaded. The entire system will have to be replaced. I'm currently looking for a liquor store I can knock off on payday so that I can help finance the new unit.

As my grandpa used to say, "That's part of it."

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Art in the park

When I left this morning for work, I had to dash to keep from getting rain-soaked. With my knees, dashing is not as simple as it once was. But I dashed.

The rain stopped, but the clouds remained. At lunchtime, they had "Art in the Park." The kids in the drama class did a one-act play in the courtyard. After the play, they had some kind of dancing competition. I could tell at a glace that these kids didn't have issues with their knees. I stepped outside and looked at the art and photography exhibits.

After lunch, I had a full schedule of coaching. At quitting time, I snapped my laptop closed, cleaned off my desk, and headed home.

A short detour took me by the lake for a foliage check. It's not peak yet, but it won't be long. I snapped a picture.  I tried to get a photo of the fish I mentioned last week, but they were shy today.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


November 1. How can this be? The ink's not dry on my New Year's resolutions, and already it's November 1. 

When I was a kid, time was a snail. Every day at school was 72 hours long. And then, toward the end of the year, as the holiday's approached, they got even longer. I thought December was another way to spell decade. Santa seemed as far away as retirement.

But that is the nature of time. Even sand in an hourglass seems to rush faster to the bottom when the glass gets low.

Anyhow, my favorite holiday these days is Thanksgiving. I didn't get the significance of this holiday when I was younger. In my work at the college, I hear a lot of sad stories. People like me except that they have gone through trials that would bring anyone down a peg or two.

I listen with empathy. I try to put myself in their shoes but clearly, I have no point of reference. I said that to explain why Thanksgiving is so important to me these days. When I stand myself beside some of the people I know, my problems are trivial. My life has been a gift. And for that, I am thankful.

Fun with Facebook filters.

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