Saturday, December 16, 2017

Decorating

We've been decorating today. I've been in a fetch and go mode. Since my decorating skills are limited, I relegated to the, "Go get the green box from the shed. Now, go get the box with the wreaths. Go get the lights." You get the idea.

I ran to the hardware store for a pot for the tree and some glue to fix an antique stocking holder that was broken last year.

To get out of the way, I headed to Sumiton (a small town about 11 miles away) to get Chinese food for supper. That much I can do.

When I got home, I went into my bathroom to wash my hands for supper and there on my vanity was Santa. It was good seeing my old friend.

Tomorrow, we'll put up the tree.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.



Friday, December 15, 2017

Mornings are magical

Yesterday morning the temps were in the upper 20s as I headed out to work. Most of the color is gone now. My side yard is now a crunchy carpet of leaves. Cranking the truck, I sat there for a while allowing the engine time to warm up before pulling out of the driveway.

A lone gray squirrel sat on my backyard fence munching an acorn. He stopped for a moment to consider me before getting back to his breakfast. The morning light highlighted the fur on his back. At some point in his lineage, an ancestor must have and an affair with a fox squirrel because the tips of the hair on his back were rusty-red. I started to step back out of the truck and snap a picture but at the click of the door, dashed away. Soon he was cursing me from the limb of the water oak.

Not far from the house are pastures. On one side of the road are small goats, and on the other are horses. 

It was fairly early in the morning. I was the only car on the road, so I pulled to the edge, slipped the gearshift into park, and left the engine idling. A horse eyed me curiously but then wasn't sure if I was friend or foe, so he turned and began walking off. The light on his back was perfect, so I snapped a few pictures before he ambled off to join his friends.

It seems to me that some mornings are magical. Do you ever get that feeling?





Thursday, December 14, 2017

A berry pretty picture

Today was a long one. We had a success celebration for the people in my program and the local employers that hire them. I fretted because not many people responded that they would attend. But as it turns out, we had a good crew.

Tonight, I shot pictures for the chamber of commerce. They had their annual Christmas parade. These events are always a lot of fun.

I don't have a lot left for my writing tonight. I'll post a berry pretty picture I shot yesterday when we walked.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Is it too much to ask?

Last night was fretful. I made the mistake of looking at my phone before turning in. The candidate in the special election that we voted for was behind by thousands of votes. I was saddened. Jilda had an EARLY morning class at work today for the staff and I couldn't bring myself to tell her we were losing the election.

I tossed and turned. With closed eyes, I could read the headlines in international news. I could have written the jokes on late-night TV.

When the alarm went off this morning, Jilda headed for the shower. I punched the brew button on the coffeemaker, removed the phone from its charger, and sat down on the couch.  I tapped on the CNN news feed. My heart leapt. CNN said that AP had projected our man, Doug Jones as the winner.

I clicked on the Washington Post and the New York Times and they were saying it was an astonishing upset. Even that disturbed me, since the opposing candidate had been accused of molesting chilren...but I didn't let it dampen my enthusiasium.

I shouted out to Jilda. Even though she was in the shower she heard me.

We both scanned every newsfeed we could find. It was true. Not fake news...not some kind of joke...but the truth. At least for a while, Alabama did the right thing and elected a decent man. I know this sounds wimpy, but we hugged and wept with joy.

Is that too much to ask?  To have and honorable woman or man representing us?

 The father of one of our best friends, Carl Elliott Sr. was an Alabama Represenative in Washington. One of the programes he started in rural Alabama was  a books on wheels program. It gave every child in his district access to the Library. I can't tell you how many books I checked out from one of those book-mobiles. It was an ingeniious solution to a problem that plagued people in rural areas in the 1960s. Access to free books.

After retirement, he practiced law in the county seat. His son introduced us to him. He was gracious to a fault. He always made Jilda and me feel  important. He won the first John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage awards in 1990

These days, I guage politicians by Carl. Do they know what their people need. Do that provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, or do they cater to those who make the largest contributions?

Tonight Jilda and I are both happy. I just hope Doug Jones can fill the shoes of our old friend Carl Elliott.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hoping sanity prevails

Alabama is a strange and wonderful place. It would be a great place if it were not for our politics.  Today, we are voting in a special election to replace Senator Sessions who is now over the U.S. Justice Department.

We can choose between a man who helped convict the of the men involved  in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham during the turbulent Civil Rights ere in the 1960s. The other candidate is a man accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl when he was 30.

Alabama has made international news. Late night TV has had a field day.

I was at the polling place a few minutes after it opened this morning. I did my part.

I'm hoping sanity prevails in the place I call home.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Staying alive

For most of last year, we could have gone swimming. The weather was hot and dry into December. Not so this year. The temps took a nose-dive just after we replaced our central air and heating system.

We've used our fireplace more this year that we have in years. And on Friday, we had three inches of snow.

The autumn foliage is going fast. Yesterday while we were walking, I came upon this tiny fern growing around and through a decaying limb.

I stopped my stride long enough to snap a picture. While much of the plant life is giving way to winter. This little fern was doing what it could to stay alive.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday times

We did Christmas stuff today. We went to COSTCO early this morning to stock up on the things we'll need between now and the end of the year.

Once home, Jilda finished up her Christmas cards. We'll send the first batch out tomorrow. After lunch, we put up some of our "exterior illumination."   We'll get started decorating inside this week.

This evening, Jilda got "a-hankerin'" for ribs. We don't eat them often, but sometimes there's nothing better. She made coleslaw and potato salad as sides. 

While she was in the kitchen, I listened to George Winston's December. It's a beautiful Christmas album with only piano music.  I sipped green tea and read the New York Times Sunday paper.  Sunday afternoons may be my favorite time of the week. 

I hope you've had a remarkable day and have an even better week.






Saturday, December 09, 2017

Dodged a bullet

When I went on Facebook this morning to check birthdays, a picture of Jilda and I popped up. It was
taken before we were married.

When I saw it, the image made me smile. Who would have thought two skinny kids would make it 43 years?

Our great-nephew Jorda and our great-niece Breeze were in a swim meet today in Tuscaloosa. We had nothing on our calendars so we drove down to give them our support. Tuscaloosa is about 80 miles south of here. They had heats most of the day so we watched a few and headed back home.

Stopping at Taco Casa, we eased through the drive-thru and got our order to go.

We decided to stop at the rest stop off the Interstate and eat our lunch instead of wearing most of it home by eating while we rode.

Parking in the shade, we ate and people watched. After tossing our trash in the receptacle, I turned the key. The car normally springs to life, but this time it clicked and buzzed. Oh Crap! (Clean version.)

I tried several more times but I knew the battery was dead. It had started slowly a few times when the weather was cold and I'd made a mental note to replace the battery but that mental note wasn't helping to turn that starter.

Stepping back inside the rest stop, I asked the attendant if she had jumper cables. She didn't but her friend who worked at the rest stop on the southbound side of the Interstate did. She called him on the radio. A few minutes later he pulled in and helped us get the car cranked. I'm not sure if they can take tips, but I put one in his pocket and thanked him profusely.

This incident could have turned out much worse. We were about 75 miles from home and family help. But thankfully, this young guy bailed us out. We now have a new battery on Jilda's car. Bullet dodged.





Friday, December 08, 2017

Snow Day

Just before we went to bed last night, the weatherman was pointing to the weather map saying the snow coming through this morning would be to the south and east of us. He said we could have a few flurries but that should be all.

I'm thinking the weatherman was hitting the cough syrup just a little too much because it started snowing and didn't let up until late this afternoon.

When I poked the ruler through the snow around 3:30 p.m. it was right at three inches. I know our Colorado friends would snicker, but it was a decent snow for us.

Samantha kept Jordan out of school and we played hard all day.

















Thursday, December 07, 2017

Learning how to see

We have a Japanese Maple tree in the backyard. It's in a pot as big as Delaware. I'm not sure why we haven't planted it in the ground because the pot weights much too much to wag inside.

The thing about this small tree is that it's beautiful, especially in the fall. It was slow to turn when the weather got cold. It seemed to want it to be summer for a while longer. The last few days, it surrendered.

I snapped a picture.

A few nights ago, I posted the picture I took at the forks of the river on Facebook. Someone said they were studying photography but they couldn't afford a "good" camera. I mentioned that I took the picture with my phone.

The thing is, I have an expensive digital camera. But the pictures I take with it are no better than the ones I take with my phone. 

When I was learning photography, I spent so much time and energy on getting the image "technically" right, that I didn't focus on the subject.

Jilda, who is an artist, taught me how to "see" photographs. And it's made all the difference. The best camera in the world is the one you have with you.



Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Running on empty

It seems like I've been writing all day. I struggled with my column for Sunday's paper. I wrote three different ones before the words seemed to work. That's how it goes sometimes.

When Jilda got home from her early morning yoga class that she teaches for the staff where she works, we put on our jackets and walked. It was much colder after the rain moved through.

There wasn't a lot of color when we walked but I did see some lichen that fell from an oak tree in the yard.  I know it's kind of sad, but this is all that's left tonight.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Strangeness at the forks

I shot a couple pictures the other day when I was at the forks of the river. The light was amazing and I had the place to myself. 

When I walked up, there was a child's rocking horse sitting there. It was facing towards the east. My mind wrestled with what I was seeing. Why would a rocking horse be sitting there? My mind is usually good at connecting unconnected and seemingly unrelated dots. I'm not sure why I have that skill but I do. But still – there was a rocking horse sitting there and I was drawing a blank.

I have to go back there when the weather clears and talk to the crew and get the scoop. There's usually an interesting story connected to things there.  Once when I went, everyone was flying kites. You should know that most of the guys that meet there regularly are in the late 70s early 80s. But they seem much younger than their years because they are always laughing and having fun.

Anyhow, below is a picture of the rocking horse and another picture I shot while I was there.








Monday, December 04, 2017

Choosing a tree ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Thanksgiving was a low-key event for us this year. We had a few members of the family and some friends over on Thanksgiving Day to do the turkey thang. We may be a minority, but we like to celebrate Halloween in October and Thanksgiving in November. We don’t start decorating for Christmas until December. That’s just the way we roll.

This past week after coffee and breakfast, we headed to the tree farm for a Christmas tree. It will live in our yard until a couple of weeks before the fat guy cometh. Last year we waited too late and all the good “planting trees” were gone.

We settled for an artificial tree. It was pretty, but it smelled like polyvinyl chloride. For me, the tastes, sounds, and smells are what make it feel like Christmas. And the smell of plastic wasn’t Christmas-like. We vowed to do better this year.

The trees we’ve had in the past were Leland Cyprus. They make pretty trees, but they grow like they are on steroids. Our yard is full of them. The smallest one is about 15 feet tall. The largest one is well over 30 feet. The front and backyard look like Christmas forests. Our first live Christmas tree was a white pine that we bought in December of 1983. It’s now big enough that we could cut it and build a log cabin.

We wanted something different this year. Over near the edge of the tree farm, we saw a
Tree of Christmas past
beautiful tree. It was smaller than a Leland, but it had a good vibe. Sunlight made it look silvery blue. It smelled like the Pacific Northwest. The label said, Blue Ice.


Jilda stood guard by the tree while I fetched the “digger-upper-guys.” When I took them back to where she was standing, they gave me the tag and said I could go inside and pay for the tree while they dug it up and loaded it for me.

There was a line of tree-buyers waiting to pay. Apparently, a lot of people had the same “start early” idea as we did. So, I poured me a complimentary cup of hot apple cider and did some people watching while I waited.

Christmas music flowed from speakers that I could not see. Everyone in there was smiling. A cat, the size of a pot-bellied pig, purred on the counter while kids oohed, aahed, and petted him. After the swiping of the card, I headed back out for the drive home.

I’d never heard of a blue-ice Christmas tree so when I got home, I Googled it and learned that it’s an Arizona Cypress. Over the coming days, we’ll dig out our Christmas music, sip eggnog and decorate our little Blue Ice Cyprus. When Jilda does her magic, I know it will be beautiful.

We’ll also start our yearly tradition of watching our old Christmas movies. My favorite film to start the Christmas countdown is “A Christmas Story.” It always takes me back to the early Christmases in Sloss Hollow. Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation is usually the next one we watch.

This autumn has been a gift even though the weather has been warm at times.

But, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Where are they going

We could have snow this coming week. The weatherman hedged yesterday but today he seemed a little more certain we could see some flurries. I could have told him that we would have snow this winter. It said so in the Farmer's Almanac. 

Some people say the FA's predictions are unscientific, but in my unscientific opinion, they are often as good or better at predicting long-range forecasts as the Weather Channel.

Now, where was I? Oh yes – the prediction of snow motivated me to get the chicken pen snow-ready. I stuffed the laying boxes with fresh pine straw and tested the electricity and the small heater we use out there. 

After I finished my chores, I looked around for anything else that needed doing.  Things were pretty much in order.

I looked up at the evening sky before heading inside and I saw the contrail of an airplane headed west. I wasn't sure if there was enough light to take a picture but I shot one for grins.

After shooting the picture, I leaned against the back fence and stood for a long while. I could hear birds scurrying to find their places in the hedges. Woodsmoke from a neighbor's fireplace made me think of campfires and hootenannies. The brain is a wonderful vehicle. 

As it turns out, there was just enough light. But when I see a plane flying off into the horizon, I can't help but wonder where they are going. 






Saturday, December 02, 2017

Twelve years and counting

I know this would drive most productivity experts and self-help gurus insane, but I'm kind of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Back in December of 2005, I decided to give blogging a try.  I had maintained the alumni website for my local high school for years. Not only did I scan all the yearbooks from 1938 to 2005, but I wrote stories about the people who graduated from Dora.

The website resonated with locals who went to Dora High, so the site got a lot of hits. But updating the website with my stories was a pain.

I'd toyed with the idea of writing a blog for some time. What would I say? Who would want to read what I write? And so on. So I thought, I'll try this for a while and see if "this dog would hunt," as my grandpa used to say.

I had a Google account and one of the features was Blogger. I clicked on Create Blog and wrote my first entry.  It was an entry saying that I'd write updates from time to time. The entry got one comment.  But I became a blogger that night. 

Since December 2, 2005, I've written every night except a few times when we lost power for an extended length of time. Even during those devastating events, I managed to find a wireless connection for a post most of the time. 

Not all the entries would be candidates for a Pulitzer, as they say, but some were not bad. 

Blogging led to the opportunity to write a newspaper column and speaking engagements. My four books are compilations of some of those columns. 

I now have a small island in the Carribean, a yacht, and a lease on a private jet...OK, I'm lying about that, but I can say I've made a lot of blog buddies. In the scheme of things, I consider my friendships much more valuable than material things.

Autumn blueberry bushes - a future blog entry.




Friday, December 01, 2017

Finding Feng Shui and what not

The bench I bought in early November still hasn't found its forever home. I've tried it in front of the barn and over under the hickory tree looking off to the east. I knew instinctively that locale would not work because I wouldn't be able to see sunsets.

So I moved it. And moved it again. And again.

Yesterday, I moved it out under the oak in the front yard of the creative space. It didn't take a compass to know it was facing west. The sun was squatting on the western horizon, and shafts of light turned the woods into a kaleidoscope of crimson, orange, amber, and colors I could not name. I was so engrossed in the moment that I didn't take a picture.

This morning when we walked the dogs, a cloud cover gave the sun an opportunity to sleep in.

The colors were muted, so I decided to do a black and white rendition of the bench.

It will take time to know if the Feng shui is right, but you can't really rush things like the placement of a thinking bench.




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