Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day

We didn't do much for Earth Day today. It's rained. Jilda and I try to be environmentally friendly though we still buy too many products that come in plastic. We recycle newspapers, magazines, old clothes, batteries, and plastic bags. We'd like to do glass, plastic, and old paint but that's not easy to do around here.

These last few years as our appliances fail, we replace them with energy efficient ones. I'd love to convert our house to solar and only use commercial power to back up the solar panels when the sun stays away too long but this conversion is expensive. Had it been an option when I was still working full time with MaBell, I think we would have converted but solar had not matured enough at that point.

Having said that, I do a website that promotes the ecology and gives ideas on how people here can recycle, become more energy efficient, and Earth-friendly.

There's a lot of work left, but I didn't want today to go unacknowledged.

Happy Earth Day.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Free Saturday

Rarely do we have an "unscheduled" Saturday. For two people who only work part-time, we seem to be busy. Having a Saturday not filled with stuff does not happen that often.

But today was a "free" Saturday. We slept until 7 a.m., drank coffee and read the morning paper. We walked the dogs and poked fun at all our busy friends.

I put on my grass-cutting hat, fired up the John Deere, and leisurely cut grass. I know most people think cutting grass is a chore, but to me it's therapeutic. After I mowed a while, I pulled under a shade, sipped on a Gatorade. Off in the distance, I could hear crows fussing about something. 

Parking the mower in the barn, I walked back to the house. Inside the fence, I noticed the Honey Crisp Apple tree we planted a few years ago had its first bloom on it today. I didn't want that to go unacknowledged so I snapped a photo.

After a long nap, we went to the store an bought a bottle of wine and two ribeye steaks. 
You can probably guess what we had for supper tonight.

Right now, I'm blissing out and there's a very good chance I'll turn in early tonight.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sing louder

We saw old friends tonight and made new ones. The sun was still hot when we started, but when it dipped behind the adjoining building, it cooled off quickly. 

We had a great crowd at our gig tonight. The sound system died about three songs in. Our sound man is the best but sometimes things break. Tonight it broke. 

We did what John Denver always advised his players - when the sound system falls apart, gather in close and sing louder. That's what we did.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fence Iris

I've felt a little off-center today. I'm not sure why. The oak pollen is brutal right now and I think my body is fighting off the dreaded GUNK.

The sun was warm today but it was much cooler than the last few days. We're playing outside tomorrow evening and we're hoping it isn't too cold to keep the folks from turning out.

During our walk today, I shot a picture of Jilda's pride and joy. It's an iris that came from her mom and dad's iris garden. She planted it years ago. the first time it bloomed was the year her mom died and it hasn't bloomed since.

I love this flower and we can smell its aroma when walking into the house.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Some things are worth it

When we bought the adjoining property a few years ago, I walked it the first time with Jilda. We took our time paying attention to as many details as we could absorb. There's a monster fig bush on the hill. Down toward the middle is a beautiful dogwood.  There are honeysuckle vines, huckleberry bushes, and old growth timber with oak and hickory trees.

We noticed the stump of an oak tree. I'm guessing it blew down years ago during Hurricane Opal when it made landfall in September of 1995. Even though the gulf is over four hours to the south, it was still classified a hurricane (winds 75 MPH) when it moved over Empire.

But I digress. When we saw the stump, I made a mental note to burn the stump off so that it wouldn't slow down my lawnmower when I cut grass.  Jilda said, "Ohhhhhhha." That usually means I've missed something. She said the stump had character.  When I stepped back and took another look, I had to agree. So, I've been cutting around the stump since. I've taken pictures of it before, but this was the first time with the tiny blue and yellow flower blooming. 

What if it does take me another three minutes to cut the grass. Some things are worth it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Best Camera in the World

When I first started the Entrepreneur class in January, it was already dark when we got out at 8 p.m.
Surrounding city lights washed out the stars leaving the night sky a black-velvet blanket.

Things got better when the time changed. The last few weeks the skies have been cloudy when class dismissed. Tonight was a different story.

The instructor and others in the class we in a hurry to get home and I don't think they glanced at the night sky. I'm in a hurry too, but I try never to pass up an opportunity to see something beautiful.

I pulled to the edge of the driveway, rolled down my window and snapped a picture with my phone. My digital camera has a telephoto lens which would have rendered a much clearer picture, but it doesn't work when it's at home in the office. I read once that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. It's hard to argue with that logic.

Monday, April 16, 2018

National Library Week ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I’ve had a fascination with books for as long as I remember. My mom bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias when I was in grammar school. The pages between those red leather-bound covers were like a mental magic carpet to me. 

Our family was fortunate. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, and both wanted to ensure their kids had a shot at an education. That’s why they bought the books on the installment plan. It didn’t take a diploma to understand the value of books. There were many kids in rural America who weren’t as fortunate.

Carl Elliott, who was our representative in Congress from 1949 to 1965, understood the value of books. He was instrumental in the enactment of the Library Services Act of 1956. Part of the funding from this bill paid for bookmobiles. Those libraries on wheels put knowledge into the hands of millions of rural Americans.

I remember the first book I checked out of the Walker County bookmobile. The title was "The Wildlife Cameraman," by Jim Kjelgaard. I remember becoming lost in the words of that book. It was one reason I wanted to learn photography when I got older.

Through the years, I’ve used the library system a great deal. When I started working in Hoover in the '80s, the commute was brutal. The drive took an hour in each direction, and that’s when the interstate wasn’t under construction. The interstate was ALWAYS under construction.

At first, I listened to the same three songs on commercial radio, but halfway to my destination, I tended to drool. The other choice was listening to news that made me want to drive full speed into a bridge abutment. Searching for alternatives, I found the answer at the library. Books on tape.

At first, I wondered if I could focus on the words, but I learned that a good story drew me in. I listened to hundreds of biographies, self-help, do-it-yourself, and works of fiction.

The commute robbed me of 10 hours of life each week. But discovering books on tape in the library turned wasted hours into an enjoyable part of my day.

This week was National Library Week and the folks at the Carl Elliott Regional Library in Jasper
invited me to participate in a Local Authors event. I was thrilled at the invite. When I arrived, staff members showed me to my table and offered help setting up.

There were several other writers on hand. The people at the library were incredible. I sold some books, made new friends, and listened to a gospel bluegrass group playing in another section of the library.

As I looked around, there were a lot of young folks there. That was encouraging to me because a library is more than a place to check out books. It’s a place of history – a place of discovery. It’s educational and social. 

I think Walter Cronkite summed it up well when he said, "Whatever our libraries cost, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." I couldn’t have said it better, Mr. Cronkite.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday news from Empire

Today was much colder. When the storms moved through yesterday the temps dropped like a (put your own simile here).

When it was time to walk this morning,  I pulled on my shoes, walking shorts, and a tee shirt. It took Jilda longer to get ready and I wasn't sure why. She'd bunded up. I chided her a little.

When we started walking the sun was out and it felt good. I think I might have said, "This is invigorating."  But once in the shadows, I changed my tune.  When the wind kicked up I chided myself for being weather obtuse.

After the first lap, I ran inside and put on warmer clothing. The second lap was more comfortable.

Jordan and his mom joined us for the second lap. He was glad to get outside after a day of bad weather. I shot a video of him rolling down a hill and it was a scream. Oh to be 10 again.

Jilda cooked sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and butterbeans this evening. It was a perfect end to a Sunday.

I took a picture this evening that made me a little sad. I found the wing of a swallowtail butterfly on our back deck. Why a single wing would be there I have no clue. It made me a little sad.

That's all I have to report.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Stormy Saturday

I woke up just after 3 this morning to get a drink of water and to check the weather. April in the south is beautiful, but it can be violent. Seven years ago on the 27th of April, 55 tornadoes touched down in Alabama. Two hundred and thirty-eight people died in our state that day. All tolled, 340 people died from Tornados that day.

So to say that we are weather-aware when "bad clouds" are possible is an understatement. When I looked at the radar, it looked as if the worst would get here after lunch today.

This morning we had some grocery shopping to do, so we were on the road early. We stopped at Micky D's and had breakfast. We don't do that often. 

When we got back, we noticed the wind picked up. You could see trees swaying and birds scurrying. We were running through our disaster plan to make sure we had everything we needed in case storms knocked off the lights...or worse.

Miraculously, the atmosphere was dry here which caused the worst of the storms to dissipate. Our neighbors to the west were not as lucky.

The folks east and north should keep in eye on the radar. 

It's been rainy all day so I  pulled a picture out of the archives from April of 2009.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Important Part of Fishing

It's been too long since I've been fishing. When my job ended on January 31, I told friends that I'd be resting and fly fishing. I didn't. Life has a way of swirling around you and sucking up your time. If you don't set priorities, something else will. I know that happens and still, I haven't been fishing.

I drove up a few times to check the water but never tossed a fly. The funny thing about fishing is that it's much harder to catch a trout when you don't wet a hook. Funny how that works. It's like buying an exercise bike and then using it for a clothes dryer. People rarely lose weight by hanging their clothes on the bike, Apparently, you have to get on and pedal. Who knew?

Anyhow, It's my intention to go fishing this coming week. I may not catch a trout but that's OK. As the song goes, "The important part of fishing ain't the fish but the fishing."

Below is a picture I took of my friend Mr. Smith. It was early one morning on the Sipsey.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A beautiful sight to behold.

Today on our morning walk, Taz the wonder Yorkie decided to amble. All the other dogs run free, but Taz is not road smart so she walks on a leash. Walking untethered is OK at the barn but when we walk up the barn road toward the main road in front of our house. She starts stepping quickly.

The people who once lived across the road were her original "parents." But they fell on hard times and lost the house. That's why Taz came to live with us. I've written about this in the past.

When she lived over there, she must have buried treasure because each time she gets a chance, she bolts across the road. 

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, Today she decided to amble. I walked ahead but when I looked around they were back in the garden. I decided to wait on the Thinking Bench. The temps were in the mid-70s with a gentle breeze out of the west. I sat there blissing out and what not when I looked up. The oak and hickory trees decided that spring is here and it seems they leafed out almost overnight. 

Pulling the camera from my pocket, I snapped a picture of the trees against a blue sky. 

It was a beautiful sight to behold. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Early night

I didn't sleep well last night. My Fitbit said 6 hours. Tossing and turning until 4:45, I decided to get up and work on my column for Sunday.

Jilda had some tests today a the "ear-doc." I'll let her tell that tale. After she got up, we drank our coffee and then walked a quick lap before heading into Birmingham.

Getting a few steps in, felt good. Down close to the barn I noticed a couple daisy and a purple flower I couldn't name. I knew I might need a picture on tonight's blog so I snapped a few. 

I knew the tests would take a while, so I carried my laptop.  The wall screen TV was on full blast. We rarely watch TV at home, and I HATE tvs in waiting rooms. Shoving my headphones knuckle deep into my ears, I put on my focus music and finished up my column.

Tonight will be an early night. I hope your Wednesday was a good one.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hit or miss

Today was beautiful. The temps were in the low 70s but the sun was out full-force. I sat on the deck waiting for Jilda to put on her walking shoes. The black sweatshirt heated up quickly. There wasn't much human activity so my awareness fell on birdsongs. 

Sitting there with eyes closed, I heard owls flirting. Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoooo, ho, hooooo.  It's mate hooted back. Off in the distance, I hear crows. Then from the north, I heard the sound of a bird winging its way toward the garden. I thought for a long time trying to think of what the bird sounded like. Then it hit me. It sounded like the cardboard I clipped onto the forks of my bicycle. For a while, the cardboard flapping against the spokes sounded like a motorbike – or to my 12-year-old-mind it did. 

I heard redbirds, orioles, wrens, and finches.  There were other birdsongs I could not identify.

When Jilda came out for the walk I was still listening.  

On the first lap, we walked up the road in front of our house and I noticed that the edge of the road was covered in male pine flowers washed down by recent rains.  

I've seen them a million times (maybe that's an exaggeration) but it was like I saw them for the first time. 

The curls and bends looked like modern-art to me. I wasn't sure how it would look, but I took a picture anyhow. 

I'm trying to make up my mind as to whether it was a hit or miss.  

Monday, April 09, 2018

Let's play the Pointing Game...My column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: The idea for this column came from a blog post last week.

This past winter was cold. The earth and especially the fruit trees loved it. Jilda prefers cold weather to hot weather. I’m not as big a fan. My joints run dry, and it’s all I can do to keep from spraying WD-40 on my knees. But over the past few weeks, things began to change. I’ve spent more time on the back deck than inside the house.

Easter Sunday, we invited Jilda’s brother and his family over for lunch. Jilda baked a ham, field peas, slaw, mac & cheese, and she also whipped up a vat of potato salad. 

Our company showed up early, and it didn’t take much to coax the kids outside while Jilda finished up the food. Jordan is 10, and Anthony is 8.

The sky was a shade of blue that you only see in early spring after rain washes the pollen and gunk from the atmosphere. 

When I'm watching the young'uns, I tend to make up games on the fly. One of the inventions
was the Pointing Game. I start off easy by telling them to point to a dog. Then I say, point to a chicken. Then I say point to a yellow flower. The instant they start thinking it's too easy, I say point to a four-leaf clover. Hmmm. All of a sudden, they are scrambling for a patch of clover and furiously fumbling through leafy things trying to find a four-leaf clover. Jordan is better at this game than his younger cousin Anthony. It took him less than five minutes to find the prize. But we did it a few more times until Anthony found one, too. 

Then we find a few easier things before I say, “Let’s find something a little harder.” There’s a little test I do to make sure the kids know their directions. It takes a moment for Jordan to orient himself, but I’ve played direction games in the past with him. I'd asked my phone for any aircraft that was overhead, and it told me there was one to the south about 20 miles away. I knew it would be in sight within a few minutes. 

“Let’s find an airplane in the southern sky,” I said.

Jordan helped Anthony figure out directions by thinking about the direction of sunrise and sunset. Soon, he's jumping up and down point to a cottony contrail about 30 degrees above the southern horizon. I used the palm of my hand as a visor to block the sun and looked in the direction he was pointing. “Right again, kiddos.”

Soon came the call from inside telling us the food was ready and we headed inside.

Before he left going back home, Jordan said, "The pointing game was better than an Easter Egg hunt."  That's good because we'd used all the eggs for the potato salad.

After everyone left, Jilda and I took a long Easter nap. 

That evening at sunset, I poured a glass of Easter Merlot and stepped out onto the deck to get an analog weather report. The sky looked like a Monet painting. I thought to myself, “It’s partly cloudy with a 100 percent chance of bliss.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

A word about reading

I helped kick off National Library Week by participating in the Local Author's event. The turnout was not bad. I met some new people and sold a few books.  It's always fun meeting fellow readers. 

This was my table picture today
There was a time in my life that I only read one or two books a year. I thought I was too busy with my career. 

At some point, I realized something was missing. As it turns out, it was reading. Now it's not uncommon to read four or five books a month. My reading is all over the board. I love both fiction and non-fiction. How-to book, biographies, profiles, technical, and adventure are all in my library. 

When I published my first book, I think I had stars in my eyes. I thought the book would fly off the shelf, and people would speak of me in hushed tones when I was near. That didn't happen. It didn't happen with my second...third....or fourth books either. These days I write because I enjoy the experience. If I sell a book or two every now and then, I'm happy. When I meet other writers and lovers of books, it's an added bonus.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

There's something about water

There's something about water. You can be wound as tight as a coil with life-stuff, but if you can spend a little time close to the water you know that things will be OK. On Thursday, we were at the hospital early with Jilda's brother. I had to leave before his procedure to pick up the kids.

There's construction all around Birmingham and travel times are a crapshoot. I gave myself plenty of time to navigate through the orange barrels, flashing lights, and blaring horns. The time I left must have been optimal because I made it through town in record time.

Rather than arrive at school and sit in the parking lot, I decided to stop at a small park. It's rarely used. It's not really a park. The only attraction is an old bridge that's been closed and blocked since the 60s. Kids use the area now as their easel. Graphitti is on the blocking rocks and concrete rails. 

The bridge hangs over Five-Mile Creek. It's a small waterway that winds its way through hills and hollows before emptying into the Black Warrior River. 

I love walking out on the bridge, leaning on the rails and watching the water. During the time I spend there, my blood pressure drops. 

It was just what I needed.

Friday, April 06, 2018

A place that we'll call normal

It's been cloudy and cool today. Placing my solar-powered nightlight out on the deck to charge was wishful thinking. It got a few fleeting moments of sun, but mostly the sky was Seattle grey. 

I knew photo ops would be few today, so when we walked this morning noticed that tiny yellow flowers were blooming in the field just beyond our blueberry bushes. Dropping to my knees, I eased to my elbows with my phone in portrait mode. The dogwood in the distance is on the new property we bought a few years ago. I'm guessing calling it new is old, but that's what we still call it. 

Both of us got up tired this morning even though we slept well enough. It seems the older we get, grueling days take more of a toll on our bodies.

We did routine chores around the house. Our summer clothes came out of our store plastic storage tubs, and the winter clothes went in. It sounds simple enough, but we have a LOT of clothes. Jilda has kept the washing machine humming today. 

Her brother came home after lunch. Hopefully, things will get back to a place that we'll call normal.

I know this is not much tonight, but it's all I have to give.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Good news

We were at the hospital just after 8 this morning. We hustled because we wanted to see Jilda's brother before he went into surgery. As it turns out, we could have slept in today. We also could have had a late afternoon coffee, run by the bookstore to browse and had a late afternoon nap. We would have still made it to the hospital before they took him back to the OR. 

Several elderly patients had issues which through the schedule behind. We didn't fret, because those going before her brother were someone's mother, father, brother or child. 

I left after lunch to pick up the boys at school. I took them to Sonic to get slushies before heading them home. We took a detour and stopped by the duck pond and sat for a while.

When Samantha got off work, she came to pick up the boys, and I headed back to Birmingham.

I can tell you when the doctors came in at 8:30 this evening after the surgery to tell the family the good news, it felt like a weight had been lifted.

Tonight, after Jilda and I had taken everyone home, we did a gratitude ceremony. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Maybe moss can grow on your back

We've all been wound tight as a spring today. Jilda's brother is having health issues. We thought doctors would do procedures today, but that didn't happen.

My niece Samantha called to see if I could pick up "The Kid" at school this evening. I could and I did. It was a low-key afternoon for us. Jordan knew his Paw Paw wasn't doing well and didn't have a lot to say. We went outside and I sat on the deck while he played by himself in the yard.

The dogs were restless so we took them for a walk. I snapped a selfie on the thinking bench. He decided my shoulder needed a little moss for the picture.

We're hoping tomorrow they can do what needs doing on my brother-in-law and he can be back home Friday.

I'll do an update tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Making sense of Dollars

I had Entrepreneur class tonight. We've gotten into the financials. Many people open new businesses with killer ideas. These newcomers feel they cannot fail. But they often do. The main reason is that they don't understand the financials.

This is the hard stuff. Thinking through my project was a no-brainer. Jilda and I both have thought about keeping bees. Organic honey is expensive. We know because that's the only kind we buy.

Talking to people that currently do beekeeping is the fun part. Learning how to get started and caring for bees is something we would do for fun. 

When I got the opportunity to take this class, I needed to come up with a project that would take me through all the steps required for opening a business.

The first part was fun, but the financials are not as much fun, but I know they are as important as the creation part.

I spent most of the day today doing research and compiling the financials for my project. By the end of class tonight, I think my head was full. In order for new information to come in, I'm going to have to toss something out :)

The only picture I have tonight is another one of our azaleas out front next to the road. They get more beautiful each day.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Buttons from a great career ~ my column from Sunday's paper

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Jasper and had a little time on my hands. It had been a while since I’d talked to my friend Yvonne, so I gave her a call. She seemed a little down. She and her husband Charlie were together over half a century. This month marks the third anniversary of his death. 

She struggles at times. During our conversation, she mentioned a box of buttons. They were souvenirs that Charlie had collected through the years. She asked if I’d like to see them. That seemed like a perfect reason to visit an old friend.

Their Chihuahua Cookie met me at the door and barked me up. She’s as “old as the hills” as they used to say. We sat down at Yvonne’s kitchen table and talked. Her son Randall listened from the couch in the great room.

“Let me show you Charlie’s buttons,” she said. Pulling a cardboard shoebox out, she opened the lid. In the box were hundreds of buttons that Charlie had collected through the years.

Charlie served as field representative for Congressman Tom Bevill of Jasper. When
Congressman Bevill could not attend a function in the area, Charlie was on hand. He became the congressman’s voice in the district. This job put him and Yvonne in the public eye for many years. 

The box contained buttons from the Arley Chitlin’ Festival, grand openings, and one from the Centennial Festival for Nauvoo, Alabama. A big red button said, “Love is ageless, visit a nursing home.” He saved buttons given to him by Miss Alabama. Others were from Walker College, the Lion’s Club, and a button promoting the 1980 Census.

Yvonne and Charlie joined Congressman Bevill for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway celebration in 1985. There was a souvenir button in Charlie’s box that organizers gave him that day. Yvonne clanked through the box and pulled the memento out to show me.

Neither Yvonne nor Randy realized that Charlie had kept all the buttons until recently. Not only did Yvonne lose a husband of 58 years, but later that year, a fire damaged their home. 

Movers took their possessions from the house while workers made repairs on the house. It was when they were moving their belongings back in the house that they came across this box of mementos. 

Yvonne said she wasn’t sure why he never mentioned the souvenirs. Randy said he figures his dad didn’t think keeping the buttons was that big a deal. 

But flipping back through the box, it is evident that every button told a story. Keeping those buttons was a record that he was there. Yvonne and Charlie witnessed some of the most significant events in the state during those years he served.

He kept buttons to prove it. After our talk, she walked me to the door. “I still miss Charlie so much,” she said. Finding the buttons made her feel a little melancholy. Some of her friends tell her that she needs to move on with her life. I told her that’s easier said than done – especially when you’ve led an extraordinary life with someone you love.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

100% chance of bliss

We had Easter Lunch today. Some of those we invited bowed out. Their loss. Jilda outdid herself. The kids don't come to eat. They come to visit and play in our backyard. 

When I'm watching the young'uns, I tend to make up games on the fly. One of the inventions was the Pointing Game. I start off easy by telling them to point to a dog. Then I say, point to a chicken. Then I say point to a yellow flower. The instant they start thinking it's too easy, I say point to a 4-leaf clover. Hmmm. All of a sudden they are scrambling for a patch of clover and furiously fumbling through leafy things trying to find a 4-leaf clover. Jordan is better at this game than his younger cousin Anthony. It took him less than five minutes to find the prize. 

Then it's a few more easy things before I say point to an aircraft to the south. It's a little test I do to make sure they know their directions. Again, it takes a moment to orient, but Jordan is all over it. I'd asked my phone for any aircraft that was overhead and it told me there was one to the south about 20 miles away. I knew it would be in sight within a few minutes. 

Jordan helped Anthony figure out directions by thinking about the direction of sunrise and sunset. Soon, he's jumping up and down point to a cottony contrail about 30 degrees above the southern horizon. 

Soon came the call from inside telling us the food was ready and we headed inside.

Before he left going back home, Jordan said, "The pointing game was better than an Easter Egg hunt."  That's good because we'd used all the eggs for the potato salad.

After everyone left, Jilda and I took a long Easter nap. 

This evening at sunset, I poured a glass of Easter Merlot and stepped out onto the deck to get an analog weather report. 

It was partly cloudy with a 100% chance of bliss.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Watching nature do its thing

There's a stump in our yard that's been there for years. It's from a sweet gum tree that was a sapling not much more in diameter at the base than my forearm when we first moved into our house in December of 1983. 

Sweet gums leaves are beautiful in fall. They turn the color of the setting sun in autumn before they fall.  But the seeds pods look like medieval spiled ball weapons.

Another downfall (no pun intended) is that the limbs tend to break off in high winds. When this one stood tall, part of the top sheared off in the wind and fell onto the back deck. Had it fallen on the roof, some of it would have punched through. That was in 2004. 

Rather than have the treen come down on the house in the next storm, we chose to have it cut down. The tree guy was going to cut the tree off at ground level, but we fancied ourselves using the stump as a support for a table. We imagined ourselves grilling steaks with our friends and dining around our table with the sweet gum base. It would b a conversation piece.  The table never happened. I did set glasses of merlot on it while I grilled, but the table thing was on a low-priority todo list.

The stump looked as if it would be solid forever. But then Mother Nature began the slow reclamation process.

I've taken pictures of the stump a few times in the past, but last Winter, Jilda started using the hollow part as a bird feeder.  We have fancy feeders that we've paid good money for, but the birds seem to prefer this stump feeder. 

It's soft enough now that I could push it over to the burn heap with the tractor, but it's interesting to watch Nature do its thing. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Work day

We have company coming tomorrow so we've spent the day cleaning up the clutter. I took off a truckload of magazines and other stuff that's been around for much too long.

The deck looked as though it had a coat of yellow paint applied during the last few weeks. It was pine pollen. Fortunately, the rain washed most of it off our cars and off the metal roof, but there was still some on the porch. It took a while but it looks much better this evening. I bought a small pressure washer recently, and I'll have my way with it soon.

It felt good to work today. Writing is work, but it seems it makes me wearier that manual labor. 

This morning during our walk, Jilda saw the first daisy blooming. She didn't have her phone with her so she pointed it out to me. It's the only picture I shot today.

She made a centerpiece for the table out of dogwood, apple blossoms, and wild honeysuckle (azaleas.) It was beautiful. You can check it out over on her blog by clicking here.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Peace and beauty

The last few days it seems that all I've done is write. We did get out an walk this morning between rain showers. The hollow by the barn is full of dogwood, wild honeysuckle bushes, and wild redbuds. I'm not sure why they call these redbuds because they are actually purple, but they are a beautiful tree.

We first visited this property one spring in the 1970s. The road in front of where our house now stands was gravel at that time. There were only a few houses. 

We parked the car on the shoulder and walked down the barn road. I thought then that we were in heaven. I know that's a stretch for those who love the city, but there's a lot to be said for peace and beauty. This place had both.

Today, as we walked, I snapped a picture of one of the dogwoods in the hollow. It's not one of the old ones, but it's close enough to photograph without walking down into the hollow.

The community has changed in the last 35 years, but for the most part, it still offers peace and beauty.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Beautiful time of the year

The morning was overcast, but the clouds drifted to the east after lunch. By mid-afternoon, the temps were near 80.

That can be troublesome this time of year. Rain moves back in tomorrow with a chance of severe weather.  But I can't fret about that now. I have to tell you about our azaleas. Jilda's brother gave us these shrubs several years ago. They weren't knee-high when hauled them home in her car. 

We planted them on the bank between our great room and the road. We fed and pampered
these babies for years.  Even with loving attention, they never bloomed. Can you spell disappointment? Still, they were an asset because we don't have curtains. We depend on an evergreen wall between us and passing cars. 

When Jilda and I walk, we are in a kind of competition. The one who spots a potential picture calls dibs. Today, she spied the wild iris blooming. It's a tender plant. We rescued it from the adjoining property when the owners decided to clear-cut the timber.  Dang, I can't believe I missed that baby. But while she focused on the iris, I spied the first blooms on our tardy azaleas.

Smiling, I stepped over and snapped a few pictures while she took photos of her on.

Spring is a beautiful time of year. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fun Tuesday

The sky was overcast for much of the day. This week is Spring Break so the schools were out. Jordan's Pop had a routine medical test today so he had a choice to sit in a doctor's office for several hours or come and hang with us. No Brainer.

He brought his stuff over. The first thing he does is remove his shoes and put them on the mantle in the living room. I taught him to do that years ago when he lost his shoes during one of his visits. He never forgot and he does it now without fail.

Later we ran to Walmart to pick up some things. Jilda had given him $4 to buy a toy. She went to pick up the items we needed. Jordan and I headed to the toy aisle. It's a routine I've adjusted to. He evaluates each toy and calculates in his head if he has enough money to pay. He even calculates the tax which is something that requires the calculator on my phone in cases where I need to get an exact number.

The things he wanted totaled $5 and he struggled with the choice. I let him run through all the scenarios before telling him I'd pitch in the difference. He chose a Slinky, some slime that looked like tar, and some type of tiny action figure.

When we got to the register, he handed me his money. I made a show of putting it in my pocket in front of Jilda and then slipped it back for him to put in his pocket. She saw the transaction out of the corner of her eye. I know because I saw her smile.

When we got back, we went for a walk. I noticed apple blossoms earlier in the week, but today was the first day without wind so I took the opportunity to snap a picture.

It was still overcast, but I thought the light made the color pop.

Hope your Tuesday was as much fun as ours.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The day the butter beans blew ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We stopped by to see Jilda’s sister Nell a few weeks ago. During our visit, she told us about her latest kitchen thingamajig. It’s one of those new-fangled digital pressure cookers. When Jilda realized the device was a pressure cooker, she flinched and took a small step backward. My lovely spouse is not a fan of pressure cookers and hasn’t been since the '70s.
Jilda’s mother Ruby cooked every day. Most days her stove baked, boiled, roasted, and fried stuff. But
now and then she’d remove the pressure cooker from the bottom shelf of her cabinet, wash it out, and press it into service. She cooked roasts, chicken, poke salad, and beans.
You could tell she was using the pressure cooker in the kitchen when you walked through her front door. The cooker had a float valve on top that rattled to the rhythm of Southern food at its finest. At the time, I’d never had anything that tasted better than the stuff coming from that spewing cook-horse. 
When Jilda and I married, Ruby and Sharky bought us a pressure cooker as a housewarming gift. We were ecstatic. Like her mom, Jilda cooked every day. On occasions when she used it, the pressure cooker took meals to the next level.
For a while, I had to work second shift at MaBell. One Friday I knocked off a half day. After calling Jilda, I headed home from Hoover. The drive takes about an hour. Jilda decided to surprise me by cooking butter beans and hot-buttered cornbread. She knew it was one of my favorite meals.
She scooted a kitchen chair over and removed the pressure cooker off the top of the fridge. On the counter by the stove, she’d laid out a bag of beans and a slab of bacon big enough to cause arterial distress in heart patients. 
She measured the beans and water as she mixed everything in the cooker. She preheated the oven and got to work mixing up cornmeal and her other secret ingredients for the cornbread. 
While the meal was in cooking, she went to the bathroom to change out of her work clothes. Suddenly she heard an alarming sound from the kitchen. It wasn’t an explosion but a whooshing WHUMP sound. She raced half naked to the kitchen to find a hole the size of your thumb in the ceiling. Butter beans were dripping off the ceiling, light fixtures, and our German Shepard Duke. He was always an asset when it came to cleaning up messes like that in the kitchen.
We’re not sure if it was the salt she’d added or maybe there was too much water, but the cooker built up too much pressure. All the contents of the cooker shot out through the pressure release valve. We were still finding beans in that kitchen until we sold that house trailer. 
After that butter bean episode, Jilda tossed the lid to the pressure cooker in the garbage. She would have tossed the little rattling valve thingy too, but we never found it. That event made her skittish of pressure cookers.
This past weekend, I decided to dance with the devil. Walmart had one of those new digital pressure cookers so I bought one for her upcoming birthday. She howled when I put it on the table. “You know those things don’t like me,” she said.  We both laughed remembering the “butter bean disaster” as it’s come to be known in our family lore. 
We unboxed the new cooker, read the instructions, and watched YouTube video. Jilda decided to give it a try. I was thrilled. Within 34 minutes we had a pot of butter beans that were so good they “made me want to slap my mama,” as the old saying goes. The new cooker has an automatic shutdown function that should prevent another culinary calamity. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ready for spring

And today the dogwoods bloomed. They'd been on the cusp for several days last week, but then cooler weather returned. I guess after the light frost, they decided to take another nap.

Yesterday the temps were in the 70s and today it was close to 80. On the first lap of our morning walk, we noticed the buckeye bush was in bloom. Then when we walked the barn road back toward the main road and the mailbox, we noticed several white clouds in the hollow.

When we walked up the hill and into the driveway, the ancient dogwood in our front yard confirmed that they were ready for spring.

These blossoms will develop even further in coming days. The petals are smaller and have a hint of green around the flowering heads. When they fully bloom, there will be as big around as a tennis ball.

It's amazing to me that Mother Nature doesn't charge for this stuff.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fun day with the seniors

We played at an assisted living home today. The last time we did one of these, all the residents wanted to hear were gospel songs. Jilda probably knows them all, but my playing them on the guitar is another story altogether. But the folks today enjoyed what we did and were vocal about it.

The director told us that we must have really hit it off because some of the residents had already told her to get us back. I was tickled to hear that.

We started at two and were finished loading the gear back in the car by 3:15. Since we didn't go to Jilda's favorite restaurant yesterday for her birthday, we decided to go today.

It's been a delightful day.

I hope today has been good for you too.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday JIlda

Today was my lovely spouse's birthday. It's been a good day. This was the year she had to renew her driver's license. When I tried to renew online, the service said we'd have to go into the office. I told her that she'd probably have to take a driver's test. I was, of course, joking, but she fretted about getting the license renewed until she sat down in the chair for the clerk to snap another picture.

We were going out tonight to our favorite restaurant, but we opted to stay home and grill steaks instead.

Jilda's best friend from high school posted a picture of the both of them at the beach on Facebook. When I saw the picture come across my timeline I had to smile. 

Jilda also came across a timely video today. It's about 4 minutes long but well worth the time to watch it. 

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Fun day

My nephew called yesterday afternoon to ask if I'd do a story for the magazine that comes out in a few weeks. I've worked at the paper for over 10 years but he's now the head nacho. 

I told him I was interested in doing the story and asked him for the scoop. He said it's a story about Gas Station Food. Not just any gas station food but Bayou Fresh Seafood. It's a small restaurant that happens to be co-located with a gas station.

I was intrigued so I told him I'd love to do the story. My appointment was this afternoon. The place not only serves fresh seafood prepared like you want it, but they also serve sushi. 

I would not have guessed that 3 p.m. would have been a busy time at a seafood restaurant but the place was buzzing. I talked to the owner and his waitress. They were delightful. 

A couple customers heard me interviewing and said, "I came here last week for the first time and it was incredible. I brought my friend back today."

I won't reveal the story here until after publication, but I had a fun afternoon. I plan to go back with Jilda and eat.

After I got home, I took the dogs for a walk. I noticed more violets blooming so I snapped another pic. The dogwoods should be out in force tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cool spring day

Today is the first full day of spring. Standing at the back of the great room looking toward the barn the sky looked like spring. Puffs of clouds drifting across an aquamarine colored sky. I stepped out onto the deck wearing only a tee shirt. It only took a moment to realize that I  was under dressed. I stepped back to my closet to grab a sweatshirt and hat.

We had a good walk. The dogwoods are beginning to bloom. The next warm day and they'll be out in force. I saw tiny white and purple flowers at the base of an oak beside the walking path. They were so small, I was afraid the photograph wouldn't look good, but I think it will do in a pinch.

When I returned, I sat down with my laptop to write my column that runs Sunday. Some Wednesday's I struggle coming up with a topic, but Jilda gave me an excellent ideal last night so this morning I knocked out 600 words in about 20 minutes. I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

No spring is spring until it's spring

Last night was tense. The weatherman came on early because of storms on the ground just north of us. Had the wind not been howling, I sure we could have stepped out front and hear the tornado sirens in the next county to the north of us. But this time we were fortunate.

This morning, social media was buzzing with pictures of storm damage. Our friend Bob who founded Berkely Bob's Coffee House where we perform each year had damage from hailstones the size of baseballs. It the stones damaged his roof and knocked all the windows out of their car. 

The storms moved off to Tennessee, Carolina, and points north. Tonight, our friends to the south in Florida are expected to have bad weather. 

Today after lunch, the cold front that was one of the components in this outbreak came through here. The wind picked up and the temp dropped. I'd been walking in shorts and a tee shirt this past week, but I bundled up today. 

Fortunately,  the hail didn't come through here. In years past, our fruit trees blossomed and bloomed early only to have all the fruit stripped off by hailstorms and wind.

Today, there were no bees buzzing about but they were OK. 

As we walked around the barn, I looked up at the oak and hickory trees. They were there long before we moved here in 1980. They were all still bare. They are rarely fooled and understand deep within their rings that no spring is spring until it's spring.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hitchhiking in the rain

This past week I had an appointment in town. The time change had made my internal clock wonky, and I was running late. Not one to waste good coffee, I slurped down a half a cup and “burned the hair off my tongue” in the process.

As I grabbed my computer bag to head out the door, it started raining. It was an old cold rain, as my grandmother used to say. Reaching back inside the door, I pulled my hat from the coatrack and headed to the truck. This was not a good day to be on the road.

Crossing the river, I wound my way through Sipsey. I had to flip my wipers on high. They slapped sheets of water off the windshield. On the edge of the town limits, I noticed a man walking in the direction I was heading. With the collar of his jacket hunched up around his ears, I could tell he was drenched to the bone. He turned toward me as I approached and
stuck out his thumb. I’m guessing he’d done that a half-dozen times without anyone slowing to have a look.

Usually, the passenger seat of my truck is filled with stuff I have to haul around for my job, but today all I had was my computer bag. My tires skidded a little when I touched the breaks. 

Pulling to the edge of the road, I leaned over and unlocked my door to let him in. “I’m soaked," he warned, but I told him to jump in. He shivered while buckling up, so I bumped the heater up a notch. 

“Where are you headed?” I asked. It turns out, his stop was on my way.  He’d resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to walk all the way to Jasper. Few people are willing to pick up hitchhikers, especially in the rain.

I made small talk. He was slow to open up, and that was OK with me, but I did learn that he was a veteran and homeless. He was looking for work so that he could get him a place of his own.  He ticked off a few of his skills, but he would fall into the category of an unskilled laborer.

I told him that my nephew sometimes needed help in his plumbing business, but when I asked if he had a cell phone, he said that he didn’t. I nodded my head in understanding. 

When we got to the place he was heading, he told me to let him out on the side of the road, and he’d walk the rest of the way. He didn’t want to put me out any further. The rain was still pounding, so I drove him as close as I could get to the door of his building without driving up the stairs. He thanked me for the ride and slid out. I was glad to help a fellow veteran.

I’ve thought about the man since that day. I wondered what story he would have told had he felt comfortable enough to share it. It’s easy to think of the homeless in big cities where there are some shelters and other resources, but I’m not sure where homeless people turn here.  

I’ve always believed that we live in a land of opportunity and that a better life is within everyone’s reach. But I’ve come to understand that’s not always the case. People fall through the cracks. Some are where they are because of the decisions they’ve made, but others get smacked down by life and are too weary to get up. 

I wish there were some way I could have helped my hitchhiker find a job so that he could get a small place with a warm bed and a bathroom. But for my guy, all I could offer was to give him a ride and get him out of the rain for a while.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required