Monday, January 22, 2018

Habits ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Habits are interesting. The dictionary defines a habit as a settled or regular tendency or practice. That’s fine if the habit is exercising, reading, or getting enough sleep. But bad habits are problematic. Research shows that it takes more than two months to form a good habit. But a bad habit takes less time. Bad habits are like kudzu, drop one seed on Monday, and you can’t see your backyard by the following weekend. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work on my habits. So, I’ve spent the first part of January weeding out some bad habits and starting some new ones.

One of the new habits is reading at least 30 minutes a day. I’m not talking about Facebook here, but good books. I’m reading On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau. It is full of gems of wisdom.  When I finish it, I’ll start a new one. 

Daily guitar practice is another routine I’ve started. I played every day for years but took a day off. The day off stretched into weeks and then months. I’m not sure why I stopped, but my guitar got dusty and my fingers got rusty during the holidays. Since the first of the year, I’ve played daily and worn new callouses on my fingers. It hurts so good.

Another new habit that I captured on my list of “Good Habits” list was to write daily in my journal. I did updates every day for years. There’s a shelf of old journals in my office library dating back to the 1980s. My journals are private. The scribbled ink on these pages describes what I thought and felt at the time about the events. Sometimes the words were things I would never have said out loud. Somehow committing my thoughts to paper helped me make sense of the world at a time when my life seemed complicated. It might not have helped, but I felt that it did.

I got out of the habit of writing daily journal updates when I began blogging in 2005. After all, I was writing a blog entry each day too. But blogging is different because it’s not private. In fact, there are hundreds of people who follow my blog. The blog sometimes gives me ideas for these weekly columns. That reason alone makes blogging worthwhile. But my blog entries rarely touch on my innermost dreams, thoughts, and fears. 

During the last few weeks of 2017, I spent time pouring through my old journals. In looking back, I got a sense of how I spent the past 30 years. I saw habits come and go. It was easy to see where I spent my money and more importantly, where I spent my time. It was interesting to learn that I’d squandered more than I realized. 

I read once that bad habits are like a comfortable bed. I thought that was an appropriate analogy. We all sleep in every now and then, bad habits will keep you there. But investing the time to form new habits is time well spent. 

This has nothing to do with habits, but I did shoot the picture in January.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Everything will be alright

Today was more laid back. It was also much warmer. Last Tuesday it snowed and that night the temp dropped to 8 degrees.  That's rare here. But today, it was 70. It felt warm enough to swim.

We did fun family stuff today which gave a little balance to our lives. I think balance is important.

When things get too far out of whack, it feels as if I'm coming off the rails. Today we watched our great nephew Jordan and his friends swimming at the University of Alabama Birmingham Recreational Center.  There's something about the sound of children laughing that makes me feel that everything will be alright.




Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter sky

Today was visitation day. Jilda's brother has some health issues and we ran by this morning to check on him. He was sitting up in his bed and looking through the windows at the winter sky. The light made him look stronger. The sky has been remarkable today.

After lunch, we headed to the river to visit one of our oldest and dearest friends who is gravely ill. It was difficult seeing him so weak but we put on our happy faces. 

After a while, we joined his wife on their screen porch. She was out there with several other friends who'd dropped by to check on them. I sat with my back to the screen. The sun felt good on my shoulders. 

Jilda and I both promised her we would not overstay our welcome so after about an hour, we said our goodbyes.  We were both glad to see them but the visit made us both sad.

Just out of their driveway I noticed grass by the roadside with the winter sky as the backdrop. I pulled to the edge of the next to their pasture fence and sat for a moment with the engine idling. 

There were so many emotions running through my head. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a picture. The winter sky almost made me smile.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Friday

We talked to a local coffee house today to set up a series of singer/songwriter events for this coming spring and summer. We'll do one event a month and have our songwriter friends join us.

Jasper is the county seat. Over the years, businesses in the downtown area fled to be closer to the highway...to the mall.

But the downtown merchants who stayed have worked for years to revitalize the area. Those efforts were in vain...until a few years ago. The city put a lot of focus on main street and all of a sudden those efforts are paying off. Seventeen businesses opened downtown this past year. Microbreweries, restaurants, retail and a coffee house all opened for business.

Now when you go downtown it's harder to find a parking place. You can sit in the courthouse square and hear music on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can hear the clatter of dishes and silverware and smell pizza and fresh seafood. It's an exciting time here. And believe me, we are way overdue.

We'll start our events in April and they'll run through August. We are cranked.

After we talked to the owner of the coffee house, we headed over to the Bankhead House for the opening reception for the Smithsonian  Waterways exhibit.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had some pictures taken of the Sipsey Forks that they wanted to use in the displays.

When we got there at 2 p.m. the place was packed. We'll have to go back at a later time to have a chance to look at all the interactive elements of the display.

I was flattered they asked me to be a part of this event. Jilda snapped a picture of me by one of my photographs.

I hope your Friday has been a good one. 


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Moving on

Things are winding down at work. I spent much of today boxing up loaner laptops, books, and other things I've used in the last few years. 

I took a load to the Dean's office around lunch today. I have more to take in the coming days. And even more to toss before I start hauling my personal things home. 

I'll miss the view from my office window and the sound of rain on the cobblestone in the courtyard – and the way sunlight slashes through my blinds and crawls across my office floor.  I'll also miss the ornamental cherry trees that bloom early in spring. 

But it's time to move on and I'm excited about the next phase of my life adventure. 


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Change of venue

This morning when I checked the weather, the temperature in Empire was 8 degrees F with a wind out of the north that sent the "Feels Like" temp below zero. That's chilly for Alabama. It's been several years since it's been this cold. The last time it happened, we had a standpipe in the backyard that we used to water the birds. When I tried to turn it on, the faucet broke off.  I had to hustle to the water meter and turn the water off while I capped the standpipe. When the weather warmed, I removed that standpipe.

These days, I wrap all the outside faucets and if something outside needs water, we haul it in cans from inside.

I write my Sunday column on Wednesday, so I spent most of the morning tapping keys. After a late breakfast, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. There was still a little snow on the ground in the shade. When we walked the long path across the new property, I saw color out of the corner of my eye. A patch of snow-moss next to the path. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a photo. I love the contrast of white on green.

Jilda had to work this afternoon and I wasn't sure about the roads so I decided to take her to work. There's a Starbucks not far from the facility, so I went there to write. I bought a mocha and New York Times. There was an empty table in the corner, so I spread my things out there and wrote my column in about 20 minutes. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of venue.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Second snow

The college sent out an emergency alert yesterday afternoon saying the college would be closed today due to the potential for hazardous weather. In the past, I would have whined about this because I'd have to make up the time. That's no longer true.

So this morning we slept until almost 7 a.m. We kept our eyes on the sky but the snow didn't come. The weather radar showed the clouds lifting just before the snow reached us. But there was more snow to the south in Mississippi. Around noon we began to see if fall outside our window. A flock of Orioles swooped in from the south to feast on the birdseed and suet we'd put out this morning. The flakes were slow to fall at first, but it got steady over time. It wasn't wet snow like the one we had in December. It was dry snow and not good for making snowballs.

The temps are dropping. It will be in the single digits by morning. I had to go out this evening and put long johns on our chicken.

The reason for the weather alerts is that the roadbed is still wet from the melting snow. By morning, it will be a solid sheet of ice. Schools will be closed tomorrow too.

Tonight, Jilda made chicken and dumplings with collards.  It was the perfect cold-weather dish.

I hope your Tuesday has been special.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Dodging a bullet

At lunchtime yesterday, I left my office at Bevill State Community College to attend a chamber of commerce lunch meeting. The sky was tombstone grey with light mist falling. Cranking up my truck, I sat for a moment while the engine warmed and the wipers squeaked on the windshield, looking for water to swish. I rolled the driver’s side window down to wipe the mist off my rearview mirror.

It wasn’t cold so I left the window down as I navigated the parking lot. A clicking sound came from somewhere underneath the truck. It changed rhythm as I slowed down, and that concerned me. Pulling to the edge of the parking lot, I stepped out to check the tires. The rear driver’s side tire had what looked like a piece of metal as big around as a kindergarten pencil wedged into the tread.

Running my finger over the object, I couldn’t tell if it was stuck between the tread or jammed through the rubber. Had I pulled it free, there was a chance I’d have to change the tire. That meant that I’d have to get on the ground to reach the spare tire. So, I opted to go have the tire checked instead of attending the lunch meeting.

I clicked down to Sayre Auto Parts and pulled up to the tire bay. They do all the work on my vehicles. The mechanic was there in a second and looked at the piece of metal. “That’s a bullet,” he said.” I thought he was joking until I had a closer look. It looked like a cartridge for a .357-magnum handgun. “I hope it’s a spent cartridge and not a live bullet” he said. I involuntarily stepped back.

He removed the tire and took it inside. Sloshing soapy water on the area around the projectile, he looked for air bubbles. When he didn’t see any, he reached for his pliers and pulled the object free and held it up for me to see. The spent casing hadn’t damaged the tire at all. I was amazed.

He bounced-rolled my tire back out and replaced it on the truck.

As he worked, I surveyed the sky. The clouds had thinned enough to make out the outline of the sun hiding above. I thought about the things that happen from day to day in our lives. I half expected to fork out a few hundred dollars to replace a tire that was not quite a year old. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to me. I adopted something that Jilda’s dad Sharky used to say: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

When I asked about the charge, the shop manager standing nearby said, “There’s no charge.” I tipped the mechanic and opened the door to climb back into my truck. The window was still down. The shop manager called to me as I cranked the engine, “I guess you could say you dodged a bullet.”

Pulling into traffic, I and thought to myself, “Yep, it’s always good when you can dodge a bullet.”


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Girls Rock

One of my goals this year is to straighten up my office closet. A while back when we decluttered, we took it in steps. The books, the music CDs, clothes, etc. The office closet what overwhelming and I kept saying I'd do it next. I lied. When I opened it up yesterday, a small piece of equipment fell from a top shelf onto the big toe of my right foot. The pain was exquisite. That one random reminder from Mother Nature upped the priority of cleaning out that closet. I started today. 

I threw a garbage can full of junk away, but there were several items that I needed to repurpose somehow. Then I remembered a project with which my friend Fred is involved. 

He works with the Girls Rock group initiative in Birmingham. The group works with young girls to teach them the basics of music. Many of the girls come from homes where buying a guitar would not be an option. At the end of the project each year, the girls do a concert.

Fred, who is handing refurbishing musical equipment was a natural as a volunteer for the group. He knows sound, performance, equipment, lights, and cables. 

I had an old electric guitar, an effects pedal, music stands, and some other equipment that was sitting in my closet. When I called to ask if they could use it, he said, "Of course." 

There is always a market for this kind of equipment. I could have put it on Ebay or on Facebook and sold it, but that didn't feel right.

I loaded up the stuff and took it over there this afternoon. Thinking about putting the equipment in the hands of a young girl and giving her a chance to find joy playing music seemed like the right thing to do.

The picture of me was taken just after Jilda and I married in 1974. The guitar is a Gibson Les Paul. I wish I still owned that guitar.




Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alabama Ice Castles

We ate a late breakfast this morning. Since we'd be eating out tonight for my birthday, Jilda decided to prepare an Irish Breakfast. By, Irish Breakfast I mean eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. 

After we read the papers, we bundled up for a walk. The dogs were bouncing off the furniture, so I took them outside while Jilda finished bundling.  I remembered my gloves, but I 'd forgotten my toboggan. Halfway through the backyard, I felt a steady wind of out the north. One gust was so strong it made my ears whistle. I hustled back inside and got my headgear and pulled it down over my ears.

The walk was invigorating and the critters were beside themselves. They love the cold. When we headed around the old place and turned up the barn road toward the mailbox, I saw something you rarely see here in Alabama. Tiny ice crystals pushing up through the gravel and red clay.  They looked like tiny ice castles.

I bend over long enough to snap a few pictures. There wasn't as much color as I would have liked, but I still thought they were interesting.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Fun Friday

Last night before turning in, I had to turn the AC unit on to cool the house down so we could sleep. Sometime during the night, the mercury dropped like a stone. It's still dropping. When I checked just now, it's 26 degrees F.

This morning I had appointments in Birmingham. My friend Dan who owns a media company also needs some help after I leave my current job. I've been a writer for him since he bought his first paper and now he owns at least seven newspapers and a marketing business. He's rocking and rolling.

We talked for a while and I got a feel for some ways I can help him. After we talked business, we talked fishing. We share a love of fly fishing.

After I left there, I ran to a music store a few blocks away to pick up a part for our 12-string guitar. Jilda and I have been friends with the owner for years. He wasn't there when I arrived but a sign on his door said he'd be back in 10 minutes. He has a cedar bench in front of his store, so I sat down. I snapped a selfie while I waited.

He pulled back into his parking spot with 30 seconds to spare.

We sat in his workroom and talked while he looked through drawers of parts. Jilda's 12-string is over 30 years old so a new part wouldn't fix it but I knew Herb would have what we needed. A few minutes later I heard him say, Aha!

I bought some strings and a while later I was on my way home. It was a delightful morning.

Tonight, we went back to Birmingham to join our great-niece Breeze's birthday party. But I'll let Jilda tell that tale.

I hope this Friday has been a good one for you too.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Color me happy

Today was eventful. I had to run to Fayette to pick up some laptops that we'd loaned our candidates. My coworker Danny met me in his office to talk through all the things we'd need to do to close down our work on the grant.

At noon, we decided to head somewhere for lunch. I thought I'd eaten at most of the local (non-chain) restaurants in Fayette, but I was wrong.

We loaded up in the Bevill SUV and headed to Country Junction. It's a meat and three during the day, and at night it's a steak and seafood restaurant. They specialize in fried catfish. Danno said they almost need a traffic cop on the weekends to direct traffic in and out of the parking lot.

I ordered the meatloaf, potato salad, coleslaw, with baked beans. My bar for meatloaf, coleslaw, and potato salad is high because those are some of Jilda's specialties. While the meal today wasn't quite as good as hers, it was better than I've had in a restaurant in a long time. I was surprised...and happy.

While food is always high on my list of event'ish things, we had other good things that happened today too. Jilda had her annual evaluation at work and her boss pretty much said that she walked on water. She got a raise. She was happy which made me happy.

I learned today that I have a new job that starts on March 1. I'll be working part-time at the newspaper where my column runs each week. I'll be doing feature stories, and taking pictures from around my hometown. The publisher also wants me to do short documentary videos.  This is exactly the work that I love doing. I won't tell the publisher this, but I've done it for free in the past.

So tonight, I'm sipping red wine as I type this entry. Color me happy.








Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Vaycay Waylay

We've been antsy as we've watched the weather for this coming weekend. We'd planned to do my vacation getaway at the beach, but it looks like the weather here could get bad.  If it were just going to be cold that wouldn't be bad but they're saying we could get ice. Almost everytime we get ice we lose power. It's one of the features that come with living in the sticks.

So, we called to reschedule our trip. It might be February before we can get to the shore, but we will go before spring.

I've spent most of the day writing. I had columns to deliver and some other things. So, tonight my muse is napping.

Happy Wednesday.



Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Champs

Yesterday was an old rainy day. Actually, it was an old cold rainy day. We had the first yoga class of the year at seven. I debated whether to go or not. I was hesitant because my team, the Alabama Crimson Tide was playing for the National Championship. And the game started at 7 p.m.

I decided to go and I'm glad I did. Read Jilda's blog to learn why. 

Normally on game day, I hang the Alabama football flag on the arbor outside. This routine helps me get my game face on but I didn't want it to get wet so I didn't put it out.

By the end of the first half, my team was down 13 points and it looked like their opponents, Georgia, was unstoppable. It was well after 9 p.m. but I dug the flag out of the flag drawer and went outside to hang it. I then put on my Alabama pajamas.

Alabama's starting quarterback was not having a banner night. We got the ball first after the half and I noticed the backup quarterback trotting on the field. He's a freshman. And while he came highly recruited, he didn't have that much experience. What he lacked in experience, he made up with enthusiasm.

My team clawed their way back and tied the game late in the 4th quarter. We had a chance to put it away with a chipshot kick with 3 seconds left, but the kicker shanked it. That meant overtime.

Georgia couldn't move the ball but managed to kick a field goal to go ahead by 3.

When we got the ball it looked as if we were struggling. On the first snap, they sacked the freshman for a loss that put them out of field goal range. One the next snap the quarterback hit an open man for a 41-yard touchdown. Alabama won their 5th championship in 9 years. I went to bed exhausted, but happy or my team.

I know some of you are probably yawning right now. Actually, I am too. But I'm a happy camper.

This is an old picture I took earlier in the year.

Monday, January 08, 2018

There's value in things from the past ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had our traditional New Year’s meal again this year. Black-eyed peas, collard greens, baked sweet potatoes, and cornbread. Our grandparents said it brings good luck in the New Year. The peas represent coins, the collards represent folding money, and the cornbread represents gold. Baked sweet potatoes represent the sweet taste of success. OK, I made that last part up, but you get the idea. 

People tell me that I cling to the past.  They call me an old fogy. That may be true, but we can learn a lot from the past.

And speaking of the past, the collards we ate on New Years were ones we planted earlier in the fall. They were heirlooms. My wife Jilda got the young plants from her sister Nell who got the seeds from Mamie – their grandmother. We shared the wealth with our niece, Samantha. She sent Jilda a text afterward and said the collards were the best she’d ever tasted. I had to agree.

Modern horticulture scientists have made great strides. They’ve tweaked plants so that they grow more fruits and vegetables. They often emphasize making them look more attractive on the supermarket shelves. But looking better does not always mean they taste better. Sometimes they just look better. And if you’ve ever saved the seeds from a hybrid tomato plant and planted them the following year, you won’t get the same tomato.  

Some people in horticulture are excited about genetically modified plants, beef, and chicken. But I don’t share that enthusiasm. I am not alone here.

On one side of the argument food folks are saying it’s the answer to helping address the world food shortage. Those on the other side share my concerns. The potential loss of biodiversity is vast. People also fear superweeds, superpests, antibiotic resistance, and food allergies.

I guess what I’m saying here is that just because something is new, doesn’t always make it better. 

Last year, I broke the handle on my round-pointed shovel. It hurt my heart. Jilda’s mom gave it to me back when Carter was in the White House. When I stopped by Posey and Sons Hardware store, there was a new shovel in the window. The price wasn’t bad, but when I took it to the counter to pay, Mr. Posey told me that it was imported. “It’s a decent shovel for light work, but it’s not like the old shovels,” he said. 

I’ve used the shovel several times, and it’s not as durable as my old shovel was in its day. 

Tools, cars, phones, and other things we use in our daily lives are pretty much disposable. Use it a while and toss it when it breaks. Our landfills are filling up because of this disposable mindset.

This column may seem like I’ve “drifted too far from the shore” as the old gospel song goes, but let me try and bring it into focus.

Science, industry, and modern processes have brought a lot of incredible things into our lives. But there is value in things from the past. 

You can call me an old fogy if you like – but I prefer the term heirloom. 

Happy New Year.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday fun

We got a lot of stuff done today. One of the projects both Jilda and I have worked on for the last few weeks is our vision boards. We cleared our calendars for this weekend and had no commitments other than doing things around here.

Today, I finished pruning the peach tree, and I did a little more on the old apple trees. They both look spring-ready.

After lunch, we put our boards on the dining room table, laid all the pictures of things we want in our lives this year and set to work. A few hours later, we stood them across from the couch in front of the fireplace and had a look. They both look pretty good but after we had a chance to let them settle in, we both saw things we'd omitted.

Turning the screen porch into a sunroom is something we've decided we'd enjoy. It will be a place we would use all year around.  I'd also forgotten to put something about eating well, gardening, and staying healthy. So I found pictures on the Internet and printed them. With the addition of these pictures, both our boards are rounding out nicely.

I'm sure we'll think of a few things in the next few days but we left enough space to made last-minute adjustments.

I hope your Sunday was as enjoyable as ours.


Saturday, January 06, 2018

Neglected chores

I haven't been a friend to our fruit trees. I've fed them each season, but my pruner tool died a few years ago and I kept putting the chore off until it was too late each spring.

The last several years have been unseasonably warm. And then we had a drought in 2015. This past fall we got one peach. We didn't get a single pear or apple. Both trees are normally bulging with fruit.

I promised my old friends that I would do right by them. I'll be installing irrigating from the well and today I began following through with the second promise which was to prune.

The apple tree is the worst. I headed down after lunch and pruned until my arms were jelly'esk. I thought I was in decent shape, but the proof in the pruning. I'll go back tomorrow and finish the job. I'll also haul woods dirt, compost, and mountains of leaves on their roots. I think they will be happy and I believe next summer they will show their appreciation.

Pruning and chores like that are easy to ignore. The trees won't complain or throw a tantrum. They give all they can give because it's in their nature. But without good stewardship, they suffer.

Next autumn, I'm hoping to have an abundant harvest.





Friday, January 05, 2018

Planning birthdays at the beach

We're spending my birthday at the beach. We debated going somewhere else but could think of no place we'd rather be in January.

Jilda made the reservations today. It's a great time to the shore. The holidays are over and it's too cold to swim here. For most beach lovers it will be summer before they get sand in their shoes – spring break at the earliest. But we prefer winter.

There will be snowbirds there. We've talked to pe0ple from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada who say it's cheaper rent a place at the beach that it is to heat their homes when the snow comes.  The folks from up north that we've met at the beach are some of the nicest people we've ever met. 

Anyhow, we'll be there for my birthday and I think it's a great place to get some perspective on my 67th year here on earth.




Thursday, January 04, 2018

Refreshing

I feel for the folks on the east coast. I saw on the Weather Channel where it snowed as far south as Tallahassee, Florida. That don't happen often. Everyone around here's complaining that they can't wear shorts and a tanktop to Walmart.  I don't wear shorts and a tanktop to Walmart in August, so the whiners don't get a lot of sympathy around here. Don't get Jilda started on this topic.

The temps around here have been cold at night. Even during the day, it's not warming that much. My nephew, who is a plumber, has a backlog of people calling with frozen pipes. Many of water lines, even though they are buried,  have frozen between the meter and the house. There's not a lot he can do until the weather moderates.

Mother nature is digging it. The cold is killing all those pesky critters that eat gardens in the spring and summer. 

The last several years, it's been unseasonably warm and dry. If fruit trees don't have a period of cold weather, they bare less fruit. 

If we get rain in the spring, I have a feeling we'll have a banner year with our apples, pears, peaches, and figs.

While cold weather can be hard for people who aren't used to it, it's refreshing for flora and fauna.





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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Cane fishing pole

The folks at the Community Foundation sent me an email today asking if I had a cane fishing pole. The Smithsonian exhibit has to do with Alabama Waterways and they needed the cane pole as a prop. I had one a while back, but Ol' Hook ate it. He didn't bite it. He didn't gnaw on it. He chewed it into little pieces. I've never had a stick chewer...until now.

Anyhow, I put out the word to my fishing buddies and my old friend Leo had one. He told me to come by this afternoon and he'd have it "rigged." That means he'd put a line, hook, sinker, and cork on it.

I ran down after lunch today and part of the river crew was there. The temp was 39 degrees with a steady breeze out of the north. Most of them were cocooned in Army field jackets, gloves, and insulated boots. One of the guys told me they hadn't missed a day this week. Yesterday, it didn't get out of the 20s.

They have a portable firepit that they crank up each afternoon when they arrive.

Leo was there and he brought the cane pole with him. I did a video of him telling about it, but Blogger doesn't play well with videos so you'll have to take my word for it. I also took a picture of him with the cane pole. He said he'd caught bream, crappy, bass, and catfish on cane poles. He's been fishing at the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River for over 50 years. I can never remember the forks without him standing there.

I got an invitation in the mail today from the Foundation. They want me to attend the reception on the 16th. I told them I wouldn't miss it.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Taking pictures

Back in early December, my nephew called to ask if I'd take some photographs of he and his family. He wanted them for his Christmas card. He's the one that's a plumber and the one I call whenever I have plumbing, gas, electric, issues. He also helps me with the heavy lifting so I was happy to take the pictures.

We decided to do the shoot down at the barn and on the front porch of the old house. It was a beautiful afternoon. I shot over a hundred pictures in the few hours we were down there. 

After the session, we sat on the porch and my thinking bench to enjoy the late autumn afternoon. Their son Anthony who is in the second grade asked if I wanted him to take my picture. I said, "Of course." I wasn't sure if he knew how, but apparently, he has a pretty good eye. He snapped the picture below. I'm also including a couple pictures that I shot of them.







Monday, January 01, 2018

Setting goals for the New Year ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The last week of the year is my time for reflection. It gives me a chance to review the past year and plan for the new one. It’s easy to get wrapped up by the little hassles that fill my plate each day and forget about the big things that make me happy. That’s why it’s essential to calibrate my life map each New Year.

The sunsets this past week have been remarkable. Yesterday, as I sat at the table reading over my journal notes from 2017, I glanced out the garden doors at the sky on the western horizon. The sight took my breath away. That’s just what I needed to help give me perspective.

I stood and stretched. Jilda called from the kitchen and asked if I had time to take the scraps to the compost bin. A break sounded like just the ticket, so I stepped to the counter for the scraps. In the pan was some leftover cornbread that was close to the consistency of slate rock. I stepped down to give Speckles an evening treat. She’s the only chicken that survived a summer of slaughter by hawks and raccoons.

When I opened her dwelling and crumbled the bread by her feeder, she was delighted. She clucked her thanks as she scratched and pecked the floor of her pen.

I stood and watched her peck for a while before stepping over to the back gate to get a better view of the evening sky. Each passing moment was like watching a watercolor painting in progress. And the colors deepened as the sun drifted further beyond the horizon.

The shades of pinks reminded me of cotton candy that I had at the county fair when I was too young to drive.  I closed my eyes as I stood there, but I couldn’t smell them no matter how hard I tried.

Clouds never bore me. I look for shapes and faces. Sometimes the images jump out at me like a photograph, and sometimes they don’t. But I never tire of looking.

As I stood there watching the kaleidoscope of clouds, my mind wandered through the significant events this past year. I gave some thought to the coming year. What does it hold in store? How can I contribute? Where should I focus my time and attention?

This past year was full of distraction for me. I made a little progress on my goals, but many of them were left undone. The coming year will be one of change for me. The job I’ve had at the college for the last three years will end in January. I’m not a fan of “retiring and kicking back” so I’m considering my options.

These thoughts wound their way through the wires of my brain as I stood looking at the sky. There were no answers in the clouds, but I would never say it was a waste of time looking. There’s always a chance that I might find the next page in the book of my life written there.


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