Sunday, March 18, 2018


Both Jilda and her sister have birthdays in March. Casie, one of her sister Pat's grandchildren cooked lunch for everyone today.

When Jilda and I arrived at noon, Casie's three children were sitting on the porch waiting. When I stepped up on the porch, all three kids came over and gave me a hug. Payton, the little girl on the right of me in the picture below said, "I read your story in the paper today." She went inside and got the paper off the couch and tapped on my picture.

She proceeded to tell me about what she'd read. It was the first time that she realized I was the writer who wrote a weekly column in the paper. Her mother has mentioned my column to me a number of times while we were down there when I wrote something that resonated with her, but the kids always seemed to busy to make the connection.

I sat on the porch with the kids for awhile talking about school, homework, and an upcoming trip to the state capitol this coming week.

Later when we were all inside, I heard Payton telling Jilda about my story. She ended by saying, "It was a good story." Hearing that made me smile

We gave Payton's younger brother Parker a joke book for Christmas. Today as we sat in the living room, he shared one of the jokes he'd read in the book. "Do you know what kind of tree grows in your hand?" he asked. No was my reply. "A palm tree. Get it, a palm tree." I acted as if that was the funniest joke I'd ever heard. That tickled him. I love it when kids begin to read and talk about the things they've read.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The weather today was remarkable. Jilda put a corned beef brisket in the crockpot early this morning and put it on slow cook. She does it every year for St. Patrick's Day. We have corned beef, cabbage, mashed potatoes, butter beans, and cornbread. She normally does colcannon, with soda bread. But this year, my nephew Haven who LOVES this meal, asked if he was invited this year. We'd planned to keep it low key because Jilda has felt well, but by suppertime, we had a house full. Some of the "guests" aren't fans of colcannon and soda bread so we did cornbread and kept the cabbage and potatoes separate.

The meal was a hit. Our sister-in-law whipped up a peach cobbler and Haven's wife Alesha baked up a fresh batch of peanut butter brownies. Yum.

While the grownups were setting the table, I took the kids out back for a walkabout. Jordan noticed that the pear tree was in bloom and wanted to have a closer look. I shot a few pictures of him an Anthony but they couldn't stand still long enough to get a decent shot, so I took one of the pear blossoms instead.

I hope St. Patrick's Day has been good for you too. May you have the "Luck of the Irish" all the days of your life.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thanks, Mister Sol

I had errands today so I didn't get my steps in as I usually do. This evening while Jilda prepared dinner, I took the jump-jump to the back porch and marched my last 5000 steps on a tiny trampoline. It's easy on my knees.

After I finished, I took the jumper inside and grabbed a glass of water. The sun was setting to the west and the evening critters were aflutter.

Ol' Hook the wonder dog stood guard on the steps to keep those pesky squirrels aloft.  I sat in silence taking it all in. When I looked down at the steps, I noticed the sun peeping through the pine and lighting up a flower pot that we used to grow herbs last summer. The herbs are long gone, but we left the pot there because we'll use it again this spring.

Winter had coated the northwest edge of the pot with a fuzz of moss. The sun pointed out to me just how beautiful it was. That would have been easy to miss. Thanks, Mister Sol.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hitching in the rain

My column this coming Sunday is about picking up a hitchhiker last week. It was an old cold rainy day. I'm not doing a spoiler here, but giving this guy a ride reminded me of when I was in the Army in 1971.

I was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and my friend lived in New Hampshire. "It's only about 350 miles that shouldn't take us too long," he said. I was a hick from Sloss Hollow, Alabama and I hadn't traveled much. He could have told me it wasn't too far to walk and I would have gone.

We planned to head out when our classes ended just after lunch. It was a long weekend and we thought we'd eat supper at his mom and dad's house. 

We wore civilian clothes but we packed our Army uniform and field jacket in our bags in case it got cool. 

Looking at the forecast seemed like overkill because we'd probably be in New Hampshire by sundown.  

Outside the gates of Fort Monmouth, we stuck out our thumbs and a salesman picked us up in a matter of minutes. He took us just north of New York City and we caught a ride with another soldier a few minutes later. Bam! We were on our way. 

But the soldier had a couple stops to make. Time slipped away. We made it somewhere close to Worchester, Mass and the soldier let us out at his exit. It was dark and as luck would have it, a cold rain began to fall. We walked a few hundred feet up the Interstate and took refuge under an overpass. 
We put on our field jackets to help block the rain, but we didn't want to put the hood up because we wanted potential picker-uppers to see our faces. 

It was near midnight before a woman took pity on us. She pulled to the emergency lane. She rolled down her window to have a look at us before she unlocked the doors. We told her we were soldiers headed home for the holiday. 

She clicked the door open and let us in. Turns out, she had a son in the military too. She knew it was risky picking up two young men in the middle of the night, but she wanted to think that someone else would offer the same courtesy to her son if he needed a ride. 

That act of kindness took a lot of courage on her part. My friend and I were both grateful. My friend had family in Boston and they had agreed to take us on the final leg of our journey. I have a feeling that had they know how late we'd be arriving they would not have been so accommodating. 

These days with all the horror stories, most people simply will not pick up a hitchhiker. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and can't stop to give someone a ride. But when I see someone by the road standing in the rain, I remember the lady's kindness and offer a ride.

How about you? Do you ever pick up hitchhikers?

This has nothing to do with the post, but I shot this picture this evening as the sun was going down

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Time in the sun

We had someone come to our house today that has never been here before. Our directions are good, but people still struggle out here where cell reception can be spotty, and GPS sometimes takes visitors on adventures.

I called to verify she felt comfortable driving here, but I went out and sat on the bench by the front walk to wait. The turn into our driveway is sudden and people often pass it by before realizing they should have turned.  

As I sat on the bench, the birds and squirrels decided I was not an imminent threat and proceeded to feed. I heard a squirrel scampering across the metal roof and jumped onto the Rose-a-Sharon bush standing by the bench. He was halfway to the ground when he noticed me on the bench. He stood as still as a stone. His obsidian eyes looked me over. He was close enough that I could have reached out and petted him. When I eased my hand toward my pocket to get my phone for a picture, he darted to the ground and was gone in a flash.

The sound of our visitor's SUV preceded her arrival and she apparently had listened to the directions I gave because she pulled right into the driveway.

The wind out of the north was frigid, but I enjoyed those few moments in the sun visiting with our critters.

Since I didn't get a picture of a squirrel, I had to go back through the archives and settle on a picture of what I call a white dove.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


On our walk this morning I stopped at the dogwood in our front yard.  A few weeks ago when the temps toyed with the mid-80s the dogwoods were tempted to bloom, but mine were too smart to be teased. Even though the limb tips were fat as ticks, they held back.

It's a good thing they did because the temps last night dipped into the upper 20s. Frost was on my windshield this morning.

I could almost hear the dogwoods chanting - Na Na Na Boo Boo, you didn't fool me. They are in the starting blocks for when the spring makes its appearance.

The picture below, I shot a few years ago.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Be Here Now

I sat down at my office desk this morning with a steaming cup of coffee and the intention of writing something remarkable. About the best I could muster was writing out a check for the light bill. My mind ricochets from current events to a never-ending to-do list. Then I remembered the mantra that my lovely wife preaches to her students at work and at the community yoga class. “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now.” In other words, “Be Here Now.” 
Sometimes being mindful is harder than you might think. Especially when you have urgent calls from Emily at Card Services telling me there’s an issue with my credit card or the automated message from the Criminal Investigations Division of the IRS that needs to discuss my latest tax return. Not to mention the serious problem I have with my Windows computer. This one is especially perplexing since I haven’t a Windows computer in over 15 years. 
After about an hour of tapping keys, my mind was still as blank as a busted TV set. I clicked my laptop closed and took Jilda out for breakfast. She found a table by the window, and I ordered the food. Eating at the local Jacks during morning hours is like attending a family reunion. We saw a half-dozen people we knew. 
Sitting there, I looked around at the faces and heard clips of conversation. Mornings in that restaurant reminds me of my mother’s kitchen at breakfast. The aroma of bacon on the grill, and biscuits baking in the oven. I had a feeling that the experience would bring my mind back to here and now. I was right.
Once home, I took the critters for a walk. I flipped the collar of my insulated vest up to block the brisk wind out of the north. 
A doe and two fawns were feeding on acorns by the barn. When they saw Ol’ Hook and Caillou, they
bolted for the woods. The dogs yapped after them. I sat down on my thinking bench to watch, listen, and smell the earth getting ready for spring. Those moments without distraction were a joy. It felt good to “Be Here Now.”
There’s something powerful that happens when the mind is silent. Troubling things no longer seem as important. The space those thoughts occupy in my chattering mind tends to shrink. I often come up with creative approaches to complex problems. I don’t always solve them, but the silence gives me a chance to get a better grip on the pieces I can control. It also helps me to let go of the pieces I can’t control. This is a huge benefit of mindfulness.
There are those who say that mindfulness is a lot of New Age hooey.  I’m not here to try and change anyone’s mind about mindfulness. But this much I know for sure. It works for me. In fact, it gave me the idea for this column today. 
If you get fed up with Emily and your credit card problems, I suggest you try to Be Here Now. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Pond scum

Jilda and I both were like sore-tail-cats today. I don't think we're sick, and there's nothing troubling us...except this damn time change. I'm sorry for the bad language, but there's no other way to describe just how we feel about "Springing Forward". 

Researchers say it doesn't help farmers, it doesn't save energy. I did make people sicker, have more heart attacks, and spend more money. 

If I were to put on my root-cause-analysis hat, the "Spend More Money" would have been a DING DING DING DING moment. The real reason we have daylight savings time is that it makes more money for business and in turn politicians.  

One of the Native American sites had this to offer:

‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’

Nuff said.

Feeling lower than pond scum on the first day of daylight savings time.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Rainy Day

It's rained most of the day today. We ran errands, and it began raining before we made it home. It hasn't stopped.

My sister did a birthday gathering this evening for all friends and family that have birthdays in March. Jilda's birthday is on the 23rd so she was one of the honorees.

We headed home before dusk, but by the time we reached the river, a shroud of fog made driving hazardous. We crept the rest of the way home.

The picture tonight was from March of 2017.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Called in

Today was freedom Friday for us. No commitments. No to-dos that were on fire. We "Called in drunk," as they sometimes say here in Alabama.

I picked up a New York Times yesterday and we read it this morning as we slowly sipped our steaming mugs of coffee. Life is good.

After doing a few chores around the house, we took the dogs for a walk. The sun was warm, but the breeze was out of the north. I had on a long-sleeve shirt, but Jilda wore a jacket.

On the second lap, I sat on the thinking bench for a moment petting Caillou. Jilda snapped a picture of me for my blog tonight.

Before ending our walk, I also shot a picture of our red tips. The color this time of year is remarkable.

Thursday, March 08, 2018


Each spring the wild honeysuckles bloom here. I walked down to the edge of the hollow yesterday to survey their progress. We also had one that we transplanted to a flowerbed in one corner of our yard.  The buds look pregnant, but they haven't popped out yet.

I'm glad the cold spell came when it did because had the started to bloom, frost would have played havoc with their springtime show.

As it is, it looks like they had a feeling old man winter was through.  I took the picture below last year at this time. 

When this year's blossoms make their debut, I'll post a fresh picture.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Prime the pump

Some days writing ideas come to me like mosquitos to a fat baby. And some days I couldn't buy one with an AmEx Platinum card.  Today was one of the latter. Of course, my column deadline is in the morning. But rather than stress, I took my honey out for a late breakfast.

I eventually wrote my column at Starbucks over a cafe mocha.  I don't get to Starbucks often so it was a treat. I pushed my headphones into my ears knuckle deep, cranked up the deep concentration music on my phone and cranked that baby up.

Soon, the words were flowing. They may be crap, but I got through it. I've written this weekly column for 12 years and this nightly blog for 13 years. It stands to reason that the well will run dry from time to time. That's when you need to prime the pump. 

The picture below has nothing to do with this post, but it's one I took out west a few years ago. I have used it so I thought I would.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

A little spring color

This past weekend we put flowers on the graves of our parents. It's easy to get swept along a the speed of life and forget where you came from, and who you are.

We put flowers on their graves before Christmas, but the sun and rain on those silk flowers made them a little sad. Since the explosion of color all around us, we thought a little color on their resting places would be just the ticket. Jilda suggested daffodils. I thought that was a perfect choice.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Old Trucks ~ My column from Sunday's paper

The rain took the day off yesterday, making it feel like San Francisco weather. The sun was high and warm on my face. It felt like the perfect day to wash a winter’s worth of grime off my truck, so I pulled into the local car wash, and before pulling out, I’d vacuumed enough red clay from the floorboard to make a flower pot. A few minutes later, I pulled onto the highway smiling. I love my truck.

I came by my love of trucks honestly because my dad loved them, too. He had an old ‘46 Chevy truck he parked in the backyard. At one time, it had been blue, but years of hard work and neglect had turned it into a shade of amber with blue undertones. The bed had rusted through to the axle, and my Uncle Pete helped dad build a bed for it made of dried oak that was as hard as teak.

We hauled coal in the old beast in winter, and during the summer we tossed our garbage on the back until we had enough to haul to the dump. I think the battery was original equipment, so each time we wanted to drive the old Chevy anywhere, we had to jump it off.

I was too young to drive in those days, but I spent hours alone in the cab of that truck. It smelled of old leather, tobacco, and burnt motor oil. The floorboard had rusted through on the driver’s side and dad spot-welded an old car tag over the hole. He was handy with an acetylene torch.

I knew every knob and lever on the dash. It was a four-on-the-floor. My dad called the first gear in the old beast “granny low” because you only used that gear when the truck was loaded.

I traveled thousands of miles in that truck without ever leaving the backyard.

When my legs grew long enough to reach the clutch and breaks, dad started to let me drive a little. He’d always sit close so that he could grab the wheel if I lost control, but I never did.

Driving the old truck was like a moving puzzle. I had to learn to let off the gas, mash the clutch, and change the gears while steering that baby between the RC Signs.

It was like a real-life video game, except one slip and there could have been hair, teeth, and eyeballs all over the asphalt. At least that’s how it played out in my young mind.

There’s an old Ford truck behind the barn now that belonged to Jilda’s dad Sharky. The truck hasn’t run in years. When I walked yesterday, I noticed a blue-tail lizard sunning on the rusty hood of that old truck.

When I stepped closer, it scurried down through the grill and into the engine compartment.

The door squawked when I opened it. Sliding into the driver’s seat, I sat for a few minutes remembering.

Had I been 12-years old, I would have taken this baby to Brazil.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Roses are red violets are...

Roses are red
Violets are...
Hmmmm. they're not blue.
They're not quite purple.
Strangely enough, they are not really violet either.
I thought they might be topaz, but what would rhyme with that? 
Ok, here goes.
Roses are red
Violets are plum.
Don't blame me
If this post is dumb.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Close calls and camellia blossoms

Today's been hectic. It started out well, but then our sister-in-law who'd headed down to Sumiton to get a haircut was rear-ended. She wasn't injured but the incident set a chain of events that took charge of our day. She's home now and resting and we are thankful. It could have been much worse.

On a more colorful note, I took a bag of garbage to the fence to put in our receptacle and noticed that the last camellia blossom had fallen off sometime in the night.  It looked a little sad so I let Photoshop have its way with the photograph.

Here's to close calls and camellia blossoms.

Friday, March 02, 2018


When Jilda's sister Nell gave us young collard plants, we weren't sure they survive. Our record of growing collards has been spotty.  Nell promised these would be different. She's had these seeds since Carter was in the White House.  Well, not these seeds, but their ancestors. 

Each year, she plants them in several old bathtubs full of organic soil. You can dig down under her collards in those tubs and there are earthworms as fat as milkshake straws. 

They are happy there and their habitat makes perfect soil for plants. 

I recycled an old plastic water barrel and planted our small plants close to the deck in a place where it would get full sun most of the day. They were happy there. Even though we only planted five plants, it provided us several meals this fall. We were thrilled.

A few days ago, we noticed they are bolting. That means they're putting out seed blossoms. When I went out there today, it looked as if they were reaching for the sun. Soon we'll have enough heirloom seeds for a couple bathtubs filled with plants next year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Arbor jasmine

When Jilda mentioned building an arbor on the front of our house a few years ago I was hesitant. The front of our house is unique and I wasn't sure an arbor would fit. I couldn't see it.

Jilda said, "Trust me. It will look great." She has the knack for visualization. I wish I had it, but I don't. I trusted her. 

We had our carpenter up replacing our front steps. While he was out there, Jilda asked how hard it would be to build an arbor. She described what she envisioned. He listened intently. After she finished he said, "Let me study on it." He'd pulled his truck up in the yard to unload the lumber so he backed up to the hood of his truck as he studied the front of the house. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled a pack of Pall Malls from his overall pockets, tapped one out of the pack, and lit it with his lighter. 

After a long while, he pulled a tape measure from his pockets and made some preliminary measurements. Then he returned to the hood. Pulling a pad and pencil from his pocket, he drew out a rough draft. When he showed it to Jilda, she smiled. That pencil sketch is now what stands in the front of our house. 

We planted honeysuckle and jasmine on the front posts. The honeysuckle is slow to bloom in spring, but the jasmine does not hesitate.

It rained most of the day, but it cleared enough this afternoon before dusk that I could shoot a picture of our arbor jasmine. 

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