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.


 

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