Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fun with Writers

This afternoon I went to hear author Rick Bragg speak at Bevill State. Bragg's a great writer but he's one heck of a speaker too.
He read selections from a couple of his books and then took questions.

I stood in a line that seemed as long as a football field but he hung in there until all the books were signed. I was in line with my friend Dale Short and we visited while we stood. Dale has been converting old super 8 video and he came across a piece he did of us back in 1975. We were exploring Old Dora. The effect of converting the old footage to digital made a remarkable piece of film. 
The guy that did the conversion put some music behind the film and the audio isn't that smooth, but it's fun to watch.
Have a look and let me know what you think.
Exploring Old Dora

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rick - Litter Police

One new chore I’ve assigned to myself is litter patrol in my neighborhood. Thanks to the nice people visiting our neighbors, we always have an abundance of litter tossed from passing cars.

It’s not a problem confined to my area because I see litter and garbage by the roadside almost everywhere I go in Alabama.

I’ve been behind people at red lights that actually put their cars in park, open their doors and dump an ashtray full of cigarette butts right there in the street.

I wonder what gave them the idea that this is acceptable behavior? I guess they think that cigarette butts are not really litter “since they are biodegradable.” I actually believe that plutonium would break down and become safe for the environment quicker than a cigarette filter. Those butts will still be in the gutter when the sun runs out of gas and the moon turns in to Swiss cheese.

I for one, think it’s OK for policemen to taser anyone they catch doing the dump and run routine. I’m not talking about doing any serious damage, but hit them with enough voltage to make them wet their britches and cause a permanent condition that makes them twitch involuntarily whenever they hear the word litter.

I think the fine in Walker County is $25 and has the same priority as prosecuting those who tear the labels off mattresses.

I really think the penalty for littering should not be money, but sixteen hours of supervised community service where the violators must pick up roadside litter for a weekend. It would be best if they had to perform the community service in THEIR community so that hopefully they would be embarrassed when friends and neighbors see them on garbage patrol.

As bad as littering is, there are much worse offenders. It’s those degenerates who dump dead animals by the side of the road that galls me most!

There is a wide place in the road on the way to our house and we find a variety of dead creatures dumped there constantly. It’s common to see dogs, cats, and other critters tossed out. Have these folks never heard of a shovel?

During hunting season this past year someone had cut the heads off two deer and dumped the carcasses there for our community to enjoy. I’m telling you, these folks must have crawled from the shallow end of the gene pool.

All the hunters I know find this as disturbing as I do and would readily endorse the taser treatment I mentioned above for the offenders.

I can write until my fingers are blue and this problem will not go away. In reality, I don’t think fines are the answer, because as dumb as people are who litter, they normally have enough smarts to refrain from littering while a patrol car is behind them.

I think the answer to this problem is early education and teaching kids to have a sense of pride in one’s community and state. Then perhaps they’d take better care of the planet than their parents.

I know you may say, Rick, with all the problems we face in this country today, why are you wasting your breath on the problem of litter.

Well, the thing is, you can’t fix all the problems at once but you have to start somewhere. Why not start here at home, and clean up Walker County.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fun With Photoshop

I bought Photoshop recently and it's a trip. It will take a great deal of time to master the software, but I'm chugging along.
I saw a menu item tonight that said FILTERS, so I thought this might be interesting. I clicked and started trying stuff. 
I shot this photo of daffodils this morning on the way back from the mailbox. The normal pictures was quite good but I began to toy with the filters.
This particular picture made the photograph appear almost surrealistic..which reminds me of a joke.
How many Surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

A FISH!!!!!

A little high brow humor there.
The sun was warm today but the wind out of the northwest was very chilly.  I started out for a walk and had to hustle back to get me a long sleeved sweatshirt.  It's still good to see the sun.
I also planted lettuce today. I plan to plant potato's and some other goodies on Good Friday.
Have a great week.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Congrats to Will Justice

We saw Will Justice's mom when we stopped at Wal~Mart this afternoon. She told us that it appears that Will has been awarded a scholarship at Birmingham Southern College.
Southern is my old Alma Mater and I was thrilled to hear the news, especially since Will was the first recipient of the Rick and Jilda Watson Scholarship at Dora High.
His mom said that Will used the money to enter Bevill State and soon he will be moving on to bigger and better things.
Birmingham Southern is a premier college for music and the arts. Will wants to be a filmmaker, among other things.
I cannot tell you how proud we are of this remarkable young man.
Congrats Will!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Jilda and I got a chance to see Credence Clearwater Revival (less John Fogerty) last night. I've always loved Credence but they were my brother Neil's favorite group of all time. He had ever record they ever made.
Last night the group did them all. They played for about an hour and a half and the crowd, of mostly geezers were on their feet for most of the show.
If you closed your eyes, you would have thought Fogerty was on stage. They band never missed a lick. The show was delightful.
I'd like to know how many Advil's this audience took before bedtime. As much fun as the concert was, I was a little melancholy when I left because I know how much Neil would have enjoyed seeing these guys had he still been alive.
So before we retired last night, we toasted the memory of my brother. I like to think his spirit was in the box seats and he was rockin' harder than anyone there.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Organizing Music

One task I've undertaken this week is organizing our music. It's a hoot listening to songs I haven't heard in a long time.
I made us a road cd especially for traveling. The songs span decades starting with the fifties.
I can't wait to hit the road to try them. I'll really have to be careful because some of the tunes are hard driving songs that make you speed without realizing it.
Highway to Hell by Foghat
i'm a man by John lee hooker
Mississippi Queen by Mountain
to name but a few.
I'll also do mixtape cd's for other occasions too.
Each time I listen to some of these songs, I take a stroll down memory lane.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Springs A Coming

The trees and shrubs are getting ready to show out. The yellow bell bushes as well as the pear and plum trees got a head start this week, but the rest are not far behind.
Jilda and I walked today and even though the sun was hidden behind swift moving grey clouds, you could see that the hickory, oak, and sweet gum are only a few days behind.
I also noticed that our peach tree had blossoms that popped out today. A few days of warm sunshine and Mother Nature will really put on a show.
As a kid, this time of year was pure torture. Our classrooms had huge windows, most of which faced south.  We didn't have air conditioning so it was common for teachers to raise the windows a little to get some fresh air moving through. 
On warm days you could hear the birds scurrying around making nests and the smell of freshly mowed grass wafted in which made it smell like heaven. On those days, all the boys in class wanted to be janitors so they could work outside.
I plan to work on my lawn mower this weekend and have it ready for duty early next week.
I can't wait to smell the grass. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Run out of steam

Finding something to do has not been an issue with me so far. My days have been jam packed this week. My friend George was having some phone issues so I rewired his office today. 
I was up and down on a ladder about a thousand times and my muscles feel like I've played four quarters of football.
Jilda and I are working on a new set for the Home and Garden Show in Jasper on Friday. I think I'll read some from my book and we'll play a few songs.
If anyone is out and about, we'll be at Jasper Mall at 2 p.m.
It's been a long day, I'm signing off for now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Starting on "The List"

This Monday is my last day with AT&T and I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous. In fact, I’ve been wound up tighter than a tenor banjo at times.
As long as I worked for MaBell, I’ve never worried about having something to do. In fact, my plate was always overflowing.
My boss is panicking trying to figure out who will take over all the projects I managed.
When I walk out of that building this coming Monday, I will no longer have a boss.
Well, that’s not exactly true, I’ll only have one boss and her initials are J-I-L-D-A.
But for the most part, I’ll be setting my own agenda.
When things go well, I can pat myself on the back but when things go south, the only person I’ll be able to blame is the person standing in my shoes. That’s both exciting and scary.
All the things I’ve put off for years because I didn’t have the time can now proceed. The last few weeks I’ve awakened several times in a cold sweat thinking –  what if I can’t make it on my own?
What if after a few weeks, my lovely spouse discovers she really doesn’t like me being around?
What if the economy goes sour and all the contingency plans I’ve made fall through? What if a meteorite falls from the sky and – well, you get the picture.
When I voiced these concerns to Jilda, she listened attentively before saying, “Shut up you big whiney baby! You’ll do fine as long as you stay out of my way.”
“Wow! That was so helpful,” I said sarcastically as I scooted to the other end of the couch to mope.
The thing is, I know she’s right. I have skills and interests that can keep me busy for the rest of my life. I’ve gotten tons of calls and emails from friends who promise me there is life after corporate America.
The first and most important thing I HAVE to do is relax. Jilda and I have not had a real vacation in years. We have taken “work-ations.” We go out of town, but we work. We have fun, but it’s seldom relaxing. I think I’ve forgotten how.
One of the last times we took a non-work vacation was when we went to Ireland. We spent 10 days drifting around that lush garden without an itinerary or schedule.
We ate the food the local’s ate (except for blood sausage), we listened to local singer/songwriters and we were invited to perform in pubs, restaurants, coffee houses and other venues. We heard stories, visited art museums, and castles older than America.
We saw so many stunning sites that our brains couldn’t process all the visual information coming through our eyes. Now that was a vacation.
We got a St. Patrick’s Day card from our Irish friends Dominic and Marguerite this week. Dominic and Tony are two singer/songwriters we performed with while we were on the Emerald Isle. We cut the stamp off of the envelope and put it in a small picture frame on our mantel to remind us of how much we enjoyed our time there.
I know the next few weeks will be touch and go, and we plan to go back to Ireland someday, but the first thing I’m going to do is go fly-fishing and unwind, before I get started on “The List” that Jilda has for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Things Change

After I left work today I ran by the post office to mail my papers to the severance office in Texas. In the Hoover post office there is ALWAYS a line. In the past I always had to ensure I didn't have any appointments after lunch in case I got stranded in line there.
Today the line was long by my point of reference had changed. I stood in line and observed the other people waiting. Everyone except the really old folks, were glancing at their watches every few minutes, shifting from leg to leg and huffing really loudly.
Many were looking around with a "can you believe how slow the people move" look on their faces. A very short time ago I would have been right there huffing with them, but today, I was more closely aligned with the older folks.
Funny how things change.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Moving On

I brought home six boxes of stuff on Thursday. It's hard to believe it all came from a cube. I've spent the weekend hanging my favorite photos on my office wall at home. I'm sending two boxes of stuff to Goodwill and giving another box of stuff to friends. It will take another few days to get everything back to normal here.
Tonight I'm taking all my personal pictures, music and other stuff off the company laptop. I'll wipe the disk clean in the morning before I turn it in with the other stuff.
It will take more time saying my final goodbye's to all the folks that were off last week for spring break. After tomorrow, that piece of my life will be behind me.
I know you all must be tired of this topic. I know I'm ready to move on.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Garden

I worked in the garden today. I wasn't sure how the tiller wintered, but a tank of fresh gas with a shot if ether and that old boy fired right up.
I tilled up enough space for ten cabbage plants and a long row of English peas. I'll follow up in a few weeks with a few other early crops. After the last chance of frost, I'll plant the bulk of the garden that will include squash, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and the other stuff.
I should have more time to tend it this year. In the past, I've had good results early but then the weeds take over.  A little attention each day does miracles.
I've worked hard all day around the house trying to get things back in order, so I'm winding down now. It will be an early night tonight as Jilda and I are on Coffee Time on Channel 55 first thing in the morning.
Have a great weekend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Little Blue Flowers

Today was like a photograph that you could walk into. The sky was clear as a window with billowy white clouds. I could tell by the look of things, my first day of retirement was going to be a good one.
I'm having a little maintenance done on my truck, so I took Jilda to work this morning and ran a few errands while I was out.I ran by t
he book store and bought a new book with a gift card that I received from one of my friends at work as a going away present.
I bought a hot mocha and sat by the table by the window to read, sip coffee, and watch the world. I can't tell you when I've felt so laid back.
When I got back home, I took the dogs for a walk. The air was spring fresh and as I walked our path, if felt good to be alive.
I came across several patches of little blue flowers just behind the barn. I'm not sure of the name, but they looked fragile as fine glass.The ground was warm enough so I laid down to get a better look.
I shot a photo and I wasn't sure if it would "come out" but it's not bad. The great thing about cell phones these days is that most of them have fairly good cameras and it seems you always have it with you

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Polar Opposite

Today was like the the yen and yang of my career with MaBell. The day I started back in 77, the weather was cold and dreary but today, my last full day, when I walked out of the building, the afternoon sun was warm as campfire on my face.
I spent most of the morning hauling out boxes of pictures, books, and other stuff I've collected through the years out to my truck. I looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on my way home.
There was a lot more stuff than I expected. The only think left for Monday is to run by and drop off my badge, security tokens, and laptop. This week was spring break so there were a lot of people out of the office.
I'll spend some time Monday saying goodbye.
I got a ton of email today in response to my "saying goodbye" email I sent out yesterday. I was honored and humbled by some of the things people said.
I'm off tomorrow, so I think I'll go buy a fishing license. I have a feeling I'm going to need it in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saying Goodbye

It's traditional for folks who've been with a company many years to write a parting email to all their friends. Below is the email I sent out today.

It was cold and rainy on the morning of January 3, 1977. It was my first day of work with South Central Bell. I left home two hours early to make sure I’d make it to work on time .  The fog in places was as thick as gauze. I arrived almost an hour early and I sat in the parking lot looking through mist on my windshield at the lights of the work center.  You see, I’d been out of work for almost a year and I was at a low point in my life. The job was a  Godsend.
My first position was as a garageman, which is a fancy way of saying I got to work at 3 a.m. and gassed up all the trucks. It was a humble beginning, but I worked hard and kept a good attitude (Living a Dream). I quickly moved into a position as an installation/repair technician.
One thing led to another until my path brought me here.
It’s been an interesting ride. MaBell has been good to me. She paid for my house, she paid for a very expensive college education and afforded me a  chance to travel. But by far, the biggest gift was the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible people on the planet.  My phone company family is closer to me than many families who are tied together by blood.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with you all.
I’m excited about my new life. I plan to do some fly fishing, play some music, write some books, and travel.  I know many of you may feel that this is a tough gig, but I feel up to the challenge.
I encourage everyone to ask yourself one question – What do you want to be when you grow up? Then I would work a little each day to move in the direction of your dreams. Also take a lot of pictures and never pass up a chance to let folks know how much they mean to you.
Thank you all very much.
Rick Watson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Thoughts on Daylight Saving Time

Day-light Saving Time changed early this morning, so we we’re supposed to “spring forward” an hour. This may seem simple enough, but it messes with my internal clock and I’m not happy!
I was just getting settled from when we “fell back” an hour the first day of November. What I’d like — REALLY like — to do is “spring forward,” wrap my hands around somebody’s neck and wring it.
I know I get on a tear about this twice a year, but when those guys in Washington fool with my clock, it chaps my rear end.
Seem like Congress would be better off trying to create jobs for all the people out of work instead of making those who have jobs, late.
I think Alabama should do like Arizona and “Just Say No” to Daylight Saving Time. “Sorry, we’re not playing. Us retired folk don’t get enough fiber in our diets due to the heat here in Arizona, so we’re cranky enough without you fooling with our sleep.  So keep your stinkin’ hands off our clock, if you please!”
I’ve been dog cussing Richard Nixon for the DST fiasco for years, but when I did a little research, I learned that the idea has been around forever.
In fact, I read where the idea of rising early at certain times of the year to make better use of daylight was discussed by Ben Franklin. That surprised me because Ben has always been one of my favorite forefathers, but this little tidbit brought him down a notch or two.
There’s been a lot of studies on the impact of DST. The idea is to make better use of the available daylight. Nixon implemented it here in the ’70s to help conserve energy.
There is some research that shows it helps in that regard, but I think the real proponents of DST are golfers. They want more daylight after work to play a few more rounds of golf.
Farmers and drive inn theater owners are on my side of the argument along with most of the school kids on the planet who have to get up an hour early to get to school on time.
I’ll be out of a job in a few days and I’ll need something productive to do, so I think I’m going to start my own grass roots organization similar to the Tea Party movement.
My initiative will be the “Give Me Back My Clock” movement. I know the name is not a snappy one, but I can promise you there are almost as many aggravated at the government for fooling with our clocks as there are for them fooling with our pocketbooks.
I’ve rewritten an old Bob Dylan song that could be used for a theme song:
“Come senators, congressmen,
Please heed the call
Don’t  fool with the clock
That hangs on my wall, 
Do something productive
Or we’ll replace you this fall
There’s a battle outside, and it’s ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the time don’t need to be a-changin’
Thank you, I’m off my soapbox now. If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to spring forward.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Office Cleaning

I spent time this morning cleaning and rearranging my office. It's uncanny how quickly a desk can turn into a junk heap. Old magazines, newspaper clippings, pictures, unlabeled CD's and the like.
After a few hours, I began to see the oak. I only had to empty the dust out of the shopvac twice. I now have enough organic matter to fill in the low places in the garden.
Normally, the weather starts getting warm in March, but not so this year. I had to bundle up again today when I walked. I think if the sun had burned through the clouds, the temps would have modified but that didn't happen.
I go back to work tomorrow for my last three days there. There's actually not a lot left to do. I have a few meeting with team members to discuss handing over some project work, but I think they are already on top of things. I will need to start wagging stuff home. That will take a trip or two.  
I think the folks at work are going to have some kind of going away party for me but I'm not sure. I was asked if I would be there Thursday so I'm guessing that's the deal.
Anyhow, looking around tonight, it's nice to be working from a nice clean desk. Come to think of it, I'm not sneezing as much since I shifted the dust to the garden.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yellowbells and Buttercups

Our walk this morning looked as if it would be a total wash. Jilda and I bundled up like homeless people and walked silently down toward the barn.
When we rounded the barn and headed back up the road toward the lower road, I noticed our yellowbell bushes were blooming.
A little further and I saw the buttercups peeking out and the sight put a smile on my face.
Spring officially comes a week from tomorrow. My first day of retirement will be the first full day of spring. Does that have a certain symmetry to it or what?
I'm off again tomorrow and I'll work my last three days before handing in my keys.
I'm ready for the next phase of my life.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


My buddy Fred and I have been working on a CD project for Bob Keefe who own's Berkeley Bob's Coffee Shop in Cullman, Alabama. Bob is a great guy and we love his coffee shop.  We finished the project last week and sent it off to press. The CD's came in yesterday and we delivered them yesterday afternoon.
The package looked good and the CD sounded good. Bob plays a lot of old time folk songs and he's written some folks songs too.
He was happy with the outcome. He wasn't sure they would sell but he put a few on the counter. He promptly sold his first copy. I grabbed a photo of the customer along with Bob and the CD.
So I guess I can add record producer to my resume.
Good luck to Bob. Visit Berkeley Bob's website by clicking here:

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's Sinking In

I woke up this morning to the sound of hailstones rattling the roof. I got up and looked out toward the barn, but it was still too dark to see.
I flipped on the weather channel and saw a narrow band of thunderstorms racing toward the east. It was obvious the storm would be over soon,  so went back to bed and spent the rest of the early morning hours thinking.
After coffee, I drove out to career center to see if I qualified for any job training after I leave AT&T.  I recently bought some new Adobe software and I really want to become proficient so that I can design and produce stunning graphics. I want the design of all my websites to be remarkable. I can take decent pictures, but producing quality graphics requires both talent and skill. I'm hoping the job training can help with the skill part. 
When I returned home it was just after lunch and I took the dogs out for a walk. The sun was warm but the breeze out of the west was cool but perfect for a walk. The barn was highlighted by the afternoon sun and the sky was the color blue of a 1956 baby blue T-Bird.
I walked down to the rock and sat for a long while soaking in what turned out to be a stunning day.
As I sat there with one of my dogs scrunched in close beside me with his head sticking out from under my arm, it finally sunk in that I'm about to be without gainful employment for the first time in over thirty three years. A smile crept across my face.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Laptop

I ordered a new laptop last week and it came today. It came with Window's 7 pre-installed and it's taking me a while to stumble my way through simple tasks.
For some reason, it's not seeing the wireless router. I'm sure it's something simple, but it's taking me a little longer to figure it out than it would with XP
Oh well, every day's a school day. I'm off tomorrow so I'll have some time to play around with it to get up to speed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No More Job To Go To

It seems odd to be typing these words, but I’m retiring.  Not from writing, in fact, I plan to write even more, but I’m retiring from my day job with MaBell.
I started to work with South Central Bell on a cold and dreary Monday morning in January of 1977.
I’d been out of a job for a year and I was glad to get the work. I never dreamed it would turn into a career.
My first position was as a Garageman in Bessemer, Alabama. That’s a fancy way of saying I went to work at 3 a.m. and gassed up all the trucks.
The job came at a low point in our lives and lifted us out of poverty. It has provided Jilda and me with a steady paycheck ever since.
I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and as it turns out, the company offered me some great opportunities. I learned to troubleshoot telephones and later I learned about computers.
I started gassing up 12 trucks in Bessemer, and wound up supporting thousands of computers spread all across America.
It’s been an interesting ride, but a few weeks ago the company announced plans to reduce headcount by three percent in my pay grade.
MaBell has a decent severance plan, which allows people who are close to retirement age to move on.
Jilda and I spent a restless weekend running numbers, and what-if scenarios. I asked myself some very hard questions, like – “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
I found out Monday, I was one of the ones selected, and my last day is March 22, 2010.
This week started the transition to my new life. I began the process of cleaning out my desk, which has been interesting.
I’ve been sorting through 33 years’ worth of pictures, papers and souvenirs. It’s a strange and wonderful experience.
I found coffee cups, umbrellas, key chains and other memento, which brought back a rush of memories. I found a mechanical pencil that’s older than kids graduating from college this year.
I have a plant that my work group sent me in 1986 when my father died. It outgrew my cubical, and now lives in the break room where hundreds of people admire and care for it. I’m sure that plant will be missed when we leave in a few weeks.
I’d been preparing for this day for some time. Jilda and I have worked to get our finances in order and to start thinking in terms of what we want to do during the next phase of our lives.
But when the realization sank in that I was leaving, a flood of emotions washed over me.
I’m excited, but a little scared, too.  I know deep down that we will be fine, but I also know that I’m closing down a chapter of my life that has consumed a huge chunk of my time over the last 33 years.
As the friends I’ve worked with through the years hear the news and come to wish me well, I find myself with a lump in my throat.
I’ve daydreamed about this moment for a very long time, and yet now that it’s here, I’m experiencing sadness which I did not expect.
I tell all my work friends that we’ll keep in touch, and I’m sure we will for a while. But I’m about to start down a new path and you know what they say about good intentions.
I will miss my friends, but I will not miss the stress or the commute.
Ella Harris once said, “A retired husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” I hope that’s not the case with me because Jilda has made it abundantly clear that she doe NOT need a second job.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Off Day

I was off today, but some of my old buddies are gathering at a watering hole across from work so Jilda and I are going to ride over there for a while. Some of the folks I have not seen in some time so it should be fun.
It occurred to me just now that I have five working days left until I leave the company. You don't know how strange that sounds.
I've talked to several people who retired that said the first few months are crazy. You wake up thinking you should be getting ready for work Then after some time it finally sinks in that you ARE at work.
I've designing a couple new websites this week, and I have some others in the pipe. I should be busy for a while.
Well, it's off to Gabriels.  Y'all have a great Tuesday evening.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I Feel Taller

I went to yoga class tonight and I guess I really needed it. I stretched muscles that I didn't realize I had. My knees squeaked a little but hey, if 59 now and a little squeaking is not only acceptable but expected.
When it came time for relaxation, I fell off to sleep. I hope I didn't snore, but truth be told, most of the other folks went out like a light too.
If you've never experienced a yoga class taught by my lovely spouse, you have not lived.....or relaxed.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


I'm experimenting with a new photo display tool called Cooliris. It puts photos on a photowall almost in 3D. You use your mouse to sweep pictures across the screen for viewing. You can click one a thumbnail and make it bigger. I think it's a cool feature. Let me know what you think.
We had friends over for dinner tonight. Our friends Steve, Judy and Fred all came by. Jilda put a pot roast in the crockpot early this morning and by 6 p.m., you could cut it with a fork.
I had planned to take off work again tomorrow, but I think I'll take Tuesday off instead. Jilda is off that day and we may go see a move, which is something we haven't done in a year or two.
We're also going to get our passports renewed. You can never tell when we might get the chance to go abroad.
Happy Sunday.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mama Sitting

You can't really fathom the full significance of the game show network until you've experienced it at a REALLY high volume. It's so much more intense and it actually takes on a different meaning as the sound approaches 110 db. 
My teeth start to rattle at about 95 db but my skin doesn't start getting taunt until the sound exceeds 100.
I start hearing voices below the roar (kind of like listening to the Beatles album backwards) as the sound is right for mama.
My mom requires 120 db or better to watch the Newly Wed game, so to avoid permanent damage to my ear drums and auditory canal, I wear sound-proof ear muffs.  This too can be problematic because she also like the temperature REALLY hot.
So after a few hours of mama-sitting, not only are my ears ringing like the Liberty Bell, but my tennis shoes are smoking.
When I mention this to my sister, she says huh?  Her hearing is no better than jet fighter engine mechanic.
My mom has gotten to the age where she has very few pleasures in life. She can't hear, she can't see, and most of her food tastes like burnt cardboard. She likes TV but she likes it loud.
Hey, wearing ear muffs is a small price to pay for all she has done for me.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Dry Run

I had the day off today so I did a dry run for my retirement. I "slept in" and didn't get up until 6:30 a.m. I read the paper, drank coffee, listened to Mozart, and did yoga.
Not once did I look at the messages on my pager nor did I log onto my company laptop and play catchup with my work email.
I took the dogs for a walk. The wind was blowing out of the west and was fairly cool, but the sun was warm on this cloudless day.
I climbed up into the loft of the barn, and hung my feet out the hayloft. I sat there silently for a long time. I wasn't really in a hurry to do anything and it felt really good.
I know there's no way I'll kick my feet up for very long, but I can tell you today was a gift. I have a lot of chores I want to do in a few weeks. Back in the 60's before we owned the property, the lady who owned the place rented it out to folks.
Some of those tenants,  threw old appliances, tires and other junk off down into the hollow.  You don't really notice it in the summer time because of all the honey suckle, dogwood, and buckeye bushes, but when the leaves die down in the fall, you can see the debris. 
It's my intention to get all that stuff out of there. I'd also like to build a stone cold tub in the old spring that runs year around. Then in July and August, we can go down and have a picnic while sitting in a tub of nice cool water.
I'm also moving forward with my new novel. I have an outline and I've been writing in fits and starts, but that's because I really didn't have much free time to write. I'd get in a groove, then not have time to write again for a week. That's not a good way to write.
Anyhow, I'm excited. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Interesting Time

I had meetings on my calendar today, but I didn't attend any of them.  I spent my time going through my files, documenting projects, and handing them off to other members of my team.
I started this week going through my desk and cabinets sorting through years of stuff. Coffee mugs, key chains, and old pictures. I'm tossing a bunch of stuff, but there are some things that mean a great deal to me that I can't bear to let go.
I'm getting phone calls and emails from old friends. No one can believe I'm leaving. I've been in that building so long that I've become almost like a fixture...a comfortable old sofa that you hate to let go.
For the most part, I'm really happy, but there's sadness too. A few more weeks and my time there will be only a memory. It's an interesting time.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Time To Speak

Jilda and I had an opportunity to attend career day at Sumiton School this past week. It was a delightful experience. The kids were well behaved and for the most part, very interested in what we had to say about life and work.
To be honest, I was surprised by how we were received by the kids, and encouraged about the future when these kids move into the workplace.
I also saw something that concerns me deeply. 
Sumiton Middle School was built for 600 students, but this year’s enrollment is more than 800 students. 
If this school were a prison, the federal government would be all over the county like spaghetti on a white shirt because of the overcrowding. There would be fines and penalties and mandatory release of criminals back into the mainstream. The national media would set up camp like they were waiting for the next sighting of a UFO.
Instead, we squeeze the kids into trailers set up on the property for “temporary” classrooms.  I counted 16 trailers currently on the property. Many of these units don’t have bathrooms so children have to leave the trailer and go to the main school building to use a restroom. 
The future of America rests in the hands of our children and I believe one of our biggest responsibilities is to provide an environment where kids can learn. The Good Book tells us “you reap what you sow,” and I’m concerned about the seeds we are planting right now.
Beyond the functionality and esthetics of the trailers, is the safety issue.  A year or so ago, a tornado hit Enterprise High School in south Alabama killing eight students. This was in a solid structure. Closer to home, another twister destroyed Carbon Hill Elementary School on Nov. 2, 2002. Thankfully, that outbreak was on Sunday and no kids were harmed.
 It gives me nightmares to think of what would happen if a tornado struck the 16 trailers at Sumiton Elementary School.
The school has a tornado plan where they move kids out of the trailers and into the main building whenever the weather service issues tornado warnings, but there have been times when tornadoes strike with little or no warning.
Some call Walker County  “Tornado Alley” and information listed on seems to add weight to that claim.  “Walker County historical area-adjusted tornado activity is above Alabama state average. It is 4.1 times above overall U.S. average.
Tornadoes in this county have caused 9 fatalities and 51 injuries recorded between 1950 and 2004.”
Here’s the thing, it is not my intention to point fingers or try to lay blame. This problem didn’t happen overnight. Times are tough and money is tight. I’m sure everyone else in the county would love for all of our children to attend a nice, safe school, but there is always the issue of where to find the money. When the economy goes south, everyone has to make difficult choices, local politicians are no different.
As most of you know, a lot of my columns tend to be humorous. I try to stay out of politics, but this is no laughing matter. 
To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, There is a time for everything – a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.  I believe now is the time to speak up for our children.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Old Friend

I got a call from my old friend Kirk Trachy this evening. I haven't talked to him in some time but he called to say that he went back to Panama for a visit recently.
He and I were there in 1972 - 73 when the U.S. controlled the Canal Zone. He said some things had changed, but some things remained the same.
I've looked at Panama with Google Earth, but it's hard to tell what's really going on down there. When we were there, the towns inside the Zone were kept immaculate much like military bases here in the states. Palm trees with exotic birds, clay tiled roofs on all the buildings and manicured lawns.
He said a lot of those areas are now in disrepair, but some areas are as good or better than we remembered.
I can't wait until he uploads some photos and video.
Jilda and I are making plan

Monday, March 01, 2010

Turn a Page

The boss called me while I was sitting in the lunchroom today. I finished my soup and when back to my desk to take the call. 
I was ninety nine percent sure the paperwork would go through but the finality of the words were still sobering.
After twenty seven years of driving to that building, my work there is finished. March 22nd is my last day. 
The rest of the day I fielded phone calls and emails as the news made its way through our groups and other groups with which I have worked for many years.
I sat in on some meetings, but my boss told me to start transitioning my work load to others. That part will be difficult because our team is already thin, but it's a great group of folks and I'm sure I'll never hear a word of complaint.
I plan to take some time off. Really, do some fishing, work around the farm, get the garden ready for spring and contemplate the next chapter of my life.
As the song goes, I'm getting ready to turn a page.

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