Saturday, December 31, 2011

Strange and Wonderful Year

This year has been strange and wonderful. I spent time today scanning my blog entries for the year to get a feel for where I've been.
One event that weighed heavy was the tornadoes that devastated the state on April 27. It did something that no other event has done since I've been blogging -- It caused me to miss several days of updates because we had no power or Internet access for almost two weeks.
It seems that I struggled more in 2011. The writing was harder. Both Jilda and I have had more health issues this year than ever before in our lives.
But a lot of good things happened this year too. That seems to be the way life is -- ebb and flow. 
The Birds recorded a song entitled Turn, Turn, Turn that has always resonated with me, but I listened to the song again today and it seemed even more profound.
One of the biggest gifts that I've received is that I doubled the number of blog friends this year. 
In looking back at my goals from last year, I accomplished about 70% of what I said I wanted to do. A couple of biggies didn't get finished -- Jilda and I wanted to complete our singer/songwriter CD, and I wanted to have my second book printed by year's end. Neither of these happened. 
They are at the top of the list and they will happen in 2012.
I feel good about the coming year. We plan to perform more, write more, spend more time visiting with friends old and new. We're renewing our passports, so it is our intention to travel during the coming year.
I hope that 2012 is the best year ever for you all and that you have the opportunity to do something remarkable.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

I mentioned a few posts back that I was struggling with a decision and I simply left it at that. But I was considering a run for public office.
The county commissioner for our district is retiring and my brother-in-law suggested that I run. I laughed at first, but the more I looked into it, the better it sounded.
The pay was better than I would have thought, the hours were flexible, and I'd get a chance to work on some projects near and dear to my heart -- getting outside industry to come into our county; and recycling.
Several politicians told me that with my name recognition in our county (I've done a column in the biggest daily paper in the county for years), that I'd bee a shoo-in.
I sat down and did pros and cons, I did mind maps, and I gathered a lot of information by talking to people.
I struggled with the decision, but in the end, I decided that public office wasn't for me.
I think it takes people with thicker skin that I have. Governing is about choosing and it takes a lot of skill to do things that create value for the largest number of people. I think I'd have a hard time dealing with unhappy constituents when I'd done the best job I could possibly do with the resources available to me.
It occurred to me that I can do the projects near and dear to me on a volunteer basis and thus avoid the conflict of unhappy voters.
When I finally told Jilda of my decision, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Here's the thing -- the grass is always greener in places where you're not standing.
If I'd decided to become the commissioner, I would have had to let go of some of the things I love doing.
I wouldn't be able to be on the river early enough to see the mist rising on the water and hear trout hitting flies on the top of the water.
I wouldn't be able to have as many long weekends with friends, or spend as much time on the beach.
I'm retired now. I commuted at least an hour to and from work for over 32 years, it's OK to slow down, pull over, and watch the setting sun.
Having shared my decision, I actually feel taller.
So, you all heard it here first -- The Rickster is NOT running for office.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time Moves On

You know when your young, age is such a foreign and distant concept. I can remember, when I was 20, trying to imagine myself at 60 and I simply could not conjure up an image.
Never would I have believed that my hair would have gone south. (I'm still a little pissed about that:))
So we went about our daily routines, working, studying, writing songs, and playing music....and time moved on.
Things weren't always easy, and money was often tight, but we managed. We both worked two jobs, and found a way to make ends meet.
There were times she got so angry with me, that she could have carved me up with a paring knife and left me twitching in a laundry hamper. There were times I fantasized about a similar fate for her too, but those times were few. We learned to say "I'm sorry" and time moved on.
Later on, we both went back to school and our job situations improved dramatically. We sold the trailer and built our home. 
We continued doing the things we loved. We traveled, made new friends, played music, and grew up together....and time moved on.
Then last week a routine doctor's visit fired a shot across our bow. You would not believe the kinds of things your mind can conjure up when it's not sure what it's up against.
So, yesterdays news was a blessing, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the comments we received. I am humbled.
You can rest assured that we are ever mindful that time moves on, and it is our intention to never forget that fact.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I've been a little subdued for the last week. When Jilda went to the pulmonologist for her regular visit, he found something odd in her blood work.
He referred her to a hematologist. What freaked us out was that he kept saying he'd found something abnormal in her blood work, but it wasn't his speciality. He said he'd let the specialist explain.
When we looked the doctor up, we found that she was an oncologist. So, the last several days were pensive.
I went in with her today and the doctor was younger than us (most are these days) but it was obvious from the start she was good.
She told us that Jilda has a problem with her immune system, but that it's not cancer.  I could have hugged the doctor.
She ordered more tests to isolate the problem and develop a treatment strategy.
I can tell you this -- after spending several days thinking Jilda could have leukemia or some other form of cancer, finding out that she doesn't was like hitting the jackpot.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of Year Stuff

We haven't seen the sun since before Christmas. After the drought a few years ago, I made a promise to the Universe that I would never wish the rain would stop.
After coffee this morning, the rain did stop, but the wind out of the south west began to blow making the pine trees in our yard sway like dancing lovers.
Jilda's boss bought her a wind chime for Christmas and I put it up on the side porch yesterday. When I fed the birds this morning, I heard the new chime along with all the old ones we've had for some time. I love the sound of chimes in the wind.
The rain moved off to the east, but I had to wear a coat and a toboggan when we walked. At times I could still feel a cold mist on my face and it felt like I was standing in the surf on the beach.
Jilda took this week off from work. I can't remember the last time she took a week off work.
We've had a good time the last few days. We've visited old friends, straightened up in the house, and done things we've put off for too long.
We're driving into Birmingham tomorrow for a doctor's appointment for Jilda, but afterwards we're meeting our friends Kaye and Jamie for lunch at the Cajun Steamer. I think it's a chain restaurant, but they have po boys and I NEVER pass up a chance to have a po boy.
We've also spent time this week reflecting on the past year, and making plans for the new year.
I've been collecting pictures, and other stuff for my new Vision Board, and I know Jilda's been working on her's too.
Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me in High School

I mentioned this little project a few weeks ago. I dreamed about it and woke up long enough to do a quick outline.
The school I'm working with is the "trade school". The students who attend Walker County Center of Technology are usually not the popular kids -- they're not cheerleaders, football players, or scholars.  These kids, for the most part, are the invisible ones. They are the ones that get pushed around by the more popular students.
But if I were in high school right now, these kids would be my friends. I feel connected to them.
I decided to do a little movie to encourage them, and this is the first draft. I'm sure you all probably have things that you could add.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing Y'all, A Merry Christmas - Column from Christmas Day

When we were kids we always opened gifts at home on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas morning, the family loaded up and headed to Townley where my grandmother Ferguson lived.

Mama and Papa Ferguson had 13 kids. I’m not sure how many grandkids they had, but if you could get the family to vote for you, you could win an election in Walker County.

Papa Ferguson died when I was young and the only memory I have of him is the one that lives in faded photographs. My mama had a handkerchief that was in Papa’s pocket when he died. He’d put four pennies in one corner, wrapped the handkerchief around the coins and tied a knot in it to keep them secure. I hadn’t thought of that handkerchief for years until this moment.

Mama Ferguson never remarried and lived alone in an unpainted house on the hill overlooking the community. It was an old camp house, with a front porch so high you’d need a parachute if you jumped off of it.

When you dropped in to visit Mama Ferguson, you’d most often find her sitting in front of her black and white TV. Her hearing got bad in later years so you could hear that TV when you drove up in her yard. Inside it was so loud the windows rattled. 

On Christmas Day we all started arriving just before noon and by lunchtime, the house was buzzing with kids, grandkids, and other kinfolk who came in from all over the county. 

Firecrackers were big then, and the kids and everybody had a pocket full. I remember spending most of Christmas afternoon dancing and dodging firecrackers. 

Mama Ferguson died while I was still in high school and Christmas Day changed for my mother’s family. We no longer had that anchor so it seemed each of the 13 families were set adrift to fend for themselves on Christmas Day.

New traditions were born for the Watson family. We still opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, but instead of it just being my immediate family, all of daddy’s brothers and sisters as well as their kids came to our house to open Christmas presents. It was a madhouse.

A few years later when my cousin Bruce Levan became a preacher, he used to read the Christmas story from the Bible to everyone gathered at our house. Normally it was so noisy you couldn’t hear yourself think, but when Bruce read the story, you could hear a pin drop. I’ve never heard that story read better. I bet his kids and grandkids still love to hear him read the Christmas story.

But time marches on and loved ones die. Each time someone passes, it leaves an empty place in the family, and things naturally change.

Like every family, Jilda and I’ve lost a lot of loved ones through the years and I’ve noticed these last few years that our Christmases are much simpler and aren’t nearly as noisy as they once were.

These days we spend a lot of time on Christmas Day watching old holiday movies, listening to Christmas music, but we both remember with fondness all those noisy gatherings at Christmas with our loved ones.

Both Jilda and I want to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

We watched the old Miracle on 34th Street tonight. Tomorrow we'll watch It's a Wonderful Life. These are two of my favorite movies.
I thought I'd do a short post tonight with my top five favorite Christmas Movies, and top five Christmas songs.

5. Scrooge (the one with Patrick Stewart)
4. Holiday
3. The Bishop's Wife
2. Miracle on 34th Street
1. It's a wonderful Life


5. Blue Christmas
4. Merry Christmas from the Family
3. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
2. Noel (Tori Amos' version)
1. Silent Night

It's been a great day today. We've visited friends and family. Jilda and I exchanged gifts tonight, and now it's time to go to bed.

Tomorrow is about food. Please don't worry about us....we won't go hungry this Christmas.
I hope you all have a remarkable Christmas Day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Coast

I love the coast. We live a little over 4 hours from the gulf coast and we've been there more times that I can count. The sand on the gulf is white as sugar making it hard to see on bright summer days.
When I got drafted, I had a chance to see the coastline in the northeast. The sand wasn't as white, but the rocks and the foaming surf were just as soothing to the soul.
Then later I had the good fortune to work for a company that sent me all over the country.
This photograph was taken at Pebble Beach about 10 years ago. Our niece Samantha (Jordan's mother) was about 14 and had never traveled more than a hundred miles from Empire.
She boarded the 727 airplane with us and flew to San Francisco. 
She said one of the most profound things I'd ever heard come from a child's mouth -- "You know, flying sucks the beauty right out of you."
She shot this photo of Jilda and me. 
My birthday is in January, so after the holidays, we're going to spend my birthday on the coast. 
I can't wait because it's been much too longs since I've smelled the salt air and listened to a raging surf.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I hope Santa is good to you all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blast from the past

When I was young, I thought I could whup the world.  ARRGGGG, don't mess with me or you'll receive a butt whuppin' you won't soon forget -- seems to be the look on my face in this picture.
I was standing in front of our beloved 1956 Ford. It's one of the prettiest cars my family ever owned.
It was two-town green. The top was the color of lime sherbet, and the bottom was the color of the forest in summer.
I spent a lot of time in this car. I'd sit for hours in that care pretending I was driving all over the country, while the Ford was parked in front of our house.
I can still smell the vinyl (?) seat covers and the cigarettes that daddy has snuffed out in the ashtray.
The only problem with the Ford is that it didn't like cold weather and often wouldn't crank. My daddy spoke badly of the Ford and those who'd designed and built it.
One day when I came home, there was a new car in the driveway. The only explanation was when daddy said, I need something that will crank in the winter time.
So, there. A blast from the past.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Day In Paradise

Today was errand day. I was sitting in the orthopedic doc's waiting room at 7:45 this morning. I'm having a procedure which involves needles as big as kindergarten pencils shooting a substance under my kneecaps. Even the doctor winced as he gave the injection. I don't recall ever having so much fun that early in the morning.
After that I ran by to see my mom. I rarely go by that early. I think at first she thought I was a burglar in her room. She's gotten a bunch of cards and several local churches have left her gifts. I am humbled by all the kindness shown to her.
After that, I ran by and delivered autographed copies of my books to the patients who still read at the other nursing homes in Jasper and Cordova.
The next stop was to pick up pay checks. That's one of my favorite things to do. On the way into Birmingham, the clouds parted and I saw the sun for the first time since Sunday.
I smiled as I reached above the sun visor and put on my sun shades. All of a sudden, the world looked like a happier place.
After I collected my money, I ran by the Apple store and got Jilda a new iPhone. Her's old phone was about three years old and still working, but she was due for an upgrade.
I wanted to get the phone and put it in her Christmas stocking, but in order to get the upgrade, they had to deactivate her old phone. I didn't want her traveling these country roads the next few days without a phone so I gave her an early Christmas present.
All in all, it's been a good day.
I have a big decision that I've got to make over the Christmas holiday -- more later.
Y'all have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jordan's Christmas Card

Last week we kept our great nephew Jordan. I had stories due and Jilda was painting Christmas cards, but even though he's only 3, he's not high maintenance at all.
He watched cartoons for a while and then he went to watch Jilda paint. He asked questions, but he was fascinated just watching her work.
When she asked if he wanted to paint a card for his mom and his papa, his face lite up. Jilda dished him out a little paint in a container, and gave him a few brushes. She explained a few things about color and technique. He listened and then he went to work. This card was for his mom.
When he finished it up I could hear the excitement coming from the other room.
When I went in there to get the scoop, his face was beaming. "I did this for my mom," he said proudly. I ooooo'd and aaaaah'd over his artwork.
I'm not sure about you, but I'd love to get a nice hand painted Christmas card like this one :)
I think he's planning to sell limited edition autographed lithographs, donating the profits to his daycare so that they can buy more books and painting supplies.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Morning Sky

I woke up at 6:30 this morning which is a little late for me.  I eased out of bed and went into the kitchen to make coffee. I try to be stealthy in the mornings so that Jilda can sleep while the coffee brews.
I stepped onto the deck to dump the coffee grounds and although the sun had not peek over the horizon yet, it was about to make its debut.
Just above the horizon was a huge cloud that was backlit by the sun and it looked like someone had spilled a glass of orange juice right there in the sky.
I grabbed my phone and tried to shoot a picture, but the light was so strange, the camera didn't know to deal with it so the photos didn't happen. Well, that's not exactly true, because with a little help from one of the wacky apps on my iPhone, this is what I saw ..... kind of.
I'm not sure what I did before I got my iPhone, but I think coming up with ideas for blog entries were harder.
Now, when I'm hitting bottom, I can pull out a photo, slam it around in some of the photo apps and WaLa.
We're on the home stretch for Christmas. I hope you all can finish all the things you need to do before the weekend.
We have a few things but we're so close we can smell the stable.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tuscaloosa Sunset

Our friends Jerry and Carol invited us for dinner this evening so we headed out after visiting my mom this afternoon.
It's over an hour's drive on two-lane roads that wind southward. The terrain is hilly and the trees form a canopy over stretches of road in the hollows. It's almost dark enough to require headlights, but when you go over some of the crests, it looks like you can almost see the ocean in the distance. (That would be a miracle on the order of the loaves and the fishes, because the ocean is another four hours to the south.)
At one point I saw huge clouds grey as gun barrels off to the east and when we rounded a curve and the sunset was stunning. It looked like the embers of a fireplace burning blue, orange and red. I grabbed this shot with my iPhone.
Dinner was great, but what was even better is that we met two new friends.
Bob is working on his PhD, he's a yoga instructor, and plays bass. His wife Brandi is a volunteer who books talent for the Kentuck Festival in Northport, which is one of the best art festivals in the south. The couple has a five month old baby.
We spent the evening eating, talking about music, education, and doing meaningful work.
We hated to leave, but we didn't want to wear out our welcome, plus Tuscaloosa is an hour and a half away from home sweet home.
But this weekend has been incredible. It seems that we often get caught in a rut and each day begins to look like the next. It's when you're in a rut that the muse heads off to Tahiti to dance naked in the sands and drink mai tais while you're slogging through your day cursing your keyboard.
The moral to this story is to strive each day to take a short vacation even if it's through the pages of a good book, or music that lifts you up, or art that rocks the boat.
Life is short -- if you did something new every day, you'd have to live to be a billion years old to get it all done. This weekend was a good start.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No Clue

Sometimes words flow like booze at a bachelor party and sometimes they play hide and seek. Tonight I've  started writing three entries, all of which seemed shallow and lame.
Part of the problem is that I'm tired, and part might be attributed to that bug they've discovered in people who use neti pots with tap water. I have a neti pot and I've always used tap water. Now it feels like there'e a microscopic critter up there in my brain eating out all my wiring.
I'm going to stop writing now before I drift too far from the shore. Y'all have a great Sunday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winding Down

The year is winding down. I've spent most of my time today tying up loose ends. It's been touch and go because a lot of people are out of the office until after the first of the year, but I knew that before I headed out today.
I've spent time today collecting my thoughts trying to imagine what next year will bring. I know Jilda and I have several projects that we'd love to finish during the coming year, and there's still the issue of international travel that we promised ourselves for years that we'd do.
Our friends Tom and Judy are headed to Prague on Christmas day. That's a destination that we've talked about for years. The city survived the destruction of WWII, and its history runs deep.
I must admit that a little twinge of envy coursed through me as Tom talked about their trip. Jilda and I both love to travel, and we don't for reasons that neither of us can articulate.
Having said this, we're going next Tuesday to renew our passports. As I always say, we can't travel internationally on expired passports.
Jilda is taking off the week after Christmas so we're going to spend some time relaxing and recharging our batteries, but we also want to put together a game plan for making 2012 the best year yet for us both.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Game

Jilda had a routine doctor visit today and I drove her to the appointment. I'd gotten caught up with my writing and we'd talked about doing a little Christmas shopping if the appointment didn't last too long.
It took longer than we expected so we blew off the shopping and headed home so she could start painting the Christmas cards.
Just off Corridor X a city policeman had a woman pulled off the shoulder of the road. His lights weren't flashing and he was leaning on the door with both forearms on her window (which was rolled down).
He was standing close enough to kiss her.
Jilda and I have this game that we play every now and then and it's called -- "What's Going On There."
I fired the first salvo when I said, What's Going On There?
Jilda said, I'm not sure exactly but he's leaning against her car with his "cute butt stance."
I wasn't sure what that meant, but she assured me that every women who follows my blog would know exactly what she meant.
Jilda also observed that the driver of the car was about twenty five, blonde, and smiling at the young officer.
Rick: He's saying -- Ms. What's your hurry, is something on fire?
Jilda: She's saying -- It's a little too early to say officer.
Rick: He's saying -- Well, we have laws in this town, you must have been doing 66 in a 65 mph zone. We have children in this town who play on this Interstate.
Jilda: She's saying -- I think there's something wrong with your equipment.
Rick: He's saying -- I promise you all my equipment is in perfect working order.
Jilda: She's saying -- That's what they ALL say.
Rick: He's saying -- Have you ever been in handcuffs?
Jilda: She's saying -- Not in the day time. Am I under arrest officer? Because if I am, I need to call my daddy whose a federal judge.
Rick: He's saying -- I'm gonna let you off with a warning little lady. You drive safe now, you hear?

I think this game was a draw but I'll let you all decide.

BTW: Glee Give a Note announced today that Phil Campbell was one of the winners in the contest.
Not only did the high school win the $50,000 but they also awarded the elementary school $25,000.
Jilda and I both received notes from our friends at Phil Campbell thanking us all for the support that help lift them to #1.
She said the excitement at the high school was off the charts today when it was announced.
I would like to say that I am so grateful for all of you who helped lift this tiny school up and make this award possible. I'm in your debt.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Parties

I don't remember when it started, but somehow Jilda and I dropped off the radar. For years our dance cards were always punched around Christmas. We had to take care in accepting invitations, because going to one party meant skipping another one. It was tough, but we managed. 
It was not uncommon for me to gain 10 pounds during the holidays.
But something happened the last few years and I'm not sure why, but we stopped receiving invitations to Christmas parties.
I'm fairly certain I've always showered before partying in the past so I don't think it was a hygiene issue. Most of my jokes are fairly tame, and I almost always stopped swilling wine after the third magnum of Red Daggar (just kidding mom). So, I'm not sure why the invitations dried up.
I was about to get really concerned this year when two invitations came in this week. I must say I breathed a sigh of relief.
We had a Christmas open house here for many years. It was not uncommon for 50 of our closest friends and neighbors to show up on the Sunday before Christmas Eve to visit. It was always a great deal of work, but we both loved the party.
But when Jilda's mom got sick a few years ago, she pretty much lived with her mom. The open house was one casualty during that dark period. Come to think of it, our Christmas invitations waned during those years as well.
So you can imagine our excitement at receiving invitations this week. Hopefully this will turn the tide and we'll be back on the A-List next year.
 I hope you all have a chance to celebrate Christmas with all your friends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celestial Shows

I try to show up for the celestial shows. Lunar eclipses are fun, but I've seen a few total solar eclipses too. I remember one in about 1984. We hadn't been in our house very long because I remember observing the event sitting on the back steps. The reason I remember the timeframe is because we didn't have those steps long, because we built a deck.
I had a pair of my dad's old welding goggles that I used to watch the event. The goggles look like the ones worn by early motorcycle riders, except when you look through these goggles, even at mid day, the world looked as dark as a cemetery at midnight.
Jilda and I sat out there and we'd take turns peering through the goggles, watching the moon inch across the sky obscuring all but a thin ring of fire. I wish we'd taken pictures, because I'm sure they would put a smile on our faces today -- thirty years later.
During the moments of the total eclipse, it looked erie. Our roosters began crowing and headed toward the roost even though it was midday.
Even in the 1980's we knew beforehand that there would be an eclipse, but I wonder what people thought before newspapers and TV's warned of celestial events.
You may be wondering what started me down this path, but as I was sitting here tapping keys, trying to come up with an idea, I glanced at the Google Hot Trends List and I saw geminid meteor showers was one of the trending topics.
Once I read that, I closed my laptop and I stepped out on the deck to have a look. Within 10 seconds, ZIP -- I saw a meteor streak across the sky like a lightening bug taking steroids.
I stood out there a while longer but I didn't see any more shooting stars.
We see so many mundane things from day to day as we trudge through our lives, that it's easy to lose site of the fact that we live in a garden. And often the greatest show on earth can be viewed from your back steps.

Monday, December 12, 2011

13 Things I love About Christmas

It's 13 days before Christmas and here's my list of things I love about Christmas (time, place, and reality not withstanding):
13. The lights -- both tasteful and gaudy. I've been to Plano, Texas during Christmas and people there spent more than my annual salary on lights. They were very nice, but I've also driven through trailer parks where the people had much less money to spend, so they used their imaginations to make the best of what they had. It doesn't take a lot of money to do something extraordinary.
12. Elvis -- I'll Have a Blue Christmas. Never fails to make me want to take a hand full of pain pills and drink a bottle of Red Daggar wine...but I love that song.
11. Black Friday -- You couldn't pay me enough to go near a Walmart on Black Friday, but reading about all the weird stuff that happens during that sale, makes me feel strangely normal (even after reading # 12)
10. Santa hats -- even George Clooney would look goofy in a Santa hat. Whenever I see anyone in a Santa hat it makes me smile. I wore one in the Christmas parade last week and the kids thought I was Santa.
9. Sears catalogs -- When I was a kid, I spent countless hours drooling over a Wish book. My first guitar came out of that catalog.
8. Bubble lights -- again, when we were kids, my mom bought a strand of bubble lights. It took them a while to heat up and bubble like an alka seltzer, but I loved those lights.
7. Christmas movies -- It's a Wonderful Life. Seeing all his friends and neighbors coming to his rescue at the end of the movie makes me weep. I love that show.
6. Firecrackers -- Yes, pyrotechniques was a huge part of Christmas when I was a kid. All my friends started shooting firecrackers on Christmas day and didn't stop until New Years. Go figure.
5. Decorating the Christmas tree. This is a fun event at the Watson household. I look forward to it each year.
4. Christmas cookies -- We always have our nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews over to cook and decorate Christmas cookies. Well actually, Jilda facilitates all the actual work, I usually take pictures, observe, and spend a lot of time smiling.
3. Fruit cake -- I'm not talking about the kind you buy at Sam's, but the kind my mama baked. Hers had fruit like the mass market ones you buy, but she also put in toasted nuts and a lot of other special ingredients. The bottom of her fruit cakes were toasted, but they were also sugary and caramelized which  boosted them to another level of scrumptious that was unattainable by the big boys.
2. Friends at Christmas -- often we see friends at Christmas that we haven't seen in while.
1. Christmas dinner -- At Ruby and Sharkey's house. Ruby and Sharkey were Jilda's parents. In 1968 when we first starte dating, I was 17 and she was 16. I was welcomed into their home that Christmas, but her daddy kept his best eye on me.
Her folks knew how to do Christmas up right. The presents were always secondary there. The focus was on family and food.
These are my 13 things I love about Christmas, what are some of yours?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cedar and Cookies

We put up our tree tonight.....well, to be more precise, Jilda put up our tree tonight. I wagged in crates of ornaments, lights, and other stuff from the shed. I also hauled in the live tree that we saved in a pot from last year.
I tend to get in the way of the creative Christmas decoration vibe, so I serve as the DJ. I spin the Christmas tunes and provide the nog to the chief decorator.
Our great nephew Jordan came over for a while to help decorate the tree, and Jilda stopped long enough to whip up a batch of Christmas cookies. The aroma of cookies baking is like no other. 
She always lets the kids decorate the cookies with sprinkles and stuff. He was so excited. By the time he'd left, he'd eaten about a half dozen cookies. It might be a long night at their house. 
I sipped a glass of Merlot, put an Elvis Christmas CD on the player, and blissed out as the tree took came together.
I'll do the exterior illumination tomorrow, and Jilda will decorate the fireplace, and the other stuff in the greatroom.
It's beginning to look like Christmas around here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I'd counted on my entry tonight being long and profound. I'm talking about words that painted pictures in the minds of readers so compelling they caused fundamental changes in lives -- changes that would help people to prosper and become better citizens of the planet. And in turn,  make the world a better place for us all.
But that didn't happen. I think it's because I ate too much peanut brittle earlier this morning. When I took a nap this afternoon, I woke up with a start and saw weird stuff out of the corner of my eyes. Kind of like I'd snorted a diet pill and chased it with a double expresso.
Have you ever woken up and wondered where you were? I have. Once when I was in the Army, I woke up mid morning, looked around, and nothing looked familier. I distinctly remember thinking, "where am I....and what's that smell?
.....OK, I think my train of thought might have derailed......
So, if you were expecting your life to change after visiting my blog tonight, I apologize. Come back tomorrow night and I promise you'll be enlightened.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Full Moon

The clouds moved out this afternoon and tonight when I went out on the deck to dump scraps in the chicken bucket, the stars looked like glitter on blue velvet. And off the the east, the moon looked like a shiny new nickel in the night sky.
High pressure is building so I'm betting the morning will bring a frosting that will look more like a thin dusting of snow.
The days are short now, but I just realized that in less than two weeks, the trend will shift and we'll start having a few more minutes of daylight to enjoy each day.
It looks like Jilda will have the week after Christmas off so we're trying to think of a get-a-way where we can have a change of scene.
There's nothing like going someplace new. Sometimes a change in geography shifts perspectives, and all of a sudden, you make connections you never knew existed. I'm looking forward to that.
I've run out of steam this evening. Earlier, I interviewed a woman who's youngest son has had cancer four times since he was 2 1/2. He's eleven now.
It's a sad, but inspiring story that I'll share once it's published.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Jilda and I were grand marshals of the Christmas Parade tonight. I wasn't quite sure what marshaling was all about, but apparently it's just riding in front of the parade and waving like the Queen of England.
It was actually more fun than I had imagined. Kids lined the parade route and their eyes were big as hubcaps as the Christmas floats passed. 
The temps were in the 30's so I was glad for the parade to be over. It ended at the community center and they had hot coco ready. It tasted good.

Our friend finished the video we did a few weeks ago and posted it on YouTube today. It's the first time we performed the song. We actually finished it on the way to his studio that day.
It's called - I Consider You Home

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Happy Belated Anniversary

An old cold rain fell for most of the night last night. I know because one of our old dogs has been sick the last few days and she woke me up several times to go outside.
As I stood in the doorway waiting for her, the wind out of the north sprayed a cool mist on my face.
When she came back in, I headed off to bed. I had to scrunch up to Jilda to warm up. Once I wake up in the night, it takes a while for my breathing to become steady enough drift off to sleep. 
While I was in that place between wakefulness and slumber, I heard waves of wind and rain rake the tin roof.
I had an early appointment with the knee doc to have x-rays and find out what I'm up against. As I drove in to Jasper, which is about 15 miles away, I began to see tiny bits of ice and snow hit my windshield. 
I turned the intermittent wiper blades down to an occasional swish, click, so that I could make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. They weren't.
The doc told me what I expected to hear -- early arthritis in the knees but nothing to cause alarm. He gave me some options, none of which involved fly fishing and needless to say, I was disappointed.
But the last several days, I've had the feeling that I was forgetting something. I have all my friends' birthdays and other special dates programmed on my phone and I check for those daily, but that's not what I was forgetting.
Tonight as I sat trying to think of a topic, it hit me -- December 2nd was my sixth anniversary as a daily blogger. 
I started on this journey in 2005. I'd been writing almost daily since 2002 but most of those efforts were on the alumni website that I maintain.
That first day in 2005, I had no idea where I was headed with the blog. All I knew was that it was a perfect place to write.
During the early years, I only had a handful of followers -- Grandpappy, my friend Ken Owens, and Ms. AB Soup from Australia to name a few.
I had no goal, not agenda, nor could I give anyone a good reason why I spent a few hours every night writing words that few people read.
What I should have said was that I don't write for others, I write for me. This blog is almost like a journal. 
I can look back at July 25th 2007 and see that I was having problems with my cable connection and had called "Bob with the cable company to get the scoop." 
The blog is a record of what has happened in my life for the last six years -- what I was thinking, what I did, and who I saw. There are also pictures that I took along the way.
There are very few days since December 2, 2005 that I haven't written. A few times when we were out of town and had no connection to the outside world. And then in the spring of this year when tornadoes ravaged Alabama and left us without power for weeks.
I guess what I'm saying is that I think blogging is important, if it wasn't, I wouldn't have spent so much of my life energy doing it.
So, happy belated anniversary to me. May I have the strength and courage to blog for many years to come.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

On this day in History

On this day in history, Thomas demonstrated the first gramophone recording of himself reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb. This was in 1877.
I smiled as I listened to this early recording and I wondered if old Tom had any inkling as to the impact of his inventions. He had so many inventions that it boggles the mind, but since I'm a singer/songwriter, the gramophone is of special interest to me.
Before Edison, all music had to be consumed in person. If you wanted to hear the New York Philharmonic, you had to go where they were playing, buy a ticket, and only then could you listen. 
Radio arrived on the scene about 40 years later which made it possible for more people to experience music, but recordings gave the gift of music much earlier.
By the early 1900's phonograph recordings became available commercially and were selling millions of units.
The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson have sold almost three billion records between them.  That's billion with a B. It's hard for me to wrap my arms around three billion records. I'm betting Edison would be surprised and pleased.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Losing Time ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

At my age, I can ill afford to lose any time, but I lost a day this week. No, it wasn't an anomaly in the space/ time continuum, and I certainly was not traveling faster than the speed of light. It was a stomach virus, and for a whole day, it caused me to form an unnatural connection to my commode. I remember nothing else.
When I wasn't “in there,” I was on the couch. My guts sounded as if I had an angry orangutan in there trying to gnaw its way out. At one point Jilda asked if I was “OK,” as she put more distance between us on the couch. All I could manage was – the jury is still out.
I'm betting they set atomic clocks by these little babies because exactly 24 hours later, I started feeling human again. But for all intent and purposes, I'd lost a day of my life.
The only thing that comes close to this feeling is once when I was in college at Jeff State. One of my rocket scientist buddies brought a fifth of Evan Williams Sour Mash whiskey to school in the dashbox of his car. 
We headed out to Turkey Creek after class to have a snort. I'd never drank before but I wanted to be hip, cool, and fit in with the guys. So I swigged liquor like it was lemonade. 
I remember laughing like a hyaena as my tongue got thicker. I felt a little smarter, taller, and better looking at first, but that was before the whiskey decided to come back out the way it went in. 
I don't remember who took me home, but I remembered telling my mama that I had a virus. 
Uncle Pete had brought us some coal that afternoon and stepped in to check me out. He knew instantly that I was as drunk as Cooter Brown, but he didn't rat me out. He told my mom that he'd had those viruses before and that he thought I'd live.
The next morning the smell of frying bacon turned my stomach and my brain felt like an 18-inch seam of Black Creek coal being drilled and blasted by miners.
I was young and had plenty of days to spare, but even then I hated losing a day of my life. 
I made a mental note to myself — Evan Williams is no friend of mine.
One positive thing that came out of my “lost day” this week – I was in “the moment.” I didn't think about tomorrow nor did I think about yesterday. All I could think about was how I was feeling at that moment. 
Now some folks are fast and loose with their time-wishes – some wish for Fridays or wish for summer. Some can't wait until they retire. 
I realize that for most, these are simply daydreams and they don't really want to fast forward their lives. But I believe every day is special. 
There is a poem that Bear Bryant often read entitled, “What Have I Traded?,” that goes like this:
This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or I can use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes this day will be gone, forever,
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss, good, not evil,
Success, not failure, in order that I shall not
Forget the price I paid for it.
The only thing I got from that lost day as a whiny couch slug is the idea for this column. 
But it reminded me that a day is a gift and should never be taken for granted.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


As a musician, my radar is always on. Without even realizing it, I'm always on the lookout for greatness.
Earlier this year, I experienced it when I heard the Decoys in Florence when they played behind Christine Ohlman.
Just sitting there listening to the music they played was a humbling experience because I've played for many years and I still don't know squat about playing. But these guys made it sound simple.
This weekend, we went to help our friend Edie, who is a motivational speaker, do a gig at a Christmas Gospel Music show at the Huntsville Coliseum.
They had several singers and groups and they were all quite good. But then they had the choral group from Lee College in Tennessee and these kids were remarkable.
I'd never heard of the headliner Larnelle Harris, so I had no expectations. I had to admit when the guy who introduced him said Larnelle had won 5 Grammies and 15 Dove Awards (I think). I sat up and listened. What I heard is one of the most remarkable voices I'd ever heard. He sang the hard Christmas songs. At one point in his show, he asked the kids from Lee College to join him to sing a few songs.
They'd never performed together so that part of the show was by the seat of their pants, but I can tell you it was like nothing I'd ever heard before. They wove a Christmas tapestry in front of us all.
After the show, our friend Edie who knew Larnelle from when he sang with her cousin Elvis (the real one) introduced us to him. He was kind and gracious.
Since I was with Edie, I had the run of the stage area, so I shot tons of pictures. I particularly like the one above.
I hope you all have a remarkable week.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Running on Empty

We've been out of town today but we're on the road again before sunrise tomorrow morning headed for home. Jilda's family has a Christmas gathering tomorrow and all the extended family gets together.
It's always a lot of fun to see everybody.
I've worked as a grunt today. One of our friends needed some help with a speaking engagement so we gave her a hand.
Tonight we're both running on empty.
I hope you all have a great Saturday evening.

Friday, December 02, 2011

I had fun at the book event today. It was a long day but the library did a great job promoting the event. We didn't have a huge crowd, but everyone that came bought books.
I sold a lot more that I expected I'd sell, but I would have sold a ton of new books if I'd had them. Every day's a school day.
One of the library folks shot this photo (that's me on the far right). Young Hannah (holding my book) has a huge collection of books autographed by the author. Her mom is a publisher and Hannah spends a lot of time at book fairs and other events.
She's a delightful child who is an avid reader. I'd be willing to bet that one day she too will be a writer.
A lot of the people who came through today wanted to talk about the process of writing.
I gave several people the same spiel I always give -- if you want to write to make money, save yourself some time and go buy a Powerball ticket.
I suggested that they start a blog to help hone their craft and build discipline. I suggested they read voraciously, and study the craft.
At the end of the day, I'd be surprised if anyone listened and even more surprised if anyone listend and actually took my advice.
All of my blogger friends know -- growing as a writer takes time, it takes study, and it takes practice. Yes there are a few who write beautifully without any of the above. There have been individuals who've written books that were instant successes and they went on to become obscenely wealthy.  But I think it's easier to buy a lottery ticket and hit the Powerball Jackpot.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Signing Books

I'll be signing books with several other local authors tomorrow at the local library. I had hoped that my latest work would be in print by now, but that didn't happen. 
My editor sent me the revisions and all I had to do was make the changes on the original chapters. But that didn't happen. 
I thought his people would contact my people. There would be creative meetings, and meetings to discuss budgets and marketing plans --  with interns hustling around as if they had hungry rats in their underoos, but again, that didn't happen.
I envisioned the final copy of my book showing up by FedEx one morning as I lounged on the screen porch sipping a cup of Joe and reading the funny papers, but as you may have guessed, that didn't happen.
Apparently, you have to actually make the changes and then provide the finished project to the printer. Who knew? 
So tomorrow, I'm headed to an event with a room full of other writers who haven't been slugs and have new books to sell. 
I can almost hear the snarky comments from my friends and fellow writers -- "Your new book looks just like your old book." 
Well I've got an ace in the hole. While they're taking rubber checks and making change out of greasy lunch bags,  I'll be taking credit card payments via my iPhone. We'll see who has the last laugh.

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