Saturday, March 31, 2012


I'm almost afraid to go out and check our fruit trees. We had a gig tonight in Cullman, which is about 25 miles north of here.  
Jilda surveyed the sky before we left and she said, as we loaded the guitars, the sky looks like hail.
We were on Interstate 65, tooling along at 70 mph, when up ahead we saw cars braking, and pulling to the side of the road.
"What the heck?" I thought. All of a sudden I began to hear sleet, ticking off the hood of the car. A few moments later, the ticking turned in to a pinging sound. I pulled to the side of the road with about 30 other cars, and soon hail, some as big as golfballs, began playing the old Volvo like a kettle drum.
That lasted for a good ten minutes. Jilda took the gig book and put it over her head in case the hail got even bigger.
I said some "wordy durds." 
Then as quickly as it started, it moved off to the south ------ toward our house.
That's why I'm worried about our fruit trees. I'll go out at first light and survey the damage. I'm hoping the hail didn't move through here, but only time (and a little daylight) will tell.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Big Money

Someone told me Interstate 65 was bumper-to-bumper north of Huntsville with people heading to Tennessee to buy a lotto ticket. At last count, the jackpot was over $600 million dollars. That's over a half a billion.
After taxes you could pocket in the neighborhood of $350 million dollars. 
I have to say, that if I banked over a third of a billion dollars, I'd be encouraged. I wouldn't be silly enough to say that my life wouldn't change, because it would have to. 
I mean, I know I'd get my transmission fixed on my old truck, and I'm pretty sure I'd replace my lawnmower.  But I'd like to think I'd be smart with the money and use it wisely, but who knows what that kind of cash would do.
If you want to read a sad story, read about Jack Whittaker, a successful West Virginia businessman whose life went south when he won $315 million dollars in the Powerball lottery.
In the scheme of things, it's not too much of a pain to drive a truck that groans a little when you shift gears and I could always go green and buy a goat when my grass gets too high.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out of Phase

I've been a little out-of-sorts today. Have you ever felt like that? It's almost like being just a little out of phase.
I don't feel bad, I'm not hurting, I'm not sad, but mentally I'm about as sharp as a spoon.
It's been a while since I've felt this way and I have no idea what brings it on, but normally it doesn't last long.
My column was due today and I struggled to put the words on paper. I wound up taking the blog entry on the Flag Retirement Ceremony and expanding it.
That's the beauty of writing a daily blog. You have lots of topics from which to choose. You post it on your blog and if that dog hunts, you turn it into a column.
I think I'll have a cup of hot tea and catch up on my reading.
Y'all have a great evening.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Fish

I had appointments in Birmingham before 8 a.m. this morning, so I headed out before sunrise. The good thing about starting that early is that I finished up just after lunch. I interviewed a couple that met in Vietnam in 1969. He was in the Army and she was in the Red Cross entertainment group. After their tours were up, they eloped to Switzerland and were married by a magistrate. They later toured Europe and North Africa in a VW Bus.
I also interviewed a veteran of the Korean war. Both interviews were very interesting.
As I drove home, I made an executive decision: I decided to go fishing.
I loaded the truck and headed to the river. I was waste deep in the water by 2 p.m. I saw a lot of fish, and some swam close enough to stomp, but that didn't seem very sportsmanly.  I tried in vain to catch them on a dry fly, but that didn't happen.
I sat on a rock as big as a Buick, and warmed in the evening sun like a big ol' turtle. It felt good to be on the water.
Even though the fish weren't biting, I couldn't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Burning the Flag

Jilda and I are asked to play at all kinds of functions. We've played at weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, and other life events. We played at a Llama Convention once, but this is a story better left for another entry.
Today we were invited by a local veterans group to play at a Flag Retirement Ceremony. It's the honorable way to dispose of a flag that is worn or tattered. I'd never seen the ceremony before, but it was quite moving.
The Veterans Honor Guard was there. One of the members of the Guard is 85 years old. He served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He had more ribbons on his chest than and Easter Parade.
Boy Scout Troop 120 carried out the ceremony which involves cutting away the blue field on which the stars are embroidered, and then cutting each stripe of the flag off one by one.
After the flag is cut into pieces, the boys approach the fire with a strip of Old Glory, drops it on the fire, steps back and salutes.
The ceremony today was held at the local community center at sunset. The crowd was small and respectful. 
It was totally silent as the boy scouts went about their work. At one point I looked up into the sky, and watched airplane glide westward across the sky leaving a golden thread behind. 
When all the pieces of the flag had  burned, the bugler for the Honor Guard played Taps, and my eyes got misty.
I considered it an honor to be a part of this ceremony. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Fever ~ My Column from this week

I caught spring fever this week. 

It came out of nowhere. One moment I was watching reruns of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and flipping through seed catalogs sent during the winter, and the next moment – BAM, I was out in the tool shed sharpening hoes and cranking the old Troy Bilt tiller.

I broke up the garden patch and a place in the lower field for potatoes. 

That tiller is like an old friend. Sharky, Jilda's dad who passed away just after the first Gulf War, gave me the old beast. 

It was pouring oil, the throttle control was held on by duct tape, and while it theoretically had a muffler, it was as hollow as a coffee can. 

To say that baby was loud would have been an understatement. After I tilled a garden spot, I was usually deaf for an hour or so.

One year, when I got my income tax return, I bought a new commercial grade Briggs and Stratton engine for the tiller. It's been helping me deal with spring fever ever since.

Yesterday, I fired the tiller up, and broke up about half of this side of the county. When I finished, I walked barefoot in the freshly tilled soil. I sat down on the edge of the plot in the warm sun and took in all the things that seemed to have started blooming almost overnight.

Down in the hollow beside the house, there are dozens of dogwood trees, and it looked almost like we'd had a dusting of snow.

I could have stayed there the rest of the afternoon taking in the first day of spring, but I got busy and planted potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and strawberries. 

I was leaning on the hoe inspecting my handiwork when I heard giggles coming from behind me, and when I turned, my great nephew Jordan, who lives next door, had come to see what all I'd planted. 

He has a dog, Lady, who is bigger than him. His grandmother, Deb, had Lady on a leash, and the mutt was dragging her like she was a skier. 

One big lunge, and Lady managed to break free. She ran gleefully toward me. I'd picked up Jordan in my arms, and I stepped on the leash to stop the dog long enough for Deb to grab the mutt. Lady quickly ran around me three times, and I found my feet and legs bound as if I'd been roped by a professional calf roper. 

I almost lost my balance, so I stepped off the leash and tried to free my legs. Once free, Lady ran like the wind, pulling the leash behind her. 

Before I could do anything, the leash, which was about the size of my little finger, whipped across my bare skin at an alarming speed. By the time she pulled the leash off my legs, the friction burned a stripe around my ankles. I thought for a moment I could smell smoke.

NOTE TO SELF — Never, ever try to restrain that dog by stepping on her leash.

I know there are people who don't like spring. They complain about the pollen, the heat, and all the yard chores that come with the season. But I love this time of year. Spring fever is one of my favorite conditions.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


We rarely set the alarm these days, because my body is programmed to get up at 6 a.m. This morning I slept until 7, which is rare for me.
I put on the coffee, and went out to feed the critters. The morning was much cooler than I expected, and I realized too late, that I should have slipped on a jacket.
The chickens, like always, were glad to see me. I scooped a handful of scratch-feed, and tossed it around the pen.
Afterwards, I stepped over to see how the strawberries were doing, and saw that one of the young plants had a small green berry the size of a pea. 
I leaned on the fence, looked toward the barn, and realized our little corner of the world looked a lot like Ireland. 
It's been several years since we've had a spring this beautiful. Sometimes it stays cool and rainy until one day the sun blazes through the clouds. It often get's hot enough by 10 a.m. to cook breakfast on the hood of my truck.
Last year was a stormy spring. We had tornadoes several times in the area before the devastating outbreak at the end of April.
So, today I'm thankful for mild weather; for oak, hickory, and dogwood trees, that are putting on a springtime show. 
I hope bad weather takes a break this year, and gives us a chance to remember why we love this part of the world.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We headed out of town to celebrate Jilda's birthday. We had fun, but by this morning, I was ready to be home.
On Thursday, we drove through a monsoon. I'm guessing the area got 4-5 inches of rain. We learned when we called Jilda's brother who lives next door, that he dumped more than 4 inches of water from his rain gauge.
The upside was that the rain washed much of the pollen away.
Today I shot this photo with my iPhone as we passed outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
This past week, the atmosphere seemed to be hazy with pollen, but today the sky was as blue as a well-kept aquarium.
I'm not sure what kind of flowers were blooming, but I suspect they are what we used to call, bitterweed.

Tonight, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I doctored the photo up with Photoshop just for fun.
It gives the photograph an Impressionist feel.
Both Jilda and I are weary, so I'm guessing tonight we'll hit the hay early.
I hope y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Thoughts and ideas are like apples, hiding in the branches in late autumn. Sometime ideas are plentiful, and you have to swat them away like gnats At other times, they are more precious than pearls.
In the biography of Steve Jobs, I learned that he too, loved Bob Dylan. At one point, late in Steve's life, he got a chance to sit alone in a hotel room with Dylan.  They talked about his music, and all the songs woven into the fabric of our lives.
Dylan, who could have been arrogant about his music, was honest, and down-to-earth. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, they just came through me. Ideas are like that.
Everybody has ideas. Every piece of music you listen to, every word you read, every thing you touch throughout the day, started out with an idea.
My prayer for the planet, is that we have people who come up with fresh ideas, that help lift the dialog to a level beyond reproach by either side of the political spectrum.....Ideas that fertilize the garden in which we live.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Tomorrow, (March 23), is my lovely spouse's 60 birthday. We had our first date in May of 1968, when she was 16 years old. I've actually watched her grow up.
We dated for a few years but then drifted apart in the early 1970's while I was away in the Army. 
We were young and both needed some space.
When I returned, she'd just graduated from the Art Institute in Atlanta, and she was back in town. 
We soon began dating, and on May 5, 1974, we were married by a family friend who was a preacher. 
He lived in a mobile home in Brewton, Alabama, not far from the beach. He did the ceremony on his front porch. 
His wife, who'd never taken a picture with a "real" camera, did her best to capture the moment, but none of them were printable.
Life is a funny business, and age is not just about years here on earth. I've known 15 year-olds that seemed older than the pyramids, and Jilda, who in a few hours will enter her sixth decade of life, could have been the inspiration for the Bob Dylan classic song, Forever Young.
I guess Honest Abe said it best: 
"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count, 
It's the life in your years."
Truer words have never been spoken, Abe.

Happy Birthday Jilda.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We can make our lives sublime

I could write every night about spring, planting, and things that bloom. When I get spring fever, it seems these things are all I think about. But rather than continue down that path, tonight I'm ripping a chapter out of Jilda's playbook.
I'm using one of my favorite quotes -- actually, it's a verse of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And in passing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.

I bought a book of poetry off the rack of a used book store some years back. When I got home, I flipped it open to a random page, and this verse was mid-page.
I'm not sure if it was a sign, or what, but the verse stayed with me like a prison tattoo.
I strive to make my life sublime, but I often fall short.
Life gives you a million excuses to be mad at the world, but what good does it do?  I think it makes more sense to try and make the best of what you have to work with.
It's not always sublime, but it's better than the alternative.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Fever

I've contracted a bad case of spring fever. Thankfully, it's rarely fatal. Symptoms include, browsing seed catalogs, buying potting soil, cleaning gardening tools, and fertilizing fruit trees.  I've done all of these things the last few days.
Today, Jilda was having lunch with one of her friends at the local Mexican restaurant. I'd been to the dentist for a cleaning, so I crashed their girl-time. I left when they started talking about window treatments. I picked up the check and left them chatting away.
I swung by the local garden center and picked up a cherry tomato and some strawberry plants. I learned several years ago that after a lifetime of eating strawberries, I was allergic to them. 
My mouth broke out in ulcers each time I ate them. Sometimes they caused stomach problems too.
I've since read that strawberries, if they aren't organic, tend to retain any chemicals used in growing them. I'm wondering if the chemicals could be the source of my problem.
So, it's my intention to grow them without any pesticides and see if I can eat them.
I can't think of a better way to usher in spring than working in my garden.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Deja Moo -- My Column from Sunday's Paper

Deja vu — Most people are familiar with this French term which is the illusion of having experienced something that’s actually being experienced for the first time. 

A term you may not be familiar with is deja moo — it’s the feeling that you’ve heard this bull malarky before. Now that it’s election season, I’m experiencing a great deal of deja moo.

Politics is one of the least interesting topics on the planet to me. I’d rather hear about my great uncle’s colonoscopy than to listen to a politician talk about: “family values”, “moral compass,” “left wing,” “right wing,” _________ fill in the blank.

Politicians tend to focus on what divides us instead of what it will take to bring us together.

Frankly, I’m afraid as a country, we’re rapidly approaching the point of no return. If we can field a slate of politicians who can focus on real issues that affect ALL Americans, instead of the top 10 percent who fund the agenda, we might just have a chance.

One popular technique utilized during elections is using “wedge issues.” These are issues that get people fired up, and headed out to the polls, but in reality, solve nothing.

Every time I’m around a politician who spends more time talking about how big a Christian he is, than he does explaining his political views, I want to scream. 

I have a feeling that if Jesus were here today, he’d place a restraining order against most of them. I think God pays more attention to what they do than what they say. My prayer is that voting Americans will start doing that too.

In my view, we need new ideas. If Steve Jobs of Apple were still alive, I’d nominate him for president. He was a genius. When looking at ordinary things, he could make associations which enabled him to solve complex problems. 

I have a feeling Steve could’ve put together a group of smart, creative people to help solve some of the difficult problems that we face today.

I just finished listening to Jobs’ authorized biography, and he had a lot of flaws, but he didn’t hide them. He felt passionately about education and training Americans for the jobs of the future. 

Before Jobs passed away in 2011, he met with President Obama, and outlined a plan to train engineers. Jobs told the president that Apple could bring 30 thousand jobs home from China and the Pacific Rim if America had qualified engineers.

It’s a mystery why we aren’t doing everything in our power to put Americans back to work. 

A survey company called me recently asking what five issues were most important to me during this election year. This is what I told them:




The environment

And of course, world peace.

I have a good friend, and we are polar opposites when it comes to politics. She says I’m a dreamer, and perhaps she’s right, but if someone doesn’t dream about it, how can it ever come true? It’s better than deja moo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In My Blood

Today it was 85 degrees which is by far the hottest day we've had this winter. Over the last few days, the warm sun has seduced the wild dogwood, and they're putting on a show.  The hollow looks as if it's had a dusting of snow.
We're beginning to see wildflowers peaking up from beneath the dead leaves, and even the reluctant trees have have begun to put on their leaves. 
Yesterday afternoon I walked down behind the barn to meditation rock. The wild honeysuckles are beginning blooming too -- pink, white, and a shade of lavender. The warmth radiating off the huge moss-covered rocks gives the closest bloomers a head start. 
A few years ago we tied a ribbon around one of the small honeysuckles during the summer, and after the first frost, when they became dormant, we dug it up and transplanted it in our back yard.
It lived, but it's never bloomed -- I hope it does this year.
This evening when the sun dipped below the horizon, I cranked the old trusty Troy Bilt tiller and broke up our garden.
Soon we'll be planting -- a few warm days does that to me. I guess it's in my blood.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day

Jilda and I have a St. Patty's Day tradition. Each year she buys a corned-beef brisket, cabbage, carrots, and a six-pack of Guinness beer for a St. Patty's dinner. We always invite friends and family.
The turnout is hit and miss most years, but my nephew Haven comes unless he lashes off a limb in  an unfortunate accident of some kind, and is spewing blood.
Today the turnout was excellent, probably because it was Saturday, and a beautiful spring day to boot. The sky was aquamarine - the color of Jilda's birthstone. 
We had some late "acceptors" but we had plenty of food. Her sister, brother and a bunch of her/our nieces and nephews decided to come. 
I put on celtic music on the stereo before people started arriving, and did a quick check of the house to make sure things were in order. Jilda had bought enough fresh flowers for the table, and for small vases in our bathrooms. Things seem to be right with the world when you have fresh flowers.
Haven's wife Alesha doesn't like corned-beef, so Jilda had roasted a chicken too. She also steamed new potatoes. I'm not sure what kind of secret stuff she does to them, but our guests ate everything but the pan itself. 
For desert, she served fresh-baked brownies with a scoop of Briars Chocolate Mint ice cream on top.
I was beginning to think her sister, brother, nieces and nephews weren't going to leave. 
They kept eyeing the kitchen -- I guess they were wondering what the next course was going to be :)
It was a delightful day.
I hope you all had a great St. Patty's day. May the luck of the Irish be with you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

We watched The Matchmaker this St. Patrick's Day Eve. The movie is about a senator from Boston who is running for re-election and he's losing.
Since Boston is a big Irish town, he sends an aide to Ireland to find his ancestors in hopes that it would win him votes in the upcoming election.
The aide goes to Ireland on the quest. The movie was filmed in Ballinagra, Ireland which is a place we visited when we traveled there.
We could have gone with a tour group but that wasn't the way we wanted to experience Ireland. We deplaned at Shannon airport, and rented a car.
It was an Opel and as you know, the steering wheel and foot controls were on the opposite side of the car. 
The first few miles were touch and go, as well as when I made my first right turn and run a lane of oncoming traffic off of the road. But other than that it was fairly seamless.
There must be a million miles of stone walls on that small island and a million shades of green.
There was a photograph around every turn.
In a story that Jilda wrote for the local paper, she said that leaving Ireland after almost two weeks, was like leaving home.
I must have felt that too, because watching The Matchmaker tonight made me a little homesick.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Did

I've gotten back in to drinking hot tea before bed again. For the last several nights, when I ask Jilda if she wanted hot tea, she's said no.

Tonight when I asked, she decided she wanted some Red Zinger. She went to the office to write in her blog and I put a kettle of water on the stove before coming in to do my update as well.

I was still in the key tapping mode when I heard the kettle begin to whistle, so I went to the kitchen to make the tea.

I alway take honey in my Camomile tea, but I wasn't sure how Jilda takes hers so I called to her from the kitchen -- do you want honey in your Zinger?  A pause....."What? 

More slowly.....Do you want honey in your Zinger. 

Another long pause....... "What? 

But this time there was a change in tone and pacing. I could tell she was trying to decided if I was making some kind of twisted, sexual joke.

I stepped to the living room so she could hear me better and I said slowly -- Do you want honey in your Red Zinger Tea? She laughed out loud.

You won't believe what I thought you were saying. 

But I did.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life is an opportunity

Our great-nephew Jordan wasn't feeling well today and his folks were in a pinch so they asked if Jilda and I could keep him today.
I had every intention  of writing my column this morning and finding a fishing hole this evening, but that didn't happen. 
 Jilda had an early appointment so Jordan curled up next to me on the couch in the TV room to watch cartoons, and I put on my headphones, and edited a few more columns for my book.
I only have five left to edit before I start designing the covers, and doing all the other stuff that has to be done before it's printed.
I'll get up early in the morning and write the column for Sunday's paper, and hopefully finishing the editing.
The muse must be bashful tonight because I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about so I'll leave you with a some words, I wish I'd written.
 “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. 
Life is beauty, admire it.     
Life is a dream, realize it.     
Life is a challenge, meet it.    
Life is a duty, complete it.     
Life is a game, play it.    
Life is a promise, fulfill it.     
Life is sorrow, overcome it.     
Life is a song, sing it.     
Life is a struggle, accept it.     
Life is a tragedy, confront it.     
Life is an adventure, dare it.     
Life is luck, make it.     
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.     
Life is life, fight for it.” 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

That Kind of Mood

Even though the days are getting longer here, and we're seeing more of the sun, it's still winter. 
I know because our persimmon tree in the front yards has not begun to put on its leaves.
I'm not sure if persimmons are older and wiser, but they are never fooled by late frosts that always seem to slip in and nip early blooming peaches, plums and other plants that aren't weather wise.
But the days have been nice, and I noticed today that those quick-on-the-draw peaches and blueberries were in full bloom.
I had things I needed to do in the office, but when I went out to feed the critters, I kept finding little chores that kept me outside. 
I sat down on our bench and looked at the sky for a long while. The sun felt warm on my face and I realized I needed the sunlight. 
This time of year feels great here. Not too hot, not too cold.  Who knows, if it's this way tomorrow, I might wash the cars, or cut the grass. 
I'm just in "that kind of mood."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rockin' & Rollin'

On sale at
I've been holed up in my office today. I had two stories due but I'd decided to procrastinated over the weekend. This morning I could hear the sound of sand scratching through my editor's hourglass into the past.
I couldn't find a syringe to shoot up coffee, so I snorted a few lines of expresso and got down to business.
Within two hours I'd knocked out both stories and still had time to walk with Jilda, and feed the critters.
After I fired off the stories to my editor, I pulled up my Project list and the highest priority was getting my book ready for press.
I'd been dragging my feet a little on that effort for some time because I needed to liquidate a few holdings to have the money for printing.  But when I learned last week about Amazon's Creative Space
(I mentioned this a few days ago), it changed everything.

A friend had edited 45 stories before Thanksgiving. These pieces make up a majority of the book, but the edits had been collecting dust on my desk.
I knocked out 15 of the edits before I started twitching uncontrollably and seeing monsters, and giant insects out of the corner of my eye.  I decided it was time to call it a day.
Tonight was yoga night which was exactly what I needed. I stretched, breathed, and almost fell asleep during relaxation.
I'm about to fire up the kettle and drink some Sleepy Time tea. Y'all have a great week and do something remarkable.
P.S. I'm nearing 400 followers, if you know of someone who you think might enjoy my blog, please send them a link.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hiding in plain view

There's a reason soldiers wear camouflage in combat.
It's because in a jungle when they wear fatigues colored subtle shades of green with a little brown, they blend in with their surroundings and become almost invisible unless you're trained to spot them.
In a desert the colors change, but the result is the same.
I sometimes think that, life truths can be camouflaged as well. Something you need to do could be staring you in the face, but you can't or won't see it.
Sometimes it's obvious to everyone around, but it's invisible and a mystery to you.
My wife and I knew a woman who was in a bad life situation -- to us, there was no camouflage. To us it was as plain as the words on this page.  But to her, it was like the four-leaf clover in this picture.
The original photograph was much larger but I cropped it down to make the four-leaf a little more obvious so that I would make my point.
Much like this picture, if you can crop out the noise, and the things that distract you from seeing and thinking clearly,  the camouflage won't keep you from seeing the four-leaf clover.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Learn Something New Every Day

I learned something interesting this week when I went to the Alabama Media Professionals monthly meeting.
The speaker this month was Denise George who is a published author, but she decided to self publish her work that was no longer in print. 
Since I'd already self published a book, I didn't think she'd say much that I hadn't already heard or done. But I listened to be polite.
She had a graphic artist help her design the covers, and she used Amazon's CreativeSpace self publishing.
I really couldn't believe what I heard next.  Once she had her front cover designed, she uploaded the cover and formatted PDF's to CreativeSpace. Amazon will then format the book for eBooks, and also print books to sell. Here's the kicker -- it's free.
As an author, if I format my cover, and PDF's myself and then upload the manuscript to CreativeSpace, it won't cost me squat. 
I plan to order 50 books to start with, so they will print the books for less that $3 each and ship them to me within about a week. (I used 50 as an example. They will print fewer though prices vary depending on the number you order.)
That means if I'm having several book signings, I can print a box of books and not print any more until I need them.
My first book was the size of a regular paperback 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inces, black and white and about 160 pages and I had to order a truckload of books to get them at $3 each.
They also list the book in their bookshelf and charge whatever price you want to charge. When someone orders a book, they print and ship it.
They will do full color books in practically any size, though the price for full color is understandably higher (my book would be about $9 a copy if it were in full color).
A lot of new authors don't understand that when you're starting out, books don't sell themselves. You have to hustle, speak, sign, shake hands and kiss babies. It's almost like you're running for office.
It's not until much later when you've become hugely successful that you don't have to hustle so much. 
But if you've dreamed of writing a book and you can't find a publisher chomping at the bits to publish it, I'd consider CreativeSpace. 
I'm fairly certain it's the way I'll go with book two -- Life Happens. So I'll be able to give you the real scoop in a few months.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Wet Pillow

I awoke at 3 a.m. to the sound of Caillou barking. He's the youngest dog in the pack and the best watch dog on the hill. He sleeps with his head sticking through the doggie door listening and watching. I've gotten up for water in the past, and looked out the garden door in the back to see him pacing the fence line listening, and watching. 
When he barks, there's usually something going on outside. The moon was almost full this morning and when I looked outside toward the road, I could see the shadow of someone walking slowly up the road the glowing ember of a cigarette bobbing along beside them like a lightening bug.
We live in a RURAL area and you don't often see "regular" people walking the roads at 3 a.m. When people do walk at that hour, I suspect they are up to no good.
That's one reason that most people around here don't keep their dogs fences. Most of my neighbors agree with me thinking that when you walk the road at that hour, you're begging to get mauled by a mutt. My neighbors own every kind of dog from shitzus to pitt bulls. One has a great dane that's almost big enough to look into my truck window when I drive by. He seems to be saying "move along buster, there's nothing to see here."
This morning I considered putting Astro out the front door to make things interesting for the stroller. The reason we built a fence in the first place was because he made a sport of menacing people walking up and down the roads late at night.  But I thought better of it, and so when the stroller walked out of sight, I laid back down hoping to fall asleep.
I should have stayed up because I tossed and turned until 5 a.m. It would have been much more productive for me to log onto my computer and catch up on reading the entries of my blog buddies.
After two hours of mental reruns, I finally forced myself to breath deeply and to dismiss random mental clips before the opening credits. Soon I was sleeping.
It's a mystery to me why some nights I sleep so soundly I slobber on my pillow, and other nights it's as if I'm expecting Charles Manson and his merry pranksters to show up at my house and carve their initials into our lifeless bodies with paring knives.
Maybe it's the moon. If it can move the tides, it's not that much of a stretch to think that it could affect our sleep patterns.
Anyhow, I hope tonight is better. I'd much rather wake up with a wet pillow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


I was cranking away earlier on a post that seemed brilliant. I imagined the Pulitzer judges struggling to deciding on which categories to enter it in. I could almost hear myself thanking all the "little people" who helped me become the writer I am today.
But when I read back over the post, I was slammed back to earth like one of the WWF wrestlers. My post was gibberish.
Your mind plays tricks on you sometimes. Perhaps it's fatigue, maybe it's the broccoli you had for supper, or maybe it's because you have an inflated sense of self importance.
Who knows? It's a mystery to me. At any rate, I deleted the post before it found its way onto the world wide web.
I hope you all have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mamma Touched a lot of Lives ~ Column from Sunday's Paper

I discovered this past week that a lot of people have funny stories about my mom. 

My cousin Bruce, who is a preacher now, was what modern child psychologists would call a precocious child. My mom said of him more than once “that youngun’ can be as mean as a snake.” But that’s because he was aways into something.

My dad grew bouquet peppers on the front porch bannisters of our old house in West Pratt. You don’t see the peppers much anymore, but these grew in pots and, when matured, they had peppers about the size of a marble and were as colorful as a bag of jellybeans. 

They were really more for decoration, but my dad ate them on occasion. Eating one of those peppers was like popping a tiny lump of burning coal into your mouth. Those babies burned going in and coming out, if you know what I mean.

Most of our cousins spent time at our house in the summer, and Bruce almost lived there because he loved my mama’s biscuits, her fried chicken, her butter beans and apple pies — he loved eating her food.

When he was about 10 years old, we had company visiting from up north and they had a little girl about 6. We weren’t allowed to play in the house, so we were all on the front porch.

Bruce got the bright idea to play a little trick on the kid. He picked one of the bouquet peppers and acted like he popped it into his mouth. “Umm,” he told her, “these taste like cherries.”

The kid walked over picked one of the peppers and popped it into her mouth before anyone could warn her. 

What came next might have been the loudest, shrillest scream I’ve ever heard in my life. 

If we’d had wine glasses in those days, they would all have shattered when her screaming hit the key of B flat.

That screaming brought a house full of adults scurrying to the front porch, and when Bruce heard that screen door slap against the jamb, he knew he’d been busted. 

I’m sure he considered bolting off the porch, running to old Dora, hopping a train and heading out west until things cooled down, but he knew my mama wouldn’t forget. He also knew he’d never taste another biscuit until he faced the music.

I’m sure he felt like someone on death row. Will it be the chair, firing squad or simply be beaten to death with a razor strap? 

As it turns out, my mama, who was a master at disciplining kids, decided on a simple, more elegant punishment to fit the crime, so to speak.

She stepped over to the pot of bouquet peppers and picked a handful of choice peppers. She sat down on a cane-bottom chair on the porch and called Bruce over. 

While the rest of the kids watched with a mixture of horror and amusement, Bruce ate several of the peppers. He never cried, but he groaned, grunted winced and did a great deal of creative dancing before he was through. 

At one point, I thought I could see steam coming out both of his ears. 

This week as we recalled that story, we both had a much needed laugh. You had to really mess up to force my mama to disciplinary mode, but once you did, the result was usually something you didn’t forget.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Golden Years

I woke up at 4:30 this morning thinking about our friend Charlie. He is very ill. He, his wife and son are remarkable people.
Working for the newspaper back in the mid 70's I'd met him but it wasn't until about four years ago that we became acquainted.
We quickly became friends. He loves telling stories even more than I do, if that's possible. He was our local congressman's press secretary for many years. His family is well traveled, well educated, and lovers of books.
Every time we visit them, we leave with gifts. His wife gives Jilda books, bags of coffee, imported sweets, or something else that's thoughtful and interesting.
I learned today that he'd been taken to the hospital. I had appointments in Jasper this afternoon, so afterwards I stopped by to check on him. He was in tremendous pain.
He was still in the ER when I got there, but he managed a smile when I came in. They stabilized him earlier, and we talked while he waited to move to a room. I have a feeling he has spent time contemplating the end.
He took my hand and said, "you know we love you and Jilda. We're so thankful you came into our lives."
I started to talk, but he trudged on. "If there are things you want to do, you should do them. If there are places you want to go, you need to" The pause between "you need to go" and "now" spoke volumes.
He choked up a little when he said "there are so many things we wanted to do, but we kept putting them off." I looked up at his wife and she had tears streaming down her face.
He said "enjoy life while you can, because I can tell you from experience, the golden years have lost their luster for us."
It was hard to leave, but I had pressing things to do. I talked to Charlie's wife tonight and he's now in a room resting. I'm saying a silent prayer that the Good Lord watches over my friend.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

This Day

I've straightened up all the stuff on my desk, and flipped through several magazines trying to come up with a topic but it's all been for naught.
So I thought: I wonder what I wrote about on March 4 in years past?
On March 4, 2011, I'd just interviewed the doctor who keeps bees. He was a delightful guy and I was thinking how much I enjoyed writing for a living.

On March 4, 2010, I'd just made the decision to retire, and I was handing off projects to co-workers, and cleaning out my desk. Wow, that brought back a rush of memory. I still recall that feeling of my career winding down after 33 years. I can tell you, I haven't missed the commute, or my phone ringing in the middle of the night.

On March 4, 2009, Jilda was out of town in a training class and I was whining about not having anything to write you see a pattern here?

On March 4, 2008, More whining about having an idea for a column so I wrote about the souvenirs on and around my desk. 

On March 4th, 2007, we'd just spent a few months renovating the home where Jilda's mom lived until she passed away. We'd just sold the house. We gave Ruby's daybed to our great niece Breeze who was about 4 years old at the time. There were undertones of sadness in this post.

On March 4 2006,  I wrote about Watkins Field which is the name of the football stadium where our high school team played each year. I remembered the field fondly, but I got an email from a guy that played there in the 60's (and opposing team), and his memories where not as fond as mine.
So there -- a snapshot of what was going on in my world the last six years.  I just hope that March 4 2013, I'm not whining about a missing muse.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Yesterday it was almost warm enough to swim in the early afternoon. Tonight I had to put on my fuzzy jama-britches because the wind out of the north was cold enough to put goosebumps on my arm.
The weatherman said we could have frost tonight, so we brought all the plants inside from the deck. Now the great room resembles an indoor botanical garden.
We haven't had steak in months and for some reason the thought flitted across my mind this morning as I was making coffee.
Afterwards when we walked, Jilda said "Since we're staying in town tonight, we should get some steaks." I smiled at the suggestion.
This evening as the sun dipped below the horizon, I put on a sweatshirt and fired up the grill. When the coals settled into a slow easy burn, I poured a glass of red wine and headed out to do the man thang.
Off to the west a bank of clouds move eastward leaving a narrow band of light the width of an 80's belt, just above the horizon.  The color was halfway between butterscotch and a lemon bar.  I toasted the waning light as the steaks sizzled.
Life is made up of moments and because of those wacky laws of space/time, those moments are linear.
I think the reason I love still photography so much is because it captures moments in time.
Video is great, but if you watch it too long, it can be disappointing, because life moves on. Capturing a moment is great, but then someone belches, farts, or scratches themselves in inappropriate places which does not add to the moment.
A photograph, on the other hand, "gets it."  In that instant, you see the smiles, the color of the leaves, the stunning backdrop of color as the sun sets, and the smoke drifting from the grill.
Twenty years from now, when you look at the photograph, you can still smell aroma of mesquite and charcoal. You will remember the taste of the grapes in the wine, and what you wore.
Life is made up of moments and it will continue on like a video with no end, unless you stop and take a photograph.....even if you have no camera.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Before the Storm

I had three interviews set up for today but all got rescheduled due to the weather. We've always been weather conscience here, but you could say after the outbreak last year, we are super weather conscience.
That's OK with me, no story is that important to me.
So I found myself home just after lunch with a few hours to spare before the bad weather reached us. So I made good use of the time.
I did yoga, and then afterwards I went for a walk. Several years ago when I walked on the property behind us, I discovered a pond that was big enough and deep enough to support fish.
I know you probably think I have fish on the brain, and perhaps I do, but today I went looking for that pond.
The terrain is rugged (by our standards), but I found the pond less than 3/4 of a mile behind the barn.
I sat on the bank for a long time looking at the water.
When my eyes adjusted to the jade colored water, I realized it was full of fish. I kicked myself for not bringing my fly rod.
But I did shoot a few pictures. I took one of the photos and doctored it up with one of the apps on my iPhone. I'll show you the original and the doctored picture. See if you can guess which one's which.

Photo 1

Photo 2

You give up?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Day ne the Water

I didn't finish our taxes today. I know, I'd whined about it last night, and I talked like I was all business and would finish up the tax work today.  But I had to take Jilda to the eye doc to get her "subscription" renewed for contacts this morning, and I had every intention of jumping on the tax documentation this evening.
But my nephew Haven called and said he had the key for the gate to get into a private lake stocked with bass, bream, and other fish. The lake is only a few miles from my house.
It took me all of three seconds to blow off the tax work and grab my fly rod.
We shot this photo while the light was good, but we brought 14 bass home.
Haven says that's enough for a fish fry :)
Floating gently across water as still as a mirror, and experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells was like salve for my soul.
I'd fallen into a malaise these last few days and on one level I thought the best thing for me was to jump into routine stuff. Something to keep me focused. 
Often that's the prescription to help me through trying times. But when Haven called, it occurred to me that a day on the water would be much better medicine.
As it turns out -- it was.

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