Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mix Tapes

There's an art to mix tapes and I'm still perfecting it. If you're making it for yourself, it's easy. But if it's for other people, it gets more challenging.
I make them for myself all the time and they consist of my favorite songs which tend to change depending upon what mood I'm in.
Most of mine will have Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower, songs by the Byrds, Dylan, John Prine, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Counting Crows, Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Hank Williams Sr. (not Jr.), Merle Haggard, The Wallflowers, Vertical Horizon, Sister Hazel, and many others.
But, if you're doing a tape for someone else, you have to take a totally different approach.
Jilda and I've been married since Nixon was in the White House but the mix tapes I do for her are still hit and miss.
One of my all time favorite movies, Elizebethtown, has Kerstin Dunst and Orlando Bloom. Toward the end of the move, she makes him a mix tape for his drive home back to Oregon after the death of his father.
This epitomizes the making of a mix tape.

Not sure what got me on this path tonight, but I wonder what your mix tape would have on it? 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Onward and Upward

I spent a day of full-tilt nose to the grindstone today working on formatting my new book. I could pay someone to do it for me, but I have all the tools and software I need to do it myself. It's new software and I haven't mastered it yet.
If this were the only book I planned to do, I think the savings of time and what little hair I have left would be worth what it costs to have someone do it, but I will do more books.
I'm using Adobe Indesign, which is the software many book publishers and magazines use. It's extremely powerful, but with that power comes complication which carries a steep learning curve.
I've spent hours today watching instructional videos from Lynda.com. I made a great deal of progress. In fact, I have all my chapters formatted and loaded into the book manager, but now I have to do the fancy numbering at the bottom of the page and the table of contents.
I ran out of steam a little while ago and I called it quits for the evening. I've learned that your my brain is like sun-baked earth when it rains.
The soil is so dry, the rain can't soak in so it runs off. My brain is the soil and these instructional videos are the rain.
So, I'll get back after it in the morning when I've had some rest.
After a good nights sleep it will be onward and upward.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Olympic Event Ideas

I'm thinking about petitioning the Olympic committee for some new summer games. The ones they have are exciting, but I think ratings would skyrocket with the addition of the following:

1. Rug Riding - That's where a bunch of drunk people stand on an old carpet and a 4-wheel drive truck drags them around a field at a high rate of speed.

2. Pig Toss (the name says it all) Down on the coast of Alabama, they substitute a mullet.

3. Chittlin eating

4. Barn building (or burning, depending upon the mood of the crowd)

5. Creative Whittling

I know you must have some ideas of your own.  Please feel free to add them here with a comment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Early Night

It's 9:20 p.m. here in Empire, and the weather app on my phone says it's 88 degrees. Jilda and I performed this evening for Backyard Blessings, which is our favorite charity.
Children who live in poverty are fed by the local schools through the week (while school is in session), but the officials learned that many of these kids don't get much to eat over the weekend. Backyard Blessings provide sacks of food for each child so they don't go hungry. 
We went on at 7 and the sun was to our backs. It was about 95 degrees at the time. I think I wold have fit in those bluejeans I wore when we got married.
We didn't play but about 30 minutes, but I was wringing wet when I stepped off stage. After our set, the local TV station gathered us to the side of the stage and interviewed us about the event.
The crowd this year was probably three times what it was last year. After the interview, we headed to the car so that Jilda could conserve her energy, but we saw friends and family we haven't seen in  a long time.
Our nephews James and Haven both brought their kids to see us. Jilda made a donation to the face painting booth so the kids could get painted up.
Breeze is only eight years old, but to me, she looks older in this picture.
She had hair to her waist, but a few weeks ago, she had her hair cut and donated it to Locks of Love which is a program that make real hair into wigs for cancer patients who lose their own hair in chemo.
Even at such an early age, she's already learning about social responsibility.
I can tell you, it felt good to get home, wring out my shirt, and put my PJ's on.
I can promise you it will be an early night tonight.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dancing with the devil

Jilda's over there a few feet away tap, tap, tapping away while I'm sitting hear scratching my watch and winding my head.
I wonder if she realizes how annoying it is to hear her pecking away on her keyboard like a woodpecker cranked up on expresso and imported diet pills.
I could lean over and tap the switch on her surge protector sending her PC to the black screen of death along with everything she's been typing for the past 15 minutes.
Oops. I thought that was my power strip. I hope you've been saving your work (fiendish smile).
I'm not that low, but I can tell you it's fun thinking about it some evenings when I'm fresh out of ideas.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I watched Midnight In Paris again while we ate dinner tonight and one of the characters in the movie that interested me was the character played by Kathy Bates, which was Gertrude Stien.
When I looked her up on Wikipedia, her story is amazing. I read where she was one of the first to experiment with stream of consciousness.
I think Kerouac brought this concept to the main stream with his seminal work On the Road.  
I read that book a few years ago and I was blown away with the pacing and depth of his work. And he made it seem so effortless.
I'm not sure if he knew Gertrude or ever heard of her work with stream of consciousness, but it struck me how connected we all are.
It's rare we come up with something new. It's more common to sew seeds on fields that have already been plowed.
There have been very smart people who came before us. I think it would behoove us to look at what they did to see if we can add anything new.
Well, that's what I think on Thursday July 26, 2012. Ask me tomorrow and you may get a different perspective.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Ride

Jilda had a treatment today. When they called her back, I walked across to the cafeteria which is in another building and ordered a cup of coffee.
I got a table in the back corner, pulled out my laptop, my noise canceling earphones, and some random notes. Writing my columns does not involve rituals, but it does involve some deep thought and an unseen connection to the all-knowing consciousness.
After a few minutes, I latched onto an idea and soon it was written. I used the seeds of a blog post, as I often do, to get me started.
I smiled as I re-read the draft and snapped my Macbook closed. I sipped the dregs of my coffee, which had gotten cold and watched people come and go. There are so many stories.
After a while, I walked back across to the treatment room. She was talking to our friend Marcia, a nurse at the hospital, who'd spent her lunch hour with Jilda.
The room had thinned out by the time I arrived and the only ones still there were the ones getting the serious stuff.
As I looked around at the faces, I tried to imagine their stories. Illness does not discriminate.  Today it was obvious there were people of means sitting in those green chairs. But but the last time we were there, we were with people who had little. Today most of the faces were white, but last time they were mostly dark.
Regardless of clothes or color, the eyes tell the story. Fear is something you cannot hide. You can almost tell who will be living a year from now, and who will pass on before Christmas.
.....I said all of that to say this: take not one second for granted. Life is a gift, and you owe it to yourself and you family to live the life you were put here to live.
There is no such thing as a free pass. We all pay the toll, and we all take the ride.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Subtle Signs

Seasons often change in tiny increments. After the summer equinox, the days get gradually shorter. It's hard to notice at first, but one morning when you awake, it's not as light outside as it was a few weeks earlier.
One of the first harbingers of fall that I notice, is the leaves of sumac. They turn the most beautiful shade of crimson you can imagine. When I was younger, I always wanted a car painted that color.
Then comes the song of the cicadas at dusk. You can hear choruses of them grinding away like tiny coffee grinders. Every now and then, they wind down as if to change gears, and then start back up.
As summer wears on I notice a slight change in the angle of the light as it pokes through the trees in the evenings.
You can't judge by a change in the temperature or humidity, because there are years you can swim through September.
As we walked this morning before 9 and perspiration soaked through my tee shirt, I stopped on the path and shot this picture of sumac, and smiled, because I realized that autumn will be here before we know it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quarter Moon

This is kind of a dual post. I shot a picture tonight and doctored it with my favorite Photoshop filter (Oil Paint). You have to click on the picture to get the full effect. It's called Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.

And I'm posting my column from Sunday's Lifestyle section. It's about losing our old dog Blackie. I have to warn you, it's made some people cry.

Jilda and I never had children, but we helped raise a crew of nieces and nephews, and we've made a home for throw-away dogs. These are dogs that have been abused and/or abandoned and somehow made their way to our house.

Blackie Bear, a black lab with enough chow mixed in to make his tongue spotted, came to live with us back in 1997.

Our niece Samantha, who was in kindergarten at the time, found him wandering around Sumiton School and she somehow convinced her mom to bring the dog home. 

He was still a puppy then, and it was obvious he'd been abandoned because he was as thin as a hobo's dog. 

He had paws almost as big as my hand, so I knew that with a few of Jilda's biscuits he would be a big dog. The last time he was at the vet's office he weighed just slightly less than Jilda.

Samantha told us when she brought him over to show him off that he was looking for a home. 

We wrongly assumed that home would be at Samantha's house, but as it turns out, he never left our house because he'd found his home.

We had several older dogs at the time but Blackie was a kind and gentle spirit and found his place in the pack. 

He was a bit of a loner at first and whenever we walked, he would never walk on the trail with us. He preferred walking through the thickest brambles and briar patches he could find. 

He would disappear for hours only to return in the evening covered in mud and pond scum from swimming in the strip pits and creeks down behind the barn. I spent many afternoons hosing him down in the back yard while he grunted and groaned with obvious pleasure.

One afternoon in January several years ago, when the mercury was in the 20s, he ambled up from his swimming excursion with ice crystals on his coat. 

As the older dogs passed on, Blackie moved up in the family hierarchy until he became Jilda's number one dog. 

He took that role seriously. When she walked, he walked. When she fixed dinner, he lay on the cool tile in the middle of the kitchen floor supervising. 

This part of his guard duty paid huge dividends because she often “accidentally” dropped a piece of cheese, a small piece of chicken or steak.

A few years ago, his health began to fail. His joints stiffened and his heart grew weak, but he was a trooper. The heat this summer took its toll on him and he found it harder to breathe when he went outside to walk with us. 

This year when Jilda began treatments for her immune system issue, he remained faithfully by her side. When one of the other dogs came near her to be petted, Blackie stood between them and did his low growl which let the other dogs know to keep away.

This week, Jilda ran out of steam and decided to lie down on the couch to rest for a while. Blackie came up and nudged her hand. Jilda petted and hugged him and he walked off. 

A short time later, our other dogs began acting a little strangely and Jilda got up to investigate. I was on the screened porch writing when I heard her calling for Blackie. I could hear concern in her voice so I went out too.

We walked to the barn and back through the hollow. We searched the front and back yards. 

Jilda's voice turned from concern, to panic, to a pleading sadness that broke my heart. I walked out to the edge of the back yard where we pile brush to burn every now and then, and when I walked to the back side, Blackie had crawled under some of the brush and died. 

He was still warm when I found him. We both cried as if we'd lost a child. 

I dug his grave with a pick and shovel and laid him to rest in a place of honor next to our other dogs. I placed a peace stone I'd made at the head of his grave.

Our house has been a melancholy place this week. I know there are people who might say we are silly to weep over a dog, but I don't know of anyone who could have had a better friend. 

I am thankful he chose our home all those years ago.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Good Idea

After lunch today I took a nap. I know, shocker! But when I awoke, a thought bubbled to the surface of my mind....the part that can actually grasp, hold on to, and articulate.
The thought was this: You are one good idea away from a higher income tax bracket.
Why on earth would my brain serve up this little epigram? It's hard to say, but I can tell you this, it gave me pause.
One good idea, and that lake house I've always dreamed of could be a reality. One good idea could mean that jet-black Porsche idling in my driveway.
One good idea, and we could travel all those places we've dreamed of visiting.
One good idea.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


We hung mandavilla from the arbor at the front steps. I think I would love the flower even if it never bloomed. Mandavilla. It's one of those words. Like Savannah. Don't you love Savannah. I've never been there but I somehow know I'd love it.
.....Now where was I. Oh yes, mandavilla. We were at our favorite produce stand last spring (2011) and  out in front of the walkway he had two hanging baskets bleeding with red mandavilla blooms.
I NEVER buy anything on impulse, but I bought these two basket.
They bloomed into the fall and as cold weather approached, we brought them inside to winter in the great room.
It can be a bit of a pain bringing the plants you love inside, because the great room gets really cozy, but I'm so glad we did.
We had a hard rain with wind yesterday which blew off a lot of the blooms, but our little mandavillas are back hard at work.
I shot this picture this morning. Of course I used the Photoshop filter I'm learning how to use.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comfort and Danger

I've fallen into a habit of driving home the same route. There's comfort and danger in that. The comfortable part is that you can practically drive on autopilot. But the dangerous part is that you can practically drive home on autopilot.
Today, I drove the same way, but something in the evening light caught my eye. A silver thread of light outlining the western edge of a small lake.
Fingers of evening sunlight poking through and angry cloud.
I pulled the truck to the side of the road and drank in the scene.
I looked for a long time trying to burn a scenic tattoo on the back of my brain.
I would be willing to bet, I've driven past scenes just as stunning a thousand times and never bothered to notice.
If you click on the picture, you'll see I applied a filter.  It wasn't to because the original wasn't stunning, it's because the original picture was nowhere near how beautiful the scene was in person. Cameras are great tools, but all the can do is hint at the true beauty that lies beyond.
I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and do something dangerous --- like pay attention.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Night Sky

There's a reason artists throughout the ages have painted the sky. There is nothing more beautiful that the sky in the early morning hours, and late in the evening just before nightfall. 
Maybe it's because the mind hasn't kicked into gear for the beginning of the day, or because it's coasting at the end of the day, but it seems during those hours it's possible to let the clutter fall away and experience color, texture, and vibrance that cannot be described with words.
After all, words are as crude as building blocks when it comes to describing beauty. Granted, there are some who use the blocks more wisely, but for me I'm struck mute.
I took this picture Monday night as I walked out of yoga class. 
You might not realize it, but I doctored this photo up with Photoshop....not that it needed it, but in a moment of weakness, like so many artists, I thought I could capture it in a new way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Knowing when to quit

OK, I'm not a quitter by nature, but the deeper I dug into our ancient tiller, the worse it got. It's totally dismantled in the shed and I can't find replacement parts for the old beast.
I thought about loading all the pieces into my truck and taking it to a repair shop, but I feel certain the repairmen would speak poorly of my linage and have a great deal of fun at my expense.
Meanwhile, the grass in the garden was getting tall enough to bail for hay. So I did the only sensible thing....I looked on Craig's List for another tiller.
I found one about 40 miles north of here. The guy who owned it was a retired fireman who'd hurt his back and could no longer use the tiller.
Yesterday after lunch, I headed north through the rolling hills of central Alabama. I'd called for directions and fortunately the guy was very good because I drove directly to his house. The last few miles were on a dirt road with no name.
The moment I saw the tiller, I knew I'd buy it. It's like my old one except about 15 years newer. He'd apparently kept it in his barn because all the original stickers and labels were still attached.
When he pulled the cord, it cranked.
I reached for my wallet and peeled off $300 and pushed the tiller onto my trailer.
This morning, I after I'd written for a few hours, I stepped out to the shed and fired up the tiller. I worked for an hour and tilled most of the weeds. I can now see our peas, squash, tomatoes, and peppers.
I plan to load up the old tiller and store the parts in the barn. Hopefully it will keep the new (old) tiller running for a long time.
I felt a little bad about giving up on the old workhorse, but sometimes you have to know when to quit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Journaling ~ Continued

This evening I flipped open an old journal, and read the entry from July 17, 1997.  I was cranked on that day because the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all time high the day before, when it closed at 8000. Woo Hoo. (It closed at 12,805 today).
That was huge, and I used my old trusty HP calculator to true up my 401k balance. I didn't make a note of it in my journal, but I could tell by what I wrote that I was smiling.
We were on our path to becoming debt free, and we were building wealth to help keep us fed when we retired.
That was 15 years ago. I know there were many times through the years when we ran short, and we both questioned the wisdom of saving for a rainy day, when it seemed we were getting wet right then.  But we sucked it up during those lean times and we survived.
Tonight I smiled as I read over what I wrote back then. I am so thankful that I took the time to write in my journals because it sheds light on my past, and I find comfort in that.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I've been keeping a journal for over 30 years. I started out with a Bic pen and a cheap notebook. Then for Christmas in 1980, Jilda bought me a real journal. The cover  firebrick red and felt like silk to the touch. It had flowers and small birds black and gold and looked Oriental.
She also, even though we were broker than the 10 Commandments then, bought me a really nice fountain pen.
It seems to me, that my writing got better at that point. I put more thought into the words I put to paper. Because, in a sense, it is your permanent record. Long after I'm gone, someone will inherit, and hopefully they will read what I've written. 
I kept writing, almost daily, until December of 2005 when I openen my Blogger account and started blogging every day.
Since then, my entries in my journals have been sporadic at best. Today when I opened my journal (these days it's a nice leather journal I bought from Levingers), I had not made an entry since April 27th of last year.....the day the violent tornados ripped through Alabama.
I made a decision that I wanted to continue writing in my journal. I searched until I found my fountain pen but disuse had rendered it mute.
I ran a bowl of warm water and put the nib in there to soak. When I returned a while later, the water in the bowl was blue. I refilled the bowl again. I repeated this three times before it was finally clean.
When I put the in cartridge in, the stroke was as bold as a strip of thin blue ribbon.
I made my first entry in over a year.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Let's Do Something Remarkable

Jilda and I were invited to take part in a creative (musical) think tank. We had our first meeting last month and it was delightful. 
It seemed like a meeting of the minds. We sat around in a circle and played some of our songs. We shared information about festivals, coffee houses, open mics, and other venues.
We talked about inspiration, and our approach to writing songs.
When Jilda and I left, we were both buzzing like we'd been sniffing nitrous oxide. 
We promptly set up writing appointments with other members who were at the meeting. We've written four songs in a month. 
I wasn't sure if the gathering had an effect on the other attendees until we met tonight at our house.
Jilda had whipped up some amazing brownies, some cheese, crackers, chips, salsa, and some fruit.
Everyone in attendance had written at least one new song. 
I sat with my eyes closed and listened as the guitar passed from hand to hand and we sang our new songs.
We've been kicking around the idea of a mission statement. My votes goes to:
Let's Do Something Remarkable

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nettle on a Field of Stone

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Those words are more powerful than many people realize.
It's a mystery why someone would feel compelled to try and make others feel bad about themselves or their work. I think there are many factors:
Jealousy, inferior complexes, ignorance, and down right spite. Whatever the cause, words have the ability to cause lasting damage.
But that's only true if you provide those seeds with a fertile place in your mind. Otherwise they die like nettle on field of stone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Something Lost, Something Found

This happens to me all the time: I lose something and go on a tear looking for it, and wind up finding something totally unexpected..... that I lost.....and couldn't find. It's a vicious circle.
Today, as I was writing on the table by the garden door, I looked down and the cover on the power outlet was missing. I knew without a doubt, I'd never be able to complete the story until I found it.
My mind ticked backwards at the pace of refrigerated mollasses until I remembered removing the cover. Apparently there was an issue with the AC power adaptor for the alarm system, but things began to get fuzzy and I don't know why the cover had to be removed.
We've since replace the alarm system and no longer need the power adaptor, but I knew the instant I realized the cover was missing that it would bug me to no end until I found and reattached it.
I looked for 45 minutes but not a sign or the cover. I did find the 100 foot measuring tape I'd lost about three months ago, I also found whetstone (for sharpening my pocket knife) and the fountain pen I'd written off over a year ago.
I didn't find the cover I was looking for, but I found an old ivory one. It will have to do until I can get to Home Depot and buy a new brass one.
It was serendipitous, that I found the other things I'd lost.

I'm almost certain I had a book of poetry that had a poem about Something Lost, Something Found, but I can't seem to put my hands on it at the moment................

P.S. I noticed when I posted tonight, this is my 2600th post. 
Time flies.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Solar Breakthrough

A few years ago we bought the little solar lights you put in flower beds and remote sections of yard not touched by moonlight or streetlamp.
Having them out there snagging sunshine during the day and then providing a little light each night was comforting and seemed like a good investment.
We paid $3 for them and several of them stopped working over the last few months. We bought new ones and we'd collected the old ones and I was about to toss them when I got an idea.
I flipped one upside down and looked and only three screws held them together. I don't think I could actually call myself a man if I didn't open one up and have a look.
I went to the shed and fetched a phillips head screwdriver and removed the screws. What I found inside was a few pieces of wiring connecting the solar chip on top to a rechargeable AA battery.
Hmmm, I thought. I wonder if regular rechargeable batteries would work?
When I went to the store this afternoon, I picked up a pack of rechargeables and charged them up. Tonight I removed the old, dead batteries and poped in the new ones and walah! Good as new.
I love it when a plan comes together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Late Dinner

It was later tonight when I fed the critters. Normally I get all that done before sunset, but the rain came today and I spent the afternoon on the porch writing.
Every now and then when the words paused, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. Rain rattled the tin roof, and I could see wrens, sparrows, and cardinals darting from shrub to shrub seeking shelter.
Jilda worked this afternoon and we ate when she got home. 
I had my legs propped up on the ottoman munching our square of Ghirardelli dark chocolate, when I realized I hadn't fed things.
I slipped on my shoes and stepped out to the chicken pen to look in on the girls. They are quite young and haven't learned to roost properly, so they normally sit huddled on the ground out in the pen.
Tonight, they were huddled in the shelter. They looked like a giant snowball. They've grown so much.
I scooped a cup of corn and headed down to the apple tree. Rain was still falling and I stood in the open and looked to the sky. The cool rain felt good on my face. I tried to think back to the last time I walked in the rain and realized it had been too long.
I spread the corn on the ground under the tree and then tapped the empty plastic cup with the palm of my hand. I imagine that it's my signal to my four legged friends that it's dinner time, but they never come running.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life is Messy

Life is messy. You hear this all the time, but often it's associated with things that are aggravating, but in the scheme of things, really not that bad.
As I write tonight, I can testify that in fact, life is messy. Recently, our toilets began to flush slowly.
I didn't dally, but called my personal plumber (my brother-in-law) Ricky to seek advice.
"How long has it been since your septic tank has been cleaned out?" he asked. My mind feebly ticked backwards, and I finally said - I think it was 1985. 
He said they should really be pumped out about every five years. Hmmm, I did the math in my head. 2012 minus 1985. So, I should have had it cleaned out five times. 
I had that conversation last week and today the septic tank guy arrived just before lunch. Thankfully it was only 96 degrees, when we began digging around in the back yard trying to located the tank that was placed in the ground when Carter was in the White House.
When we found it, I got the tractor and helped dig 30 years of earth off the tank.
I won't go into the details of the next few steps of the operation, but suffice it to say, I wouldn't do what these guys did for $425. 
When I asked the guy how long he'd been in this line of work, he said over 25 years. His father did the same thing and he took over the business.
I have a great respect for this guy. He does an honest days work, treats his customers with respect, and makes life less messy. 
I love America.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Digging Deeper

Thanks to all who commented on my entry last night on What Resonates, I think you all had valid points, but when I hone in on something, I find myself wanting to dig deeper.
I picked up Jilda's iPad today and touched the Flipbook icon. One of the streams (news feeds) is Fast Company. If you've never read Fast Company, I suggest you pick one up, or go online and read a little. It's my favorite magazines.
Anyhow, I found this article this morning that examines why videos (in particular) go viral.....or why they resonate. This story looks at two videos: one is the Old Spice commercial, and the other is about the Bed Intruder, and it takes a look at the reasons why America found them so compelling.
The article is several pages long, but for those interested in digging a little deeper into the psychology of "telling a story" which is what most of us bloggers strive to do, I think it is an excellent piece.
How to Build Marketing Stories that Work.
If any of you come across any articles about this topic, I'd love for you to send me links. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

What Resonates

I've spent a lot of time today thinking about what makes songs, stories, paintings, or photographs, resonate with people.
I've written things that I thought were really good, but when I put them out there, they fell flat as a dime.  I've written other things that I thought were OK, but nothing special that somehow struck a chord, and resonated with readers.
It happened several weeks ago with a column I wrote about my brothers and father. The piece was entitled Restless Spirits.
Then today my  newspaper column about our first set of Encyclopedia's (it was from a blog post I published last week), received a ton of comments, emails, and phone calls.  Someone shared it on Facebook and it's received 10 comments on there so far. 
After lunch when we took our daily nap, I tapped the Pandora icon on my iPhone and went with the Bob Dylan radio stream. Before I fell asleep, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, came on.
What is it about that song that has withstood the drift of time. What makes it relavant 50 years after it was written?
The only explanation I can come up with is that it resonates with listeners.
How important is that to what we do? If we as writers could somehow tap into the psyche of America (or the world) and come up with stories, songs, art, or ideas that resonate, our work could make us famous, and most likely outlive us.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Fun with Animals

When we returned from our overnight stay, it was obvious our animals missed us. We had to spend quality time with each of them to let them know they are special and that they did nothing to cause us to flee.
Today on the way home, we stopped and picked up some steaks. This evening I fired up the grill and sat outside to enjoy the waning light from the setting sun, while waiting for the coals to get grill-ready.
I'd poured me a glass of Merlot and as I settled into my chair, I felt a fuzzy presence to starboard. 
I looked down and Caillou was nuzzling up. I petted him and told him how much we missed him....but then I said, do you see that squirrel? 
His ears shot up and he was on full alert. He became stealthy as he scanned the back yard. 
I whispered -- over there, he's eating your pine cones. 
In an instant he was like a shot from a gun and he chased a squirrel over half the yard, always a few steps behind. 
The squirrel shot up a tree, went up about 12 feet and then barked chidingly at Caillou as if he were a misbehaving child.
Caillou ran around that tree for ten minutes. I could almost understand what he was saying: "Come down here you bushy-tailed rodent, and I'll kick your ass." 
Of course that never happened. 
I smiled at the exchange. Because that's how life is. You have things that stick in your craw, and you'd love nothing better than to  put a good butt whuppun' on it, but that rarely happens.
Life is messy. The lesson for us, I think, is to fight the battles we have a shot at winning, and when the squirrel runs 12 feet up the tree and chides us; we smile and say...one day my fuzzy friend, one day.

Songwriter Event

We drove south today to perform at a songwriter event in Opelika. This old dog learned a new trick.
We packed the car with a cooler of ice, bottles of water, and food. I put a hat in the car as well as several other things to help if we're faced with the situation we blogged about yesterday.
Of course we barely had to hit the brakes on the 140 mile trip.
We played with five other singer songwriters tonight and they all were awesome. Rebecca Walker-Jones was the host and we learned that she's a great songwriter too.
It's been a long day, so I'm making this post short and sweet. Thanks for all who left comment yesterday.
Both Jilda and I had headaches late into the night, but we're fine.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Harbinger: a person or thing that foreshadows or foretells of the coming of someone or something.
Our harbinger was in the form of a State Trooper that blew by us when we were on the way home from lunch with our good friends Wes and Deidra in Huntsville.
We'd struggled with the decision to go, but we hadn't seen our friends in a long time and it would only take a few hours to run up, have lunch and then blow back home in time for an early afternoon practice session and cap it of with a nap. No problem.
We headed out at 10 and made the trip in about an hour and twenty minutes. The morning was a bit cooler but the humidity was still brutal.
We lunched with our friends and then headed home. As we navigated the onramp to I 65 south a trooper blew by at an alarming rate of speed. Had he been two minutes earlier, I might have taken the bypass through Decatur which would have added about 20 minutes to our trip home, but at the point he passed, we were committed.
The interesting thing is that the Tennessee River runs near Huntsville and the bridge across the river is a few miles south of the onramp from Huntsville....the direction we were headed.
We drove about a mile and traffic came to a complete halt.
Normally, that would not have been an issue. We come up on construction areas or mishaps frequently when we travel. But today, the mercury was bumping 100.
A car can idle with the air conditioner on in that kind of heat for a while, but even the best of cars will overheat if left to idle very long.
We sat for about 20 minutes and I decided to cut the engine. At that point, traffic seemed to be backed up for miles.
We learned that an eighteen wheeler had lost control and jack-knifed on the bridge blocking the southbound lanes.
We had two water bottles, but they'd sit in the car during lunch, so by the time we headed home, the bottles were hot enough to brew tea.
After about 45 minutes, we abandoned our car and stood in the shade of the transfer truck in front of us.
The guy sitting by us in the other lane left his car running. He had no choice. His wife was wheelchair bound, and they had their tiny dog with them. I'd be willing to bet his Ford will never be the same.
Another 15 minutes and I began to get seriously concerned. Since Jilda has been taking her infusion treatments, it reset her internal thermostat and she never gets warm.
I looked at her today as we stood in the shade of the truck and her face was red and she was sweating.
Just as I was about to ask the folks next to us to make room for us to got between so that I could try and cross the ditch which separates the lanes of the interstate, a state highway department truck pulled up in the other lane about 50 yards in front of us. He dumped a load of gravel in the ditch and then packed it down. A few moments later another rescue vehicle came down the median and began to block oncoming traffic from the other direction which allowed us to cross over the median and to an alternative route across the river. A four hour excursion turned into nine hours from hell.
There were a lot of take aways from today and I won't bore you with all of them, but I will tell you this:
If you're traveling through the south during summer, make sure you have a boatload of water, ice, a portable air conditioner, and 4-Wheel drive.
I'm going to have a test on this later, so make sure you write this down.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy 4th of July

Our great nephew called a few days ago to ask if he and his mom could shoot fireworks in our field tonight.
I'm not a fan of fireworks, but he gets special consideration -- well, he gets pretty much what he ask for with us :)
It's been so hot here and the ground is dry as snuff, so I spent the afternoon collecting hosepipes and making sure I could put out a fire if I had to.
Just after lunch I was working in my office when I heard a rumble in the distance. I never imagined it could be thunder, but when I walked to the back deck, I could smell rain on the wind.
I said a silent prayer of gratitude. A while later it rained for about an hour and then the clouds moved off to the east creating a steam room effect.
Jilda cooked ribs, corn on the cob, made slaw and Texas toast for the family.
After dinner we all went out back for the fireworks. I held the box and the flashlight so that the handler could read instructions and shoot off the fireworks without losing a hand.
Jordan (great nephew) had a large time, but our dogs didn't take it so well.
When we finally came inside, they ALL tried to sit in my lap.
It was a fun day. I hope you all had remarkable days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


/';lkjhgfdsarewfndasioyrt4ihfas8yg4hitnfadsv,mnasi4ruq34ojfalskdmqasdfasfh[9ukdasjounviijgidavndlnc. asdk8hfa;]=enadknivbhkdnfadklnfpihnlkdnfaihlekfnvuha;fnkdjoierfhalkndIEFHQLEKNKAadsfientugbasdjcxm  dksnaf;lnfvkner'oaj'[aeifndvkdck

Don't adjust your computer screens, let me explain:

I was sitting here trying to think of something to write about and noticed my keyboard looked like it came from a computer at Birmingham Hide and Tallow. 
How does a keyboard get so mangy looking?
I'm a clean person. I wash my hands frequently and rarely eat or drink anything while I'm typing, but it looked as gnarly.
I immediately fetched one of our super-duper microfiber cleaning cloths and gave it a good going over.  

After the cleaning when I looked up, the screen was "gibber-esk."   

Some nights, you grasp at straws. Tonight is one of those nights.   Y'all have a happy 4th of July.

Monday, July 02, 2012

It Can't Get Much Hotter ~ Column from Sunday

I tried to sit on the screen porch to write this column but that lasted about as long as a teenage crush. 

It was hotter than a cup of McDonalds coffee, and I was afraid I’d sweat so hard that I’d short out the keyboard on my laptop. So in I went. 

I bought Jilda an iPad last year and she has a weather app on it. She programs in all our favorite vacation spots and each day when it’s hot enough to smelt iron ore on the front walk, she flips through the various places.

It’s 68 and breezy in San Francisco. In Telluride, it’s 75 with a low in the upper 40’s tonight. In Galway, Ireland it’s 60 degrees with rain.

I have to admit that with the forecast here in Alabama over the next few weeks calling for temps only slightly less than the actual surface of the sun, walking in the rain in Galway sounds really appealing.

I think we were better off before air conditioning. We never had air conditioning when I was growing up and the heat never seemed to phase me.

During the summer when the sun was high, we played outside from daylight until dark. By the time the school bells began to ring in the fall, I was as brown as a brogan.

It would never have occurred to me to waste a single precious second of my summer indoors, without threats from my mom. 

“If you don’t come in right now and get ready for bed, I’ll whip you with a rose bush.” 

Even after Jilda and I married, we lived in a 12’ X 65’ house trailer without air conditioning. On hot summer days, we spent a lot of time in the shade of our mimosa trees drinking ice tea and eating watermelon. We had a BBQ grill and we cooked a lot of meals outside to keep from heating the house up even more.

At night we had a huge steel-bladed box fan in our bedroom window. The window in there was low and the fan pulled a cool breeze from even the warmest summer nights.

Hurricane Fredrick hit Mobile in 1979 and when my boss at MaBell asked for volunteers to head south to work the following spring and summer, I jumped at the chance.

We secured the trailer, I loaded Jilda and Duke, our old German Shepherd, into our pickup and we headed to Mobile. We lived in a Howard Johnson Hotel on Government Boulevard until September.

We worked hard during the day, but Jilda was the designated cook and each day she’d plan dinner for the 12 guys (and women) in our work crew. 

Everybody threw money in the pot and each day while we worked, she’d go grocery shopping. We had seafood feast, steak, chili, pot roast and anything we could think of. Even though it was brutally hot that summer, we all gained weight.

When we came home in September and went through the trailer, all the candles had melted into puddles. 

The plastic shower curtain somehow sealed together into a clump that resembled a science experiment that had gone terribly wrong.

We managed to save a little money from all the overtime that summer, which allowed us to put a down payment on the house where we now live. 

Of course it has central air conditioning, so the days of spending time under mimosa trees and sipping sweet tea are just fond memories.

Are we better off today? I sometimes wonder.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Free Ride

A trend I've noticed through the years is the concept of "Free". I read a book about it, and Google was actually founded on the concept of "free". They offer a lot of free stuff and then make their money on the back end, through ads and corporate deals.
Several years ago there was a thing called Napster. You could download any song or software for free. I will admit it was tempting. Get all the music I love, and the software I need, for free.
But then that pesky little voice from down deep inside kept saying: "What if it were your song people were stealing?" Or "What if it were the software you'd spent three years of your lifeblood developing?"
I resisted. I sucked it up and paid for the music I love, and the software I use in my work.
Fast forward to today.  I get a daily newsletter from Slashdot and it's the bleeding edge newsletter about technology. Apparently the Samsung Nexus phone won't be released in the U.S. because Apple says the company infringed on their copyright. According to Apple (and I don't know all the details so please don't send me hate-mail) Samsung built some of the features on things that Apple invented.
When I read the comments on the website about the story, everybody was jumping on Apple because they fought to protect their intellectual property. 
I know this post is getting a little deep, but bare with me. 
All I'm saying is this: we all have talents. We all have the ability to create things. We should all have the ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Robert Heilein, the guy who wrote the classic book, Stranger in a Strange Land, said: There is no such thing as a free lunch. 
I think we as a country will be much better off, if we learn this simple lesson.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required