Friday, November 30, 2012

Passport Pictures

Jilda and I are thinking about traveling outside the country next year. Our passports expired a while back, so we filled out new paperwork, and went today to get our new photos made.
If mine had numbers, it would look like a police mugshot of someone about to be thrown into the drunk tank, or perhaps someone busted for contributing to the delinquency of a senior citizen.
I can almost hear the dialog between the clerks. 
"ALL photographs must be taken under glaring florescent lights, and this one looks as if you can detect a bit of natural light, so please re-take it."
"These won't do either, I don't see any zits or nose hair."
"HELLO, he's smiling on this one. Am I going to have to take it myself?"
Jilda's actually looked better than mine. The upside is that not many people will ever see it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ten Reasons I Love Christmas

To kick off the Christmas season, I'm giving you my top ten reasons I love Christmas:
1. The English Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Almonds, and Chestnuts that seem to only be available during the holidays.
2. Eggnog
3. Christmas movies - Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooge, Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life.......
4. Salvation Army bell ringers. You know it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas when you hear that ching, ching, ching.
5. The aroma of Christmas cookies - Jilda always makes Christmas cookies with all our nieces and nephews (now great-nieces and nephews). It's something they (we) all look forward to.
6. Christmas music - December, The Carpenters Christmas, Celtic Christmas.........
7. Jilda's world famous hot apple cider
8. Christmas gatherings with friends, and family.
9. Bubble lights
10. The Peace of Christmas, even when I know it's only for a while.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Gamble

Today was a free day for Jilda and me. I was caught up on my work, neither of us had doctor's appointments, so we found ourselves in  unfamiliar territory.
After coffee, Jilda was scanning news on her iPad, and saw that the Powerball jackpot had hit half a billion dollars.
We looked at each other and said, "We've got to have a ticket." For most folks getting a ticket would mean putting on your house shoes, clomping down to the local convenience store, and buying a ticket. But here in Alabama, gambling is like adultery, or voting for a Democrat, it's illegal. Well, it's not really illegal to vote for a Democrat, but folks at Walmart look at you really mean if you have a Blue Dot sticker on your car.
Now where was I? Oh yes, we wanted a Powerball ticket. After we had our coffee we showered, dressed, and headed to Tennessee, which does in fact sell lottery tickets.
The Tennessee state line is 88 miles from our driveway. I know because I've measured it. The morning was crisp and the sky as blue as my sweetheart's eyes.
We had a beautiful drive up and after we crossed the state line, we pulled off at the first stop.
There were dozens of cars swarming the two places that sold lottery tickets. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea as us. Funny what a chance at $500 million dollars will make folks do.
We decided to drive a few miles further toward Nashville to the next exit. When we pulled in, there weren't that many cars and buying the tickets only took a few minutes.
On the way back to Alabama we stopped at the rest stop on the state line. Since the space industry is huge in Huntsville, Alabama, there's a Saturn Rocket at the rest stop. Not a model, but a full-sized rocket.
The rest stop also has a replica of The Wall Memorial. We've stopped at this rest stop many times, but we've always been in a hurry and never took the time to visit the memorial.
Today, we took the time. I shot a photo of Jilda pointing to one of the local men that died in Vietnam.
Jilda, when she worked for the local college, got an opportunity to visit The Wall in Washington D.C. and she said she was moved to tears just standing next to it.
We left the rest stop about 11 a.m. and we both realized it was lunch time.
Home was still over an hour away, so Jilda suggested we stop at our friend Berkeley Bob's Coffee House and have their Wednesday special which is red beans and rice.
That sounded good to me, and Cullman was less than an hour away so off we went. We waltzed in before the lunch crowd arrived and ordered up a couple bowls. I snapped this photo of Jilda.
Life is interesting, and I cannot think of a better way to spend a beautiful autumn day.
Also, if I win $500 million dollars later tonight, it might be a few days before I recover enough to write an update.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Wife the Deer Slayer ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

I’ve decided on at least one Christmas gift for Jilda this year. I’m looking for a car tag that says “DEER SLAYER.”

She’s worked at Bradford Health Services in Warrior for seven years, and during her tenure there, she’s hit six deer.

After the first deer, her friend and co-worker Fred gave her two deer whistles that mount below the bumper.

The idea is that as the Volvo is whizzing along on backroads, the deer whistles warn deer of impending calamity.

I’m convinced that the whistle resemble some type of Odocoileus virginianus mating call because she’s hit more and more deer.

I told her last spring when she bagged a young buck not far from our house that the game warden would issue her a citation for taking a deer out of season. 

She always gets really upset and she said some unkind things about me between the snubs and sniffles.

Our nephew Haven is a deer hunter who spends a fortune on equipment like tree stands, camouflage and ammunition, and I think Jilda’s bagged more deer than he has, and she’s never looked down the shiny blue-gray barrel of a gun.

I suggested to him that he should get a deer whistle and buy clothes the color of Ingrid, Jilda’s Volvo. I think he’s a little touchy about the situation and takes a dim view of my suggestion because he quickly changes the subject each time I bring it up.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago. I went to Warrior with my niece Samantha because she was having issues with her new car and wanted me to go along for moral support. I thought she’d be able to take me back home, but as it turns out, I had to call Jilda and ask her to come fetch me.

Normally, it takes about 20 minutes to get from our house in Empire to Warrior, but after about 30 minutes, still no Jilda.

I was about to call her on her cell when my phone rang. She was almost hysterical.

As she was heading down the hill before you get to the Warrior Jasper road, a buck running at full speed broadsided her in the passenger door.

She said the impact was so violent that it threw her into the oncoming lane. Fortunately there was no traffic coming. When she arrived to pick me up, the passenger side of the car looked as if it had been hit by a bus. 

The impact had caved the door in and ripped the chrome off the side. The door wouldn’t open and the window wouldn’t roll down.

She said the deer rolled over the trunk of her car and scurried off into the woods as if it had stumped his toe on a stone.

We took the car to Ellis Automotive and our buddies down there had a good-natured laugh at Jilda’s expense.

I’m not sure what the tab was for repairs, but it involved ordering parts for a Volvo that was manufactured when Clinton was in the White House.

I’m guessing the insurance company would love to slip some kind of deer-clause in our insurance policy but so far so good.

I decided to remove the deer whistles, just in case.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Over Active Imagination

A good imagination in my line of work, is essential. I will go so far as to say it’s a gift.
As a writer, it helps me to think of things to write about. And when I write, my imagination helps me to make non-intuitive leaps to connect things that most folks wouldn’t ordinarily connect. 
But an overactive imagination is not always an asset, especially in other lines of work; plumbing for example. 
Last week our gas stove died a few days before Thanksgiving and we were supposed to take turkey for a lunch with other members of Jilda’s family.
She had a fresh turkey breast as big as a clydesdale sitting on the counter and when she turned the oven on, nothing happened.
That’s strange, she said. She turned it off and tried again. Something’s not right, I heard her say with more than a little panic creeping into her voice.
We called all our kinfolks who lived nearby and found a working oven which saved the day. 
The next day she did research and found the stove she wanted, and we ordered it.
I contacted our nephew Haven who is a plumber and gas man, so he put us on his work list.
This afternoon the installation went off without a hitch. All the burners sprang to life as expected, but when he turned the oven on, something wasn’t right.
All of a sudden we began to smell smoke and it was not just the smell of a new oven. 
My imagination leapt into action. I was thinking not just house fire, but a conflagration that would level our entire community. I’d have to notify neighbors, fire departments, and possibly FEMA.
I was thinking about the things in the house that I should try to save. I’ll need to grab the critters,  my backup computer drive so I can save my data, pictures, music, and all the words I’ve written in the past 50 years, my guitar, and.......
Haven on the other hand, realized that it was probably a small piece of cardboard that had fallen through the cracks near the oven burners.
A few seconds later he used his pliers to fetch a smoldering piece of cardboard about the size of a playing card and tossed it into the sink.
I felt a little foolish, but then my imagination told me I could use this to write a blog entry. I smiled at the thought.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I wrote in my journal this evening. I'm debriefing myself on the book signing I did on Friday...what I did right, what I could have done better, what I want to be sure and do next time.
I learned that most of my readers fall into the "non-pajamanational" crowd (those who don't wear pajamas to Walmart). I'm not sure what it will take to reach that crowd.
Speaking of pajamas, has anyone else noticed this trend at the local big-box stores? I see it all the time. Men and women come to Walmart (it's the only big-box store we have around here), at all hours of the day and night in the pajamas.
Jilda wears high heels to the post office (not really, you will never see her without makeup). If I leave the farm, you can bet I've had a shower, shave, and I'm wearing clean clothes, and not something I've slept in.
Apparently this is not just a local phenomenon because when I Googled it there were pages. One town in Louisiana that is in the process of passing a law against it.
I'm not offended, I'm just befuddled.
"Hey hon, I've got to run to Walmart to get some eggs for breakfast. The biscuits are in the oven so I don't have time to change into my clothes. I'll be back in 10."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tough Gig

Jilda wrote about this last night, but one of our neighbors passed away on Thanksgiving morning. He had a stroke several weeks ago on the couple's 70 wedding anniversary. He had just turned 90 during the summer.
The couple came to hear Jilda and me play at the Frog Festival in October. He sat on the front row in his motorized wheelchair and puffed on a cigar.
His wife had come up to the stage between songs and asked if we'd play his favorite gospel song, Amazing Grace. We know it well and we played the song for them. It made them happy, which made both of us happy.
He was a remarkable gardener. Through the years when I struggled to have a decent stand of okra, and a few vine-ripe tomatoes, but his garden was abundant every year without fail.
He knew the soil, he planted by the signs in the Farmer's Almanac, and he tended his field religiously.
Today was hard. I usually do OK at funerals, but one of their granddaughters put together a slideshow of old and new photographs with video spliced in.
In one clips, she was sitting by his bedside, singing Jesus Loves Me. I choked up. We sang just after the video, and it was hard to get the breath and voice to do it. We both struggled at first, but made it through just fine.
I worry about his wife. I can't imagine losing a spouse after spending 70 years together.
We'll keep her in our thoughts and prayers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Like Old Friends

I have an image problem. Not sure how it originated or what I can do about it. This fact has come to light over the past few months.
I signed books at the mall today, and three of my readers came up and introduced themselves. The first words out of their mouths were I love your writing, and the second thing was, "you're a lot younger than I thought you were."  I'm flattered that they like my work, but I'm not sure why they thought I was older.
Either I write like I'm much older, or the picture used by the newspaper for my column does not do me justice.
I've been writing that column for five years, and most of the words are about things that happen to Jilda and me, so it stands to reason that people would know a great deal about us. But sometimes people come up and talk to us like we're old friends and we don't know them from Adam.
When they leave, Jilda will say "Who was that?" To which I always reply, "I thought you knew them."
Apparently either both of our minds are going south, or these are complete strangers who read my column and feel like they know us.
At any rate, we had fun today and I didn't have to mace anyone. I sold a few books, and we saw a bunch of old friends, some of which we'd never met.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was a little sad for me. My mom died in February and this is the first one without her.
Back when she lived at home, we always ate Thanksgiving Lunch with Jilda's folks, and then went down afterwards to decorate mother's house for Christmas.
She was into Christmas decorations. She had a monster tree, and all kinds of stuff for her yard. The whole family including the grandkids and great grandkids would come join in.
It became one of those traditions.
Mama made excellent desserts and a Christmas punch. After the decorating was done, we'd sit around stuffing our faces with apple pie, red velvet cake, sugar cookies, and Jilda's favorite, divinity.
It was all she could do to keep from stuffing her purse with pounds of the delicate candy.
My sister Mary Lois invited us for lunch, and our nephew Haven invited us for dinner, so we've spent the day with the ones we love.
I hope you all have had a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I sent my Sunday column off to the editor a few minutes ago and then glanced at my inbox. I flipped through a few papers and a magazine that I'd marked to read, and realized that for the first time in a while, I'm caught up.
I have no unmet deadlines zooming at me at the speed of apprehension. That means I can enjoy this coming weekend without worrying about things I should have done, or need to do.
It's a good feeling. I should make it a point to be in this place more often.
I've come to learn that you are where you are because of the decisions you make. Oh, I think I'll go fishing and finish this later. Or, I've got plenty of time to knock this out, later.
I'm really trying to refocus on habits. When I was jobbed, much of my day was preplanned. I knew when I needed to be at work. I knew that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I had this meeting, I knew that the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'd be on call (we didn't have kids so I always volunteered for holidays). I knew a the end of the months, these reports were due, and at the first of the month, this had to be done.
But when I became unjobbed, the rules changed. No one would blister my ear if I didn't do something on the last day of the month, or no one was there to gently remind me that I needed to make something happen.
It's a different paradigm and one that I was ill prepared for. I've actually struggled at times being my own boss. I've loafed when I should have had been scooting and vise versa.
It seems like over the past several months, I've done a better job of prioritizing. I've learned how to say no, and when to say yes.
So, tonight I plan to pour me a glass of red wine, pop in a Christmas movie, and enjoy Thanksgiving eve.
I hope you all have a remarkable day and realize how blessed we all are.
From Jilda and I, Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I worked in my day planner this morning, updating goals, and my calendar for the rest of this year and the first quarter of next year.
I'd ordered refills for 2013 back in August when they first went on sale. So today, I broke out the first quarter and clipped them into the leather planner.
I have calendars, TODO, reminders, and all kinds of software to help me be more productive, but there's something comforting about sitting down with paper, colored pens, and thinking about what I need to do for the next several months.
You can't doodle in the margins of your iPhone. The phone's design is great, but I feel like I think better, and make more thorough planning decisions, when I work with paper.
I'll always rely on my gadgets to help keep me on track, but where there's thinking required, I'll turn to paper.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Inspiration does grow on trees ~ My Column from Sunday

The weather forecast called for freeze warnings this week, so I checked gas levels in our propane tank, made sure the outside faucets were covered, and then I stepped down to the fence and picked the last few tomatoes left on the vines.

I love autumn, but I thought of how I will miss our fresh vine-ripe tomatoes as I popped some bread in the toaster, and sliced a tomato. 

When the bread jumped, I slathered on some mayo, spread the slices across the warm bread, sprinkled on salt and ate the sandwich standing at the sink.

The wind out of the north jangled the chimes on the side porch and put a fresh layer of leaves on the back deck.

The water oak in our front yard has finally decided it’s autumn. Unlike the harbinger sumac, which starts screaming in late August with tinges of red and crimson, the water oak takes his time before deciding to let go of his leaves.

I made a mental note to sweep the deck after I finished writing my column. 

As often happens when I don’t have a decent idea to write about, I piddled. I straightened up computer cords, cleaned my keyboard, filed CD’s and did everything but write.

I sat in my office so long my rear-end went to sleep. I almost tapped the letters off the keyboard, and every idea I came up with was “lamer than a land-mine sweeper.”

That’s when I stepped outside to get some fresh air and remembered the deck needed my attention. Thank goodness for small favors.

I grabbed the broom from inside and went to work sweeping a couple bushels of leaves off the deck.

I actually enjoy this chore. It’s one of those mindless activities that feels good. I get a little exercise, and when I’m finished, I can look back and get a feeling of accomplishment. It’s instant gratification.

There are a lot of people I know that hate trees and would have the water oak chainsawed before you could say Paul Bunyun.

They don’t like trees close to their house, they don’t like birds using their vehicle as a potty (actually I’m not fond of this either), they can’t stand squirrels, and they’d rather lick a toad than rake leaves in the fall.

I love that tree and consider it a gift. I’m not that good at guessing sizes, but it looks big enough to have its own zipcode.

My garden loves the water oak as much as I do because I till mountains of dried leaves into the soil to make organic fertilizer.

I also use them to mulch our fruit trees, and I always save some to burn on cool Saturday afternoons.

Mother Nature is no dummy. She provides us all with gifts that keep on giving. 

Not only is the tree beautiful, but it also provides shade in the summer, and in the fall it nourishes our garden, it gives me physical exercise, and a mental respite. 

I just realized that while sweeping the leaves, I came up with the idea for this column, so it is also my muse. What more could you ask for?

Happy autumn.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stove Trauma

Jilda's sister Pat invited us to have early Thanksgiving Lunch with her today. Jilda volunteered to bake a turkey breast and take some pumpkin crack (It's the best pumpkin flavored dessert I've ever tasted).
She baked the pumpkin crack yesterday, but this morning when she cranked up the oven to bake the turkey.....nada.
Jilda's stress level went from zero to 90 in 30 seconds. The makers or Porsches could learn a thing or two about performance from her.
While Jilda was pacing around the house hitting every number on her speed dial trying to find someone with a working oven, I jumped on the phone and called her brother who lives next door. He's bailed us out more times than I can count.
He came over with his flashlight and looked tentatively beneath the stove. I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, you don't have a gas leak, the bad news is, the electronics are shot in your gas oven.
We knew his oven had been on the blink too, but he had it fixed recently which we did not know.  He agreed to bake the turkey.
Jilda's blood pressure dropped 80 points, and the blood vessels in her temples stopped throbbing like angry earthworms.
After lunch we drove to the appliance store and picked out a new range. It has all the features she wanted in a stove. I'll go tomorrow and pick it up.
It would be easy to get aggravated too because the new range is not cheap, but she cooks every day. A good stove is an investment.
I'm hoping she'll make another batch of pumpkin crack to initiate the new oven.

BLOG UPDATE: Recipe for Pumpkin Crack (OK, Paula Dean calls them something else, but taste 'em and tell me which is the better name).

Paula Dean's Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Bars

I box yellow cake mix
8 Tablespoons butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350
Lightly grease 9x13 Pan

Melt butter, add egg and cake mix, mix well with electric mixer, pat mixture into bottom of pan
1 (8oz)package of cream cheese
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1teaspoon vanilla
8 Tablespoons melted butter
1(16oz) box powder sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth, add eggs, vanilla and butter, beat together
Next add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, mix well.   Spread over cake batter, bake for 40-50
Minutes, center should be a little gooey, serve with whipped cream

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Old Music

I read a headline today proclaiming The Rolling Stones Turn 50. I took a moment for that to sink in.
I bought the first Rolling Stones vinyl album in 1965, the year after it was released, and I think I still have the record stored in our old house.
I'm guessing mildew has eaten away at the cover, but we took care of our records, so the vinyl should still be in good shape.
I saw a record player advertised that would convert your old vinyl albums, and your cassette tapes to CD. I'm guessing the fidelity would be suspect, but I'd really like to capture some of our old music.
My friend Lacy Barnett sent me a listing of the music he's collected through the years and it was an impressive collection.
I will make a short list of the vinyl in our old house that I'd like to convert:
The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Gram Parsons
The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
The Beatles White Album
Black Oak Arkansas
Simon and Garfunkel
Bob Dylan, Highway 61
The Alman Brothers, Live
Jackson Browne Saturate Before Using
The Eagles, first album, Desperado,.....
John Prine, John Prine

I could go on and on.
Maybe I should put a bug in Santa's ear about the record player/converter.
Have a great Sunday.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I haven't had a Hostess Twinkie in years and when I read the news today that the company was going out of business, I had an instant craving for one.
I kept asking myself, why on earth had I not been buying them all along. The company's going under, their employees will be unemployed for Christmas, and it's my fault. What was I thinking.
When I was in the Army in Panama, we were on an outpost on the Atlantic side of the canal. Over the weekends, we lived out of vending machines.
One of the most frequently pushed buttons on that machine was Hostess Twinkie's  I must have eaten a thousand of them.
What's interesting is that we also had beer vending machines, and they were the same prices as Cokes.
The machines had buttons for all kinds of beer but the Bud, Miller, and Papst were always out. Thank goodness you could always count on Hamms.
I know when viewed through the lens of reason, a modicum of knowledge about nutrition, that it might seem like Hostess Twinkie's and Hamms Beer are an unfortunate choice of snacks, but stuck off at the edge of Central America, a million miles away from home, beer and Twinkie's were the perfect comfort food.
When I got out of the Army I hooked back up with my high school sweetheart, who just happens to be my lovely wife.
We eloped on May 5th 1974 and got married on the front porch of a house trailer in Brewton, Alabama. 
We were on our way to spend our honeymoon at the beach. We got married in the early afternoon, and when we left the preacher's house. We stopped at a mom & pop convenience store just south of town and bought a couple of Hostess Twinkie's. We parked under the shade of a giant oak, pulled a chilled bottle of Boones' Farm Strawberry Hill wine from the cooler in the back seat, ate our Twinkie's, and with red plastic cups we toasted our future together.
I will miss my Twinkie's RIP Hostess 11-16-2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Potato Soup

I heard Jilda in the kitchen on Tuesday chopping, grating, and rattling pots and pans. Everything she makes is good. I'm not saying that to score points, she is really a great cook. You can ask any of our friends.
I stood for a while and watched her move about the kitchen. When I saw the ingredients in the staging area, I knew at once what she was making -- Potato Soup.
I've had a lot of potato soup through the years and some of it was good, but I've never had any to match what my lovely spouse makes.
Earlier in the year when my mother was going down hill, she ate like a bird. Whenever the people at the nursing home brought her something, she usually made a face and pushed it away.
One day I told her that Jilda was going to make potato soup and asked if she'd like a bowl. She wasn't very enthused, but agreed to give it a try.
The next day I brought her a bowl of the soup and a pack a crackers. She took a tentative bite and then proceeded to eat the entire bowl.
The next day I brought her another bowl and she ate that too. We all were ecstatic.
Food plays such an important role in our lives. Some of the best times we've ever had involves meals with our friends and family.
Tonight we warmed up a bowl of potato soup and it was even better tonight than it was on Tuesday. I do miss my mom. I wish she were here, because I know she would have enjoyed this meal as much as I did.

1 small onion, chopped
2 tbl butter
Can of Cream of Chicken soup
Can of Creamy Celery soup
Bag of frozen hashbrowns
6 cups of chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup of grated cheese
1 cup of milk
Saute chopped onion in butter until soft
Add broth, bring to a boil
Add hashbrowns and simmer for 10-12 minutes then add salt, pepper - soup and milk
Stir until mixed.
Simmer another 10 minutes - stir in cheese (she uses a mix of cheddar and smoked gouda).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Jilda wasn't feeling well Sunday so I went to our monthly songwriter's group meeting alone. It's the first one she's missed and I felt a little out of sync without her.
We start each meeting with each of the participants singing a new song (or one that no one's heard before). I love this because it puts a little gentle peer pressure on us to write new material each month.
When it comes to writing songs, neither Jilda nor I are as disciplined as we are writing other things. But since the groups been meeting, we've written more which is a good thing.
We also discuss ways to get better, how to be better on stage, and how to write stronger songs that have a broader appeal.
In looking back at successful songs throughout history, the ones that seem to resonate, have lyrics that touch a nerve. They somehow speak to the times. Bob Dylan was a master at this, but the list is much to long to go into here. The point is, there is value in finding topics that are important on some level to a lot of people.
I suggested that we Google trends over the past ten years. Everyone thought that was a good idea, so when I got home, I did just that. The first one I looked at (click here to read the entire list) had just what I was looking for.
The first item on the list was Connection
Over the last decade, ownership of cell phones has grown from 97 million subscribers to 293 million subscribers. Ten years ago, no one had ever heard of Facebook. If people wanted to interact, the online choices were limited.
These days people chat, text, Facebook, share pictures, videos, music and so many other life experiences. People all over the world are connected into impromptu communities.
The point, as far as subject matter for a song, is not about technology, but our longing to be connected to something or someone. After all, that's why we blog.
I think a song about the yearning to be a part of something bigger could be one of those songs that resonate with a broader audience.
Anyhow, one of the other members of our songwriting group loves the idea and wants to get started on the song as soon as possible.
Have a look at the list above and see if it gives you an idea for a blog entry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What a Deal!

My Alabama Media Professional's meeting is held in the Homewood Library. Last week I got to the meeting about 30 minutes early.
The meeting rooms were in the basement, so I put my laptop down and decided to look around. I noticed a used book store.
I browsed the popular fiction and self help before checking out a shelf labeled poetry. I don't know a lot about poetry, but each time I go to a writer's conference or a songwriter's workshop, they all say that to become a better writer, you should read poetry.
There mid-shelf was The Norton Anthology of Poetry. It's about the size of a briefcase and when I asked the lady how much it cost, she flipped open the cover and said 25 cents.
I smiled as I reached into my pocket and plucked a quarter out.
As I said, I don't know a lot about poetry, but I love the way the words roll off your tongue and you read slowly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yearning for the simpler days ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

A front moved through last night, and I fell asleep listening to the rattle of rain on my metal roof. It’s a soothing sound. The roof wasn’t cheap to install, but on nights like last night, I am thankful they didn’t charge what it’s worth.

The rain brought cooler temperatures, which made it a perfect afternoon to build a fire in our fire pit in the back yard. I recently stopped by the store and stocked up on Hershey Bars, graham crackers and marshmallows. If there’s a better autumn treat than s’mores, I need for someone to share it with me because I can eat s’mores until the cows play backgammon.

The fire pit is perfect for contemplation. The gentle flames dancing on hickory, oak and apple wood are hypnotic. We built the pit the first Saturday in September, and that evening we built our first fire. 

The aroma of woodsmoke permeated my clothes, and the morning after when I tossed my shirt into the laundry hamper, I got a whiff of woodsmoke mixed with cotton and it sent my mind on a detour down memory lane.

I remembered a camping trip with my dad when I was 15 years old.

We spent the night on the banks of the Black Warrior River below Dora. Most of the time my dad didn’t talk a lot, but the campfire (and probably a few swigs of moonshine) loosened his tongue, and he talked into the night about his childhood, his successes, failures and lost dreams.

I was mesmerized by his words and the crackling sound of dying embers. As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear the slapping sound of a beaver’s tail on the water as he swam downstream, kerplunk, kerplunk.

It’s interesting to me that the simple smell of woodsmoke could serve as a time machine and send me back over 40 years. The fire pit wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth the money.

Maybe the reason I love my metal roof and fire pit so much is because they remind me of my youth. Most of the houses we lived in when I was a child had roofs that sounded like kettle drums when it rained.

There is a reason that “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Andy Griffith” and “Green Acres” are still popular today 50 years since they first appeared on our black and white televisions. 

People long for simpler times, before 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, when the choices were simpler and the world wasn’t driven by fear.

Those days weren’t Nirvana because every generation has their problems, but it seems the speed of communications these days has brought the problems into sharper focus.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Facebook, the online community that has somehow become woven into the fabric of our lives.

Leading up to the presidential election this year, the fear was palatable. The voice of reason, for the most part, did not play to the masses. I’m glad the election is over, but the respite won’t last because soon everyone will be cranking up for the 2016 elections.

I don’t want to think about that now, because I’m building a hickory fire in the pit and I’m going to roast some s’mores.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good and Bad

I built a fire in the fire pit last night, and I invited out guests outside to sit while the charcoal for the steaks heated up.
We grabbed our guitars and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and headed outside. The wind out of the west was cool, but and the sky was cloudless, and the stars looked like rhinestones on black velvet.. It's been a while since I've had a good look at the night sky. The stars were brilliant.
Our friend Wes is a songwriter too and each time we get together, we always bounce our new songs off each other.
After we played our stuff, we broke into Country Road, and other John Denver songs which I'm thinking are probably the most played sing-a-long songs in history.
After a while our guitars fell silent, and we sat for a long time just enjoying the evening, the company, and the ambiance.
Sitting there watching the gentle flames under the mesh screen was more intoxicating than wine. I found myself imagining what it was like when the only think between cave dwellers was a few crude tools, and the flickering of a simple fire.
We ate dinner inside and talked for a long while. It had all the ingredients for a perfect evening, but Jilda got ill.   It wasn't the wine because she rarely drinks.
I'm not sure what causes the nausea, but it has something to do with the infusion treatments she takes monthly. Our guests went to bed, but Jilda and I were up most of the night with her in the bathroom. I feel so helpless. The only think I can do is to fetch cool compresses, and chipped ice.
I really wish we could figure out what's causing the episodes.
She's rested today, and hopefully she'll sleep tonight. But Wednesday, she has another treatment, and the cycle starts all over.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Too Much Fun

We have friends visiting that we haven't seen in way too long. I lost track of the time and realized I hadn't posted.
I didn't want you to think I'd been abducted by aliens because I haven't, but I am having way too much fun.
I'll do better tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Late Start

I'm late getting started tonight. As I said before, I do the website for our local high school and tonight was the first round of playoffs.
The game was delayed twice due to injured kids. I hate seeing kids get hurt. It's the first time this season I've seen serious injuries. Both kids were taken away in ambulances. I know football is a popular sport, but there are risks.
Hopefully the injuries will not be serious. I had all I could take at half-time. It was colder than I expected and the game was running very late.
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fun with kids

I picked up my great nephew Jordan this afternoon. His grandparents work at the local school and they had a fall festival this evening. It would have been an extremely long day had I not brought him home with me.
Before we left he had to show me his watermelon that volunteered to come up in the gutter by the drive at the school.  Once he realized what it was, he has cared for it since late summer.
When I got him in his car seat I asked what he wanted for supper. PIZZA, he said with enthusiasm and conviction.
Pizza it is. We headed to Walmart and I tossed him in a buggy. We grabbed a couple pizzas and I picked up some coffee.
We needed a box of cereal so I headed toward that aisle. We don't buy sugar cereal, but he locked in on Fruit Loops. I tried to disuade him but he kept saying they're good. I told him if they had high fructose corn syrup that we couldn't get them because Jilda would yell at me (not really but we don't buy that stuff). When I checked the box, it had real sugar, so I got him a box.
On the way out, we passed through shelves of beer and I said much too loud, NO YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY BEER!
 I don't like beer he protested. I could hear grownups chuckling all up and down the aisle.
Once home, I popped the pizza in the oven, cranked up his kid shows on  public television and we had a grand old time, but I'm whupped this evening.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Autumn has been dry here until the rain moved through a few days ago. The leaves were nice, but it seems they were waiting for rain.
Today as Jilda and I rode back from Birmingham, the sun played hide-and-seek behind ragged gray clouds. Each turn on the last few miles of our county road arboreal parade. The color was simply stunning.
A few times I wanted to stop, but there were cars behind me with no place to get off the side of the road, so I took a mental picture instead.
Even our ancient oak that is slow to turn green in spring, and even slower to turn red in autumn, is beginning to give in. Walking the next few days should be amazing.
I've run out of steam tonight. Y'all have a remarkable Thursday.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Feng Shui

I use the term Feng Shui as if we were old friends having a brew-sky at Bubba's Bar and Bicycle Shop, but in fact, I know very little about it.
I do know that it originated a long time ago in China or somewhere on the other side of the world, and that a lot of scientists think it's a bunch of hooey.
But hey, those same scientists are spouting off a lot of compost about climate change and global warming so what do they know.
I like the way Feng Shui rolls off the tongue when you drop the term at a dinner party, especially when people are cranked up on Russian hooch and hot wings.
....Yes, I've implemented Feng Shui at our beach house and the chi there is devine. You can party for days there and never have a hangover.
Oh, REALLY? I must have some of that for my place. Tell me, do they sell it at Walmart?
Most of my friends balk when you tell them they'll have to buy bonsai trees, move their big screen TV's, and lose the Bark--Lounger.
All I really know is this: Jilda and I are ridding ourselves of a lot of junk. We can now walk through out cottage without banging our shins on Nordic Trac's or tripping over hoola hoops. We'll call it Feng Shui until we come up with a better term.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dappled Morning Light

I finished the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She self narrates the audio book and I loved what she had to say.
In listening to her words, I learned that even though she is a successful writer, she still struggles with many of the same demons, voices, and thoughts that I feel when I try to write.
Some days it's like I'm wrestling a lard-coated monkey that's cranked up on Red Bull energy drinks. I hear the voice of a reproving teacher who hates her job, and thinks that all kids are a waste of good oxygen. But then I realize, the voice is only in my head.
Some days writing is as easy as floating down a lazy river on an inner tube on a warm June day. Those days are the reason I continue to write.
Today was a monkey day, but Jilda bailed me out by suggesting we take a walk. I'm glad she did because down by the barn I captured a moment when dappled morning light danced on  a young maple.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Over the Line?

I'm drawing a blank tonight. I'm not sure if it's the time change, or the fact that it's already the first week in November and I'm having to read back over my journal to see where this year has gone.
I'm gearing up for book promotion/signings during the holidays.
This weird idea came to me while taking video course in Photoshop. I thought, hey, I'll find cool pictures of iconic people and I'll Photoshop them holding my book. I've done several and posted them on my Sloss Holler Scholar Facebook page. Here are a few recent ones.
Have I lost it? We're friends, you can tell me.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Lake Empire in the Evening

Jilda and I have had a really productive week here on the homefront. We've both embraced the idea of simplifying and we've been brutal.
What we've done would not be apparent to the casual observer, but we had so much stuff packed in closets, under beds, and in cabinets.
Walking through today it seems our house can breath a little better. When we open a cabinet, nothing launches out at us like bats from a cave.
The flow in our house is more feng shui'sh. It's also becoming easier to keep clean. I'm not sure why this time was different that all the other times we set our jaws and said we were going to de-clutter.
All I know is that it feels right.
This evening, we went to the thrift store bins to dump a load of stuff for other people to enjoy. Afterwards, we picked up a few perennials to plant around out fire-pit. On the way home I stopped by and snapped this photograph.
I actually shot a picture a few weeks ago standing in this same spot, but I shot it at 10 a.m. and the sun was coming over the hill.
This afternoon, the sun was in the west and it highlighted this slash of color between the sky and Lake Empire.
If we get a little rain over the next few days, the color will be even more stunning. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Butter Moon

The waning moon peeked through a low bank of clouds to the east. It looked like it was wearing a vail.
As I climbed higher up the hills toward my house, it had risen above the cloud line and was the color of butter.
I'm not sure what Mother Nature does to make a huge rock orbiting a quarter million miles away, look so beautiful, but on nights like tonight, it's truly remarkable.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Checking things off the list

I had several assignments due and I knocked them out early this morning. I found myself in unfamiliar territory ---- I was caught up. That happens so infrequently that I felt almost giddy.
I pulled out my list of things that I really need to do. On the list is an item that's been lurking near the bottom for some time.
Build a table for my office for additional workspace.
I've used a sewing machine that belonged to Jilda's mother for a table in my office. It was too high and not suited for a workspace. I moved it there several years ago thinking it would be perfect, but I was wrong.
The reason it stayed in the office so long is that it's heavy and I couldn't move it by myself so there it sat....for years.
When I got caught up today, I decided to change that. I  scooted the machine away from the wall, and replaced it with a table I built that fits perfectly.
I've hired someone to come Saturday and help me do some heavy lifting and put out house back in order.
It's been a productive week. In looking back, there are a lot of checkmarks that have been long over due on our todo list, and that feels good.

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