Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Seventeen-Year Cicada

Next week is the last of my 13-week Master Gardener's class. It's been time well spent. The class this week was on bugs.
There are over 900 thousand different kinds of bugs in the world today, most of which live and thrive

in Alabama.....just kidding. But based on the fact that we have mountainous areas, swamps, probably
the most navigable waterways of any other state in America, and we have the ocean. So all this adds up to a lot of suitable habitat for our six-legged friends.
Bugs run the gamut. Some are tiny, some are big. Some are beautiful, and some are disgusting.
Not all bugs are bad. In fact, we wouldn't enjoy most of the produce we eat if it weren't for bugs that do the pollination chores.
One interesting fact that I learned is that there are several types of cicadas. All of them make that strange chanting sound you hear in late summer.
But some cicadas develop each year, and some only return ever 17 years.
This happens to be the year for the 17-year cicadas so we'll get a double dose of their serenade.
This photograph I shot last summer of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly that happened upon our screen porch and decided to rest on the screen.
I didn't want him to become trapped so I gave him a lift to the screen door.
He seemed thankful for the hand.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Man's Best Friend ~ My Column from Sunay

Jilda and I’ve never had kids, but we’ve always had dogs. We’ve had as many as seven mutts in our yard at one time. Most of them were “throw-aways” that no one else wanted. 

These days we only have two dogs and they’re spoiled worse than most grandchildren.

Caillou is a collie that came to live with us last year, and Ol’ Buddy is a mutt we inherited from my mother-in-law Ruby when she fell and broke her hip. He’s old enough to be Methuselah’s Grandpa.

Both are great dogs with unique personalities, but when Jilda and I prepare to go out of town, they get “all snarkyfied.”

They know something’s up when we pull our suitcases out. Last week we were scheduled to play at a singer/songwriter event in Columbus, Georgia, and rather than drive home late at night after the gig, we decided to book a room.

Caillou had been outside but rushed in immediately when he heard the wheels of Jilda’s suitcase rolling across our pine floor. 

She left the suitcase open and went to the laundry room to fetch a few things and when she came back, the 80-pound collie was sitting in her suitcase.

She tried to coax him out, but he wouldn’t budge. It was almost as if he were saying, “You’re not going anywhere without me, missy.” 

I had to pull him out of the suitcase by his collar. He was not a happy K-9.

He is a beautiful animal. He’s particular — some would go as far as to call him prissy in the way he steps gingerly around mud puddles to keep from getting dirty after a rain.

But when I pulled him out of that suitcase, he shot outside through the doggie door and went under the laundry room through the crawlspace. 

The ground is an inch thick in red-clay dust. When he finally came out, he looked as if he’d been rolling in Nestles Cocoa.

Just before we left, we called them in to say goodbye and the collie was aloof. He acted as if he wouldn’t care if we were abducted by pulpwood cutters and tossed into a wood chipper.

Ol’ Buddy hopped up on the couch and looked at us with pain in his eyes.

They didn’t eat while we were gone. I can imagine the conversation they had with each other:

"I'm not eating," says Caillou.

Ol’ Buddy says, "We'll show ‘em, just wait until they see my ribs poking through my side like the child of a refugee."

While we were gone, they pulled all the throws and pillows off our couch and left them in the middle of the floor.

Both the garbage cans in our bathrooms had been turned over and the tissue was scattered like it had been blown from a confetti machine.

But once we walked in the door, they were thrilled to see us. Within seconds, the abandonment issue was forgotten, and they both just wanted to crawl up on our laps.

We've made arrangements for our niece to housesit with them when we go on our cruise this summer. Even so, I hate to think of what they’ll do to the place while we’re gone.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Back in Time

I'm not sure why, but I've been flipping back through old picture albums these last few days. Picture albums have become like Eight-Track tape players, and buggy whips. Most of the photos are taken these days with digital cameras, phones, and other devices. The photographs are viewed on various electronic devices.
I must say having pictures of our friends, family, dogs, and the other things we love, on our phones is handy. When we're visiting with friends and the conversation turns to that picture of us all floating down the river on that old pontoon boat, it's nice to be able to whip out my iPhone and share it once again. I've done it many times.
But like books and newspapers, there's something comforting about flipping through old picture albums.
Like I said earlier, I got the urge to step back in time so when the coffee maker beeped this morning letting me know the java was ready, I poured a steaming cup, put on some early morning classical music, and headed to the bookcase where we keep the albums so that I could wander through the time of our lives.
When I pulled one from the shelf, and flipped it open, a little puff of dust drifted up my nose and I sneezed.
I quickly got a dust rag and dusted it off before proceeding.
I'll be posting some of the photographs from time to time, but I'll post one picture of us in front of Sun Studio in Memphis. It's where many say Rock and Roll was born when Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats' recorded "Rocket 88" in 1951. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and many more icons in music got their start there.
We'd gone to Helena, Arkansas to perform at one of the local stores there and visit with our good friend Tommy Wilson.
We decided to take the opportunity to do a short tour of the city. Obviously no visit is complete without visiting Graceland, and Sun Recording Studio.
Stay tuned to see where our photo albums take us.

P.S. to see an old photograph of Jilda's Seventeen Magazine photograph (1971) visit our Facebook page and LIKE it if you're so inclined.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


This is me in 1968
We attended our High School's All Class Reunion tonight. It's for all the people who graduated from Dora High School.
There was one gentleman there from the Class of 1946, and several who graduated in the early 1950s.
The honored class tonight was the Class of 1963. My "Old" sister was in that class (she loves it when I call her my old sister).
There were only three from my class (1968) and very few people who attended the school from the 70's to the present date. For some reason, these gatherings are not important to the younger folks.
The reunion tonight awarded four scholarships to Dora seniors, and when they passed the hat, we raised over $2300 toward next year's scholarships.
Jilda and I do our own scholarship each year to a deserving student who is going into the arts.
It's not a lot of money, but we both think it's and important investment.
The mother of the first award winner that we gave out five years ago stopped me recently in Walmart to tell me that her son is graduating this year, and that our scholarship was what helped him start on his path.
Our alumni president said tonight that every cent we invest in our kids will pay dividends long after we're gone.
I thought that was very well said.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finally "Got It"

I've been a member of Pinterest for probably a year now, and without reading much about it, I posted some of my better photographes every now and then.
 Recently while I was in the cafeteria waiting for Jilda to see her doc, I read how most people use the picture board site.
Once I finally "got it" I could see the power in what the service has to offer. For example, I'm interested in improving our back yard.
When I searched on Pinterest for "Backyard Landscaping Ideas" I started seeing tons of great ideas on what to do with our backyard space. Raised bed garden spots, fountains, firepits, and killer walkways.
Here is the link to what I've repinned so far:
I can see how this can be a cool tool, so to speak.
You see a lot of fashion, hairdos, and recipes on the Home Feed. It may be because women were early adaptors of Pinterest and many of them like these things instead of say, tractors, pocket knives, and bass boats.
But you dig a little deeper, you can find some amazing photographs of almost anything you can imagine.
At any rate, I've enjoyed passing a little otherwise unproductive time, looking for ideas on how to spruce up the back yard.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tax Man Cometh

I filed for an extension on our income taxes this year. I just could not force myself to do it. I kept saying
I was too busy. You know, straightening my computer cables, dusting the keyboard, putting new strings on my guitar, and other vital chores.
I kept moving DO TAXES from one day to the next on my dayplanner.  I think it was causing mental constipation.
At any rate, I sent off my column this morning to the newspaper, finished a few tasks on my list, checked my keyboard for dust one last time, and then I dove into sorting through and collecting all my documents.
Once I got started, it wasn't so bad. Go here for that piece of information, go there for that piece, bla, bla, bla.
I got sick of looking at the stuff tonight so I put everything into a folder and I'll jump on it again this weekend.
Y'all pray for me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Old Photographs

I came across this photograph today as I searched for a picture of an old neighbor. It was taken in 1984 at the first party we had in our new house. 
Tom and Judy had just bought their first llama earlier in the day. They didn't have time to take it home, but they didn't want to miss the, party so they brought the llama with them.
None of us had seen a real llama before so it was the hit of the party. They brought it inside on its leash.
I smiled when I rediscovered the picture today. It also made me a little sad because three of the people are no longer with us.
The big guy on the right is John Elliott who was the son of Congressman Carl Elliott. We saw him at a Super Bowl party in January of 1993, and he seemed fine. But he died of an agressive form of cancer during the snow storm of the century that swept through Alabama in mid March of that year.
Joel Robinson and his wife Ann died within the last few years. We sang at their funerals.
The thing I love about photographs is that it snatches a moment in time that lives on long after the people in the photograph have gone on. 
This moment is a happy one. I can still remember the smell of the hot apple cider brewing in our party brewer, I can taste the spinach balls that was one of Jilda's specialties, and the sound of laughter echoing off the walls of our new house.
I'm thankful I had the forethought to gather us together in the yard to snap this picture.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Shower Last Night

I feel a little cheated. The Lyrid Meteor Showers were supposed to be spectacular last night, but when I went outside at 9 p.m. Ol' Mister Moon was as bright as a headlamp.
Meteor Photo from NASA
The temperature was still comfortable so I laid back on the deck and shielded my eyes from the moons light and let them adjust a little.
All of a sudden from the east I saw a meteor that looked close enough to touch....then it blinked, and continued on, and then blinked again.
I realized that it wasn't a meteor, but the first lightening bug of the season playing a practical joke on me. I snorted out a laugh which brought the dogs out to the deck.
Soon Caillou was laying across my stomach stargazing too. He wasn't sure what we were looking for, but he seemed to be enjoying the night air.
It's a little hard to breathe with a 60-pound dog laying on you, so I decided to call it a night.
I woke up after midnight and went into the kitchen for a glass of water. I stepped back out onto the deck for another look.
The moon had moved off toward the west, but the sky was still bright. Clouds were rolling in from the south. Not angry clouds, but clouds that would be angels, dolphins, or cowboys if you saw them on a lazy summer afternoon. The bottom line is that I didn't see the first meteor.
Oh well, it will be August before we know it and the Perseid Meteor Showers will be here. Maybe I'll have better luck then.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creativity is all around ~ My Column from Sunday

Creativity is an odd concept. If you walked up to 10 people at random and asked them if they consider themselves to be creative, most of them would laugh and say “No, I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” 

Many people relate creativity to painting, music or other artistic endeavors. They might have a yard that looks like a page from Home and Gardens, but they don’t think that counts.

The brain is a funny machine. Some people are blessed with good math and logic skills. They approach problems methodically. They use reason, and work through complex problems until they find the answers.

Others come at the problem from a totally different direction and come up with a creative solution to the same problem.

I’m currently reading a book on the recommendation of my friend Dale Short entitled “Where Good Ideas Come From.”

The book covers the history of innovation. It seems that good ideas often come when working with information or technology outside their chosen field.

For example, a doctor working on a problem of infant mortality in Africa found that many of the smaller communities in Africa had access to life-saving incubators that had been donated by philanthropists. 

The incubators began saving infants, but a year or so after installation, the incubators started breaking down, which was a problem because there were no local technicians to fix the machines, and there were no spare parts to fix them with.

As the doctor pondered the problem, he realized that transportation in Africa was not a problem. It seems local auto mechanics could easily get parts and keep those old Toyotas purring like kittens.

The answer to the problem hit him. He cobbled an incubator together out of car parts, using headlights to keep the babies warm and other car parts to make the contraption function correctly. 

It worked like a charm and cost a fraction of the price tags of commercial incubators. Not only did it work, but also it solved the maintenance problem, as local auto mechanics could get parts and keep it running. The problem was creatively solved. 

When it comes to creativity, I’m not an artist, although I have taken some good photographs through the years, but I’m a pretty good musician, and if someone were to ask me if I am creative, I’d say yes.

The reason I can play is that for some reason, my mind recognizes patterns. Whether the pattern is a string of random numbers, jumbled letters or music, I can see a pattern in the noise.  

It was this skill that got me a cushy job in the Army and later to land a job with MaBell.

I guess where I'm heading is that I often hear people say they aren't creative, but the truth is, there are many ways to be creative that has nothing to do with painting or music. 

You can see art in the way people dress; you can see it in the way people creatively approach their work, in the way they decorate their homes, and a thousand other ways.

There is art all around us. I think it’s best that we not sell ourselves short.

Back to Blogger Commenting

A pre-post, post. I've decided to forego Google + Commenting. I have some lovely followers who prefer to comment under their blog names and Google + doesn't allow that, so I'm going back to Blogger commenting.
I hope it doesn't cause any confusion to you all.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Something To Write About

Whenever I can't think of anything to write about, I find myself looking through pictures.
I was fooling around with a photo app on my iPhone and shot this picture by accident. It's strange on many levels.
Why on earth would my phone, or the Universe for that matter, select this particular image to capture? Is that a baffled look on my face, or amused? It's hard to say.
And while I'm on the subject of pictures, I discovered something recently that was surprising to me.  For some strange reason, I look miffed in many of the photographs taken of me while I'm playing my guitar.
One of my songwriting buddies said that I looked mad enough to eat a bug.
That's perplexing because playing music brings me such joy. The only explanation I can conjure up is that my deep concentration face looks like my PO face.
I changed that this past Friday night when we played in Columbus, Georgia. I concentrated on letting the joy come through on my face. I haven't seen any photographs, but being aware is half the battle.
I love playing coffee houses. More often than not, the people in the crowd a music lovers. An added bonus of playing coffee houses is the aroma of coffee. Beans from Africa, Asia, South America and other distant lands compete for olfactory space in your brain.
The aroma becomes even more pronounced when you hear the rattle of fresh roasted coffee beans being poured into a grinder and then an instant later it sounds as if the beans are being ground by a weed eater. The smell explodes into the air. Did I mention that I love coffee houses?
I know it's a stretch going from an accidental picture to a weed eater grinding coffee, but that's often what happens when you don't have anything to write about.
Y'all have a remarkable week.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Abandonment Issues

Whenever we go out of town overnight, our dogs get miffed. They know something is up when we
pull out our suitcases.
Yesterday while Jilda tried to pack hers, Caillou went into her closet and sat on her suitcase. He wouldn't budge.
Then when they realize we're about to leave, they both become aloof as if they could care less if we were abducted by aliens and tossed into a black hole.
Once we're gone, they don't eat.  They pull all the throws and pillows off our couch and do who knows what to them in the middle of the floor.
Both the garbage cans in our bathrooms are turned over and the tissue is scattered like's it's been through a shredder.
Driving home today, I ran a conversation between the two dogs through my head.
"I'm not eating."
"We'll show them, just wait until they see my ribs poking through my side like a malnourished kid from the depression."
......But once we walk in the door, they are thrilled to see us. Within seconds, the abandonment issue is forgotten, and they both just want to crawl up into our laps.
We've made arrangements for our niece to house-sit with them when we go on our cruise this summer. They'll still be miffed at us, but they'll do much better if she spends time with them.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Improving the Chops

Jilda just got in from a songwriter gig we did tonight. We were the first group of performers and after we played, we got the opportunity to sit back and listen to some good original music.
Many of you have asked in the past about hearing us. We've refocused on that project.
We still have a ways to go, but I feel confident we'll have the finished product by mid summer. We'll then work on some video and  make the music available for public consumption.
Much of what we've recorded in the past, I've done in my office. I can do a lot of things, but I currently don't have sound engineer skills.
We leave that up to our friend Fred who is a sound guy extraordinaire.
These songwriting events really help us to improve our chops. The added benefit is that we get to hang out with fun musicians from all around the south.
I'm running on empty tonight, but I'll approach the blog with a new attitude tomorrow. Y'all sleep tight.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Fruitful Annuity

Our apple tree down at the edge of our garden is over 30 years old. I know, because I planted it myself.
We moved a house trailer up to our property before we could afford a house. Money was thin, but we saved up and bought a tree from Stark Brothers.
I planted it in the fall of 1980 and remember walking down there every afternoon after work to see if it had grown any that day.
I pampered it like a fretful baby with the colic. Three times a week I toted water in a five-gallon bucket down there and slowly poured it around the roots of the young tree.
Through the years that little tree grew to maturity and it has rewarded our trust and hard work with bushels of sweet crunchy apples.  I have never tasted a better apple.
The last several years, the weather has been unkind to our tree. The years ago, we had one of the worst droughts in memory. Then in April of 2011, the tragic tonados hit when our tree was in full bloom. Most of the flowers were blown to Georgia.
We did get a few apples, but nothing like in years past.
I spent a great deal of time this spring pruning, fertilizing, and caring for the roots. Late last week, the first blooms began to pop out, and I was encouraged. Jilda broke a few of the low-hanging blossoms off to give the house color for our company last Sunday. The scent of apple blossom in our house was like heaven in a vase.
As this week progressed, more and more apple blossoms appeared. When Jilda and I walked this morning, our apple tree looked as pink as an embarrassed cloud.
Baring any bad weather over the next several weeks, we should have a bumper crop of apples this fall.
I find it comforting that years ago, I had enough foresight to buy our little tree. It's one of the best investments I've ever made. It's a fruitful annuity.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


OK, I'm fretting a little. We got our passports back and we're making final plans for our cruise in a few months.
When I looked at the website to see if they had wireless so that I could do my blog each night, the
website said Wifi was available, but when you look a comments, it appears their results differed.
Apparently it's fairly expensive and the connection is often spotty when the ship is at sea.
Those who follow my blog, know that I rarely miss an update. In fact, when I've missed updates, there is normally weather and destruction involved. Even then, both Jilda and I find our way to a hotspot and update our blogs.
But the cruise is different. It's a planned get-away that may put me out of touch for five days.
I'm looking at alternatives just in case what the reviewers say is true. I'm pretty sure you can write the updates before hand and then schedule posts to update at a later date, but I've never toyed with that.
If any of you have experience or ideas on how to manage posts when I'm at sea, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You're Beautiful

I was on hold for a few moments today and as I often do, I put the annoying music/advertising on my speaker, turned it down so it was just loud enough to hear when a human picked up.
I then clicked on Google + to see what was coming across the virtual wire. One of the things that jumped out at me was a video that had been shared by someone I'm following. The woman had commented, this made me cry.
I clicked on it for a second expecting to see some sappy video, but instead what I saw was remarkable.
I won't do a spoiler here but this short video (3 minutes) illustrates a very important point....it's something that most of us (except the most narcissistic among us) are guilty of.
I'd be interested in your reaction.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Road to Bad Habits ~ My Column from Sunday

I stepped on the scales this morning for the first time in a week. The dial twisted and twitched before settling on an unfamiliar number.

I stepped off the scales and reached for my glasses. When I stepped back on, it wound around and still pointed to the first number I’d seen. I stooped over to make sure I was reading the dial correctly. 

I instinctively tapped the little window with my index finger to make sure the needle wasn’t stuck…it wasn’t. The little dial announced to the world, or at least anyone standing close to me, that I’d gained three pounds. 

I thought back over the last few weeks since I last stepped on the contraption and it occurred to me that I’d changed my routines.

I’ve had doctor’s appointments, meetings in town, and a few gatherings with friends. This change in routine altered my daily regimen. 

Instead of taking a brisk walk in the morning, I skipped them. Also, I normally have one of Jilda’s special blueberry protein shakes for breakfast, which is filling and scrumptious. But several times in the last few weeks, I’ve grabbed breakfast at Mickey D’s.

And instead of enjoying healthy meals at home as I do most of the time, I ate out. 

As I mentally dug a little deeper, I remembered my weekly Master Gardener’s class. 

Each Monday morning when I arrive, the treat table is laden with all kinds of goodies. 

Sure there are some veggies, and some other healthy choices on the table, but do I opt for them? No. I dive into the doughnuts, brownies, apple spice cake, and sausage balls.

Upon reflection, I’m betting my jeans aren’t the only ones getting tight in that class, but who am I to judge.

I made up my mind today to get back on the wagon. After all, spring has finally arrived, as is evident by the pollen on my truck that’s deep enough on the hood to plant potatoes.

I intend to refocus on my good habits, which include: walking, drinking plenty of water, and eating right most of the time. Doing these things is what helped me maintain my boyish figure through the years. 

As I typed today, I remembered a motivational book on tape that I listened to years ago by Jim Rohn. It’s entitled The Art of Exceptional Living, and even though the book was written back in the ‘80s, it is full of wisdom that’s still valid in my life. 

One thing that hit home today is what he said about habits. 

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.”

The good news is that the reverse is also true. Making the right choices, using good judgment, and forming good habits can change your life for the better.

In looking back, it’s easy to see where I drifted too far from the shore, as the old gospel song goes.

It’s time to put on my big-boy underoos and get things back on track in my life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Patterns and Connections

It's funny how the brain works. Some people are good with logic and math. They approach problems methodically. They use reason, and work through complex problems until they find the answers.
For whatever reason, my brain doesn't work like that. My mind somehow recognize patterns in data. Whether the data is a string of random numbers, jumbled letters, or music. 
After I was drafted, I went through a battery of tests in basic training in the early 1970s. These tests were unlike any I'd ever seen. Since I didn't have a point of reference, I had no clue how I'd done.
But at the end of basic, they called me into an office and asked me if I'd like to go to Officers Candidate School. 
It sounded like a good idea until I asked if I'd have to stay longer than my regular 2-year commitment which was standard for a draftee. 
They said I would have to stay in a minimum of three years, so I declined. 
Most of the folks in basic with me were from Alabama and Mississippi, and they went to artillery or infantry school. They sent me to a six-month radio school to learn electronics.
When I got out of the Army, I got a chance to work for the phone company. They gave me a battery of test much like the ones I'd taken in basic training.
The next day my phone rang, this time to offer me a job. I wasn't sure how it all worked, but I'd been unemployed for a year, so I was grateful to find meaningful work. It seems that the ability to see patterns, and somehow connect unrelated things was valuable, even if I had no idea why.
I said all that to say this: I'm listening to Where Good Ideas Come From, which is a book that talks about some of the great ideas that people stumbled across throughout history.
Many of the ideas came from people who somehow connected things from unrelated fields. An example might be a heart doctor that befriends a plumber, and during a conversation about field lines and plumbing issues, the heart doctor realizes that toilet plumbing and body plumbing follow many of the same principals.
I guess where I'm heading is that I often hear people say they aren't creative, or they aren't smart. But the truth is, there are many ways to measure intelligence that often don't show up on intelligence tests.
I say, lets not sell ourselves short. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Better Left Alone

 We've been blessed with wildflowers on our property. If you were to walk in spring behind our barn, you'd think we'd planted acres of azaleas. But if you looked more closely, you'd notice the flowers aren't quite as big, and the bushes are nestled off the beaten path, and near rocks as big as Buicks.
Some of them are deep pink, some are light pink, almost the color of a healthy baby's cheeks. Others are dogwood white. These bushes aren't azaleas, but what we call wild honeysuckles.
I've learned in my Master Gardener's class that they are in fact, kin to azaleas.
Through the years we've tried to transplant some of the bushes in our back yard, but we've never been successful. Even though we pampered them, lovingly worked their roots with rich compost and store-bought munch, they all died.
Two years ago, we decided to give it one more shot. We hung a pink ribbon on a small honeysuckle in the spring, and that fall we made our way back down to the back of the property with a sharp shooter shovel and a wheelbarrow.
We dug that baby up and brought it up to our back yard and planted it near the corner of our fence. We   filled in around the roots with the dirt we'd removed when digging the hole. We didn't use any fertilizer, but we did add water and we put pine straw around the roots to help it through the winter.
Last summer when the August wind was hot and dry as talcum powder, we watered the little honeysuckle.
Last week when Jilda stepped out on the deck to pinch some rosemary out of the herb planter, I heard her gasp.
I thought she'd grabbed a spider, but when I stepped outside, she pointed our little honeysuckle. I can tell you, the sight of that little plant made my day.
I just goes to show you that some things are better left alone.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Monkey Suit

The first time I can remember wearing a coat and tie was to the high school prom in 1967.
It was a hand-me-down suit given to me by my cousin Bruce Levan a few years after the Beatles landed in America, and the suit looked like the one the the fab four wore in some of their publicity shots. It was grey and had no collar and I felt like a million bucks in that suit, but by the end of the evening, I was ready to get it off!
For most of my life, I've worn dungarees, and cotton shirts to school, and cutoff pants during the summer. A casual wardrobe seem to fit my style. 
Even today, my favorite clothes are jeans and tee shirts that I bought when Clinton was in the White House.
I was promoted into a management position with the phone company in the late 80s. It provided a lot of opportunity for me, but wearing a suit was mandatory, even on night shift, and that chafed, so to speak.
Since I retired, the only time I've worn a suit was to a fancy-smancy Chamber of Commerce event in Mountain Brook, and to a couple funerals.
I've come to a point in my life that comfort trumps everything. I'm not saying I won't ever wear a suit again, but if you were to hang around with a camera trying to get a photo of me in a monkey suit, you better bring a lunch :)
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Red Glob Approaching ~ UPDATED

I'm doing a quick update early. One look at this photo might give you hint as to why.
We are about a half inch to the right of that big red glob.
So far the weatherman is saying it will be a severe thunder storm with possible damaging winds.
I'm not taking any chances on not having power later tonight.
So, if the lights are on this evening, I'll post an all clear. If you don't hear from me, just know that my lights are probably somewhere in Georgia and I'm sitting here in the dark again.
For the folks north and south of us, keep an eye on the sky and hunker down if it comes at you.
Y'all take care.

UPDATE:  I posted the first entry around 4 p.m., and a few minutes later Jilda called to say her classes had been cancelled at work, and she'd be heading home.
I was apprehensive about her driving in the storm, but she was still reeling from a few weeks ago when she got trapped near her job for hours by downed trees and power lines.  So today she decided to make a mad dash home.
I stood on the back deck watching the sky and listening. The constant roll of thunder sounded as if I were in the basement of a bowling alley.
One moment there was a warm wind on my face, the next moment, air as cool as a Popsicle lashed my face from the other direction.
Off in the distance I heard high-level winds bearing down. The chimes on the deck and the side porch clanged and jangled. The tops of the pine trees gyrated, but they held firm.
Just then I heard Jilda's car door slam and the clicking of her heels on the front walk. She'd barely made it inside when horizontal rain lashed at the plants on the deck and I got wet before I ducked back inside.
We turned on the weatherman to watch for warnings. The lights blinked a few times, but stayed on. After about 10 minutes, the wind raced off to the east, leaving behind a gentle soaking rain. We'd dodged a bullet. Can you spell G R A T E F U L? We were.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


The use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.

I would expand this definition if I were writing a dictionary to include a lot more stuff.
I've found that when I talk about creativity, people have a lot of varying ideas about what it means to be creative.
Many people are quick to say that they are the most uncreative people on the planet because they don't paint, dance, play music or do photography. But if given a challenging problem, some will immediately see possibilities everywhere and come up with unique solutions.
Some of these same people who claim to be uncreative, cook some of the most imaginative meals, or  do other things that take your breath away.
Creativity comes in so many shapes and forms that it would be impossible to list them all. Some athletes use their bodies in creative ways to achieve near perfection in their sport.
Our carpenter who is 70+ years old, would never claim to be creative, but he is one of the most creative people I've ever met.
Whenever we ask him to do something for us, he will listen intently, then ask a few clarifying questions, and he gets this Zen-like look in his eyes as he visualizes the outcome. He builds a materials list, and time estimates, all in his head.
Then in a matter-of-fact way say, yes I can do that. And he then proceeds to do it better than we imagined.
He didn't finish high school, and has worked hard with his hands all his life. Is he creative? You bet.
I started down this path when someone sent me a link to the YouTube video below. It's called the Festival of Colors. The video sparkles in your mind like a mental LifeSaver.
I hope you enjoy it. Go forth and be creative.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

It felt good to be alive.

The Master Garden's class yesterday was a field trip. We toured a farm museum in Cullman, Alabama.
Thunder Mug ~ The first Indoor Plumbing
The museum is still a working farm that works with school children from all over north Alabama. Kid come there to get a feel for what it was like back in the day. When an Angry Bird, was a rooster that would sink a spur a inch deep in the calf of your leg if he didn't like the way you wore your hat one morning when you went to gather eggs.
The farm also does demonstrations on how to milk cows, gather eggs, plough a field, chop wood, make sorghum syrup, and forge things with your hands in a blacksmith shop.
I've seen most of the stuff before but I was amazed, and very glad that these folks provide a window into our past for kids who would otherwise never understand what it was like before the Internet.
After the tour, we had a class from the local extension agent on the correct way to prune plants, trees and shrubs. I took so many notes, my pen ran dry.
Afterwards, we headed out to the Auburn University horticulture research center where we toured greenhouses, blueberry fields, and talked in depth about how to choose varieties of fruits and vegetables, that thrive in our area, to grow in our gardens.
One problem with general advice on gardening is that the rules are different based where you live. Because each area of the country is different.  The types of soil, the amount of rainfall, the night temperatures, and the relative humidity and all that implies, a different depending upon where you live.
As the class stood in the fields with carpenter bees as big as mice buzzing about sucking sweet nectar from blueberries bushes, I heard the drone of a tractor in a distant field mowing crimson clover.
When the wind changed directions, the aroma of freshly mown grass drift close enough to taste, or so it seemed.
Standing there in the warm sunshine, smelling a piece of heaven and learning something important about the foods that we love to eat, it felt good to be alive.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Tending to the back yard ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

Since the storm last month, our back yard looks as if it has been strip-mined. In addition to losing enough trees to build an ark (which would have come in handy this rainy spring), our field lines on our septic tank went south.

Since the yard was already a wreck, it seemed like a perfect time to replace the lines and deal with the mess once everything settled down.

Our nephew Haven showed up on Good Friday with a miniature dragline and commenced digging trenches deep enough to bury a train.

When he left late Friday evening, my muscles ached, my muddy boots felt like anvils on my feet, and my ears were ringing from all the noise, but our bathrooms worked flawlessly.

The chickens have been freaked since the big blow, and all the commotion a few feet from their pen sent them careening off the chicken wire on all sides of the enclosure. 

I thought about calling the vet to see if she could prescribe some “Poultry Xanax.” 

Another idea that occurred to me was to have Jilda do some chicken yoga with them, but she’d been cooking for the workers all day, and I figured she’d take a dim view of the request. But they settled down after Haven hauled off the equipment.

Yesterday, the sun came out for a change, so I went outside in the afternoon and sat for a while on the back steps.

Looking at the mess and thinking about all that needs to be done was a little disheartening, but the road is long, and I have some time to get it back in shape. 

I wallowed for a moment but then I stood, dusted off the seat of my pants, and stepped to the shed to fetch my round-pointed shovel and rake.

I leaned the rake on a sweet-gum stump, and sunk the shovel into the loose clay, pitching scoops of earth into the low places left by the tracks of the digger.

Shoveling and raking can be back breaking work if you get in a hurry, but I took my time.

The sun felt warm on my back and after a few minutes that evil little voice in my head that kept chiding, “What a mess, this place will NEVER look good again,” fell silent. 

Soon I fell into a rhythm and got lost in the flow of work. All I could hear was a cawing crow off in the distance, and the “shump” of my shovel as it bit off chucks of dirt from the mountains of clay.

I love it when I get into the “flow,” because my mind slips into slow motion, and I lose track of time.

Sweat began to trickle down my brow and before I knew it, I heard the dogs barking to let me know that Jilda was home from work.

It will be a while before our back yard is suitable for entertaining, but I can live with that. 

The weather will warm up soon, and I’ll hire some young helping hands to get things ship shape again.

Before I know it we’ll be out back playing badminton and sipping mint juleps.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I'm not sure one could have ordered up a more beautiful day for an outdoor event. A good crowd showed up, tossed blankets on the greening grass, turned kids loose and enjoyed being alive.
Even though I put on sun screen, my face is red as a beet. Some of it is sun and some of it is because of
the wind.
Both Jilda and I are running on empty, so we're turning in early.

Our friend Al Blanton did us an Art photo.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Signing Books

I signed books today in south Alabama. I normally wag boxes of books and all the "stuff" I need for a signing.  It often takes at least three trips to get everything onboard.
Jilda suggested that I pack the stuff in my suitcase. Hmmmm, I thought. I can't believe that hadn't occurred to me.
At any rate, I packed the books, stands, pictures, and promo stuff in my bag and wheeled it out to the car like a veteran traveler.
When we went into the Arts Center, I had my sunglasses on, and I strolled in with my rolling suitcase
in toe. I felt like an elderly rock star :)
The event was well publicized, but for whatever reason, not a lot of people came. Jilda and I both used the time constructively by visiting with all the other writers there. If you're willing to listen, you can hear some amazing stories. I learned some things today.
By the time we arrived home this evening, both of us were whupped. Jilda went straight to her bathroom and put on her fuzzy pajamas.
I stepped down the the field and tossed out a scoop of corn for the deer, and when I got back home I put on my PJ's too. It wasn't 6 p.m. It will be an early night tonight. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Soaring Spirit

I heard it raining in the night, though it stopped before dawn. I stepped out onto the deck while the coffee perked to survey the sky.
Clouds as grey as soot hung low overhead, and they looked as if today would be another dreary day.
But as we silently sipped our java, a beam of sunlight somehow found an opening in the cover and spotlighted a cardinal sitting on one of the feeders in front of our window. I could have hugged that bird.
A while later when we shoed up to walk, the dark clouds had moved off to the east and were replaced by big cotton-candy clouds.
If you'd been listening quietly at that hour, you would have heard a woooshing sound, which was the sound of my soaring spirit.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Rain Rain Go Away

It's been ages since I've seen a spring like this in Alabama. I had to make an early-morning run to the store after breakfast. Even though I wore warm clothes, a shiver still crept up my spine when I stepped out of my truck into the wind.
It rained again last night. To say it's been a wet winter would be an understatement. I think somehow the moon has slipped out of its orbit and took the sun with it.
There has been years that I could have gone swimming in April, but I still haven't put away the long-handle underwear.
I've talked about this before, but stretches of grey skies, and chilly wind sends my spirits southward.
The back yard is now a perfect place for things like tractor pulls and mud wrestling.
Today when the rain let up, I stepped outside and sat on the back doorsteps for a while. Our yard is just sad, and it will take weeks before I can do any meaningful work to try and put it back in order.
I soon realized that sitting out there was not boosting my spirits, so I came back inside and worked on my online songwriting course.
The class is winding down and I'm working on the last assignment. I've learned a great deal about a subject that I thought I already knew a lot about. Life has a way of putting you in your place.
No matter how much you know, if you seek, you can know more.
The rain is supposed to move out later tonight, and this weekend should do wonders for my mental health. I'm excited.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Big Green Chair

I spent time today in the cafeteria at the clinic where Jilda gets infusion treatments. Today was number 14 for her. She didn't whine or complain, she just takes a warm blanket and sinks into the big green chair and takes it like a warrior.
The cafeteria is an open area adjacent to a hallway that leads to the offices of hundreds of doctors. The halls start buzzing just after eight on most days. The place seems to have a pulse. If you listen, not to the voices, but to the clacking heels on marble floors, you can almost get a sense on the pulse rate on most days.
Sitting quietly, you can't help but catch snippets of conversation echoing through the halls. Many are upbeat, but if you listen closely you will hear things that break your heart. Everyone's path is different, some more rocky that others.
Jilda doesn't have cancer, she has a faulty immune system that requires monthly booster shots to ward off debilitating respiratory infections. So in the scheme of things, she's fortunate, but watching her sitting each month in that big green chair with tubes and beeping devices hooked to her arm, it is sometimes hard to fully appreciate her good fortune.
Today one of her chair-buddy's got bad news. The chemo for the pancreatic cancer is not working, and the doctor whispered that they'd have to move to plan "B".
Jilda talked at length with her chair-buddy's daughter, who'd brought him for treatment. It was a surreal experience listening to my wife's soothing words of comfort.  I thought to myself, I can only hope I'd be half as strong if I were sitting in that big green chair.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Camera Shy

It's been a cool wet winter here. Even today with the sun high and proud with only few cotton clouds, the wind made it cool enough for sleeves.
I'm still working to get my yard is a semi-state of presentability, so after writing, paying bills, and firming up our cruise in late spring, I shoveled and raked.
When my arms got rubbery, I leaned on a yellow fiberglass shovel handle to catch my breath. I closed one eye and then the other to get a mental picture of how the yard will look one day when we have grass again. It seemed to look better through the left eye, but that might have been a function of a slight difference in the light.
As I stood there, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly danced on the breeze and landed on a sweet gum stump a few feet away.
I pulled out my phone and started to snap a picture, but he apparently was camera shy.
I wasn't able to get a photograph, but I remembered I had one from last summer in my archives. I used it instead.
I know warm weather is not far away. I'm ready.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Practice till it works ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

All my life I’ve heard the tired old cliché, “Practice Makes Perfect.”

Rick at age 25
I know that like most aphorisms that have withstood the test of time, it’s basically true.

When it comes to perfection, I’m not sure it’s within the grasp of mere mortals, but in looking at great
works of art, or watching a movie that resonates, or when I hear a song that sticks with me like a childhood scar, I sometimes wonder if the artist(s) didn't approach perfection.

One of the New Year resolutions that both Jilda and I made was to refocus on our music. We’ve played together for years, but it seemed we weren’t getting any better.

Since January 1, we enrolled in an online songwriting course from Berkeley School of Music, and we've practiced guitar and done vocal exercises daily.

Sometimes practice is a drudge, and I'd rather have a jaw tooth extracted with needle-nose pliers by a drunken sailor with bad breath (not sure where this disquieting description came from but I fear I may dream about it tonight), than pick up a guitar and strum one chord.

In the past, we’ve always practiced the last thing before going to bed. Normally by that time, my brain felt lobotomized. As a result of the timing factor, neither of us was improving.

I realized that it wasn’t the practice I dreaded, but the timing of our practices made an enjoyable activity, a drudge.

This past year, we got us some new attitudes for Christmas, and we made practice a priority.

Even on treatment days when Jilda was as weak as a kitten, she insists we practice.

Anyone who plays an instrument will probably tell you that you can practice for EVER and never feel like you're getting any better. Then one day it's like a switch is flipped, and you're playing (and singing) notes you were never able to play smoothly before.

We got validation that our hard work was paying dividends last week when we opened for our friends The Spook House Saints at Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House in Cullman. We got more compliments than I can ever remember us getting after a performance.

No one can play better without putting in the repetitions. I think the same holds true whether you're cooking, sewing, driving, golfing, or writing.

All of our goals are different, but no matter what skill you’re trying to learn, or job you’re trying to master, you have to study and practice.

One of the best self-help books I ever read was by the late Stephen Covey, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

In that book he talked about how life has a way of throwing a lot of stuff at you, which sometimes makes it difficult to do the really important things.

He used the analogy of a gallon jar and he put in some softball-sized rocks. He asked the audience if the jar was full. Everyone agreed that it was. He then poured in a few pounds of gravel that filtered around the big rocks.

When he asked if the jar was full, the crowd had caught on by that time and they said NOOOOO.

He picked up a bucket of sand, and then poured the jar full of water while the audience went wild.

Then when he spoke he said, “Life is like this jar, the only way the “Big Rocks” fit in, is if you put them in first.”

That line hit me like a hammer. Jilda and I made the decision at the first of the year, to start putting the Big Rocks in first.

NOTE: We’ll be performing with Andrew Brasfield, Joe Greg Winsett, Michael Cannon, Skip Cochran, and The Spook House Saints at The Bankhead House Amphitheater next Sunday, April 7 from 2 p.m. until 4.

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