Sunday, November 30, 2014

Keeping memories fresh

The wind blew hard for most of the night. Resting was fitful because each time I dozed, warm winds out of the gulf ripped through the water oak in our yard, rattling the roof with the sound of rolling acorns.

This morning the cloud cover was as thick as a dirty curtain, and it looked as if rain were coming, but when I stepped out onto the back deck, I could smell no rain on the wind.

Soon after sunrise, the clouds burned off and the sky was stunning.

Both my mom and Jilda's mom have birthdays in December so we decided yesterday to buy some new flowers for their graves.

Most people buy the flowers prearranged, but Jilda prefers to mix and match to put her personal touch on the arrangements.  

Today after lunch, we drove to both cemeteries, and after we placed the flowers we stood in silence for a long time.

In reflecting back, it seems as if we lost them only yesterday, and then again it seems they've been gone forever. 

Placing flowers on graves seem so inadequate for the sacrifices they made for us, but it's something we can do the keep those memories fresh.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


If there's one lesson I've learned over the last three years, it's how to wait. Waiting is interesting. People who are new at it are ill prepared, and spend their time shuffling their feet, reading three-year-old dogeared magazines, and huffing a lot.

I did that a great deal in the beginning because waiting can be frustrating. It's almost as if you can hear your life draining through the tiny opening of the hourglass. You look at your watch, and look annoyed as your wonder why it's taking so long for you or your loved one to see a doctor.

At first I would never make eye contact in the waiting room. Who in their right mind would want to talk to that crazy twitching man with the ill-matching sox and skin flaking from his forehead. He might want to start a conversation with me about his ailments, afflictions, or his life that is spiraling out of control. Who would want to hear about that?

 It took some time, but I don't shy away from those conversations now.

In fact, I've met some remarkable people. Yes, some of them are wacky, and only talk about themselves, but many folks have had life experiences not unlike my own.

I've laughed and cried, but I've also made fragile friendships with some of these patients. I've lost some to the grave, but held others longer.

Two of our waiting room friends joined us for Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday. It was delightful seeing them here instead of our usual place in the infusion room.

This week, Jilda takes treatment 36, and three years of waiting has taught me a thing or two. I take my own magazines and books so I stay current with my reading. I take a list of calls I need to make, and after finding a quiet corner, I catch up on my business and social calls. I also take my Macbook Pro and noise canceling headphones, so I can write when I need to.

And I've learned by the look on the faces of those around me, who wants, and needs to talk. When one of those people arrive in my life, I save my work, or place a bookmark in what I'm reading so that I can listen.

I've come to understand that in the scheme of things, I get about as much productive work done in waiting rooms as I do in my office, though it took me a while to get my attitude right.

I'm just sorry I didn't pick up on those lessons sooner.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Not much to say

Walking today was more like wading. The foliage that was so stunning just over a week ago, is not a tangled-brown-crunchy carpet.

Our tiny dog Taz that tips the scales at just over six pounds almost got lost beneath it all.

I walked today as the sun was setting and noticed the pin oak was still in color so I snapped a quick photo before wading on.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I love shopping on Thanksgiving

I think, as a nation, we've grown soft. The pansies are whining about all the violence surrounding Pre-Black Friday sales that start just after Thanksgiving supper. 

I for one, consider it a sport. I survived a few hours of shopping with only a dislocated shoulder, a puncture wound just above my navel, three cracked teeth, and a stone bruise.

The closest call was from a woman who wanted the last remaining 32 foot big screen TV. She almost had it on her basket when I arrived and intervened, taking the device for my workshop. 

She would have been a little more of a challenge had she not been holding 18 month old twins and pushing her paraplegic husband in a wheelchair. 

She had a wicked back-stroke elbow slam which gained momentum with the weight of the twins. The force of the elbow caught me off guard and sent me sprawling blood dripping from the corner of my mouth. 

I'd thought her husband was a quadriplegic but he had full use of his arms and drained a high-output taser he'd been concealing the diaper bag. It had grounding probe which hit me in the lower stomach. (Puncture wound I mentioned). 

While I was twitching on the floor, the woman did a Victory Star Drop move banned by World Wrestling Entertainment as being too violent. 

Breathless, I rolled out of her reach when one of the nursing twins bit her distracting her momentarily. 

Unfortunately I came too close to  her five-year-old who pulled a quart can of mace from her backpack and blistered both my eyes. She also kicked me in the teeth with her steel-toed Uggs. I didn't see that coming.

I gained my footing, drop-kicked the kid into the toy aisle where she immediately tied up with another kid over a Disney Princess  doll, which was a stroke of luck for me,  It leveled the playing field significantly.

When the woman leaned over to put the twins in her husband's lap, I did a spin kick with lead-toed work boots and she was down for the count.

I strolled up to the checkout with my booty and reached for my wallet and realized I'd lost it in the melee. 

A few counters over the woman pushing the wheelchair was ringing up $3000 worth of pampers, popcorn, Marlboro Lights, and Diet Mountain Dews  purchased with my credit card.

I saluted her as she shuffled out. She shot me a bird.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunset through the pines

Last night was cooler than I expected, and when I rolled out of bed to get the coffee dripping, I had to step back to my closet for a sweatshirt.

Our priorities changed this week which rearranged my writing schedule and I struggled with my column out on time. That happens from time to time. 

Sometimes the words won't come no matter how hard I coax. I used to fret, but now I've come to realize that not everything I write will qualify for the Pulitzer :)

I do my best. When it's finished, Jilda edits, I make corrections and send that baby winging its way through cyberspace to all the papers that run it.

It was pretty for most of the day, but by late afternoon, clouds rolled in from the gulf and I assumed it would be a sad sunset, but like yesterday Ol' Sol wouldn't be denied.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Everything coming up roses

I think I got a job today. I've been kicking around the idea of going back to work for a while now. We want to go to Europe next year while our great niece and nephew are in London. His job is taking them there for about a year and they asked if we'd like to visit next fall. It's really a no brainer except we would have to take money from savings.

A few weeks ago I began poking around to see if there was any part-time work available. As it turns out, the local college has a part-time job helping people over 50 go back to work.

I sent my resume, transcripts, and some solid letters of recommendation. They review my package and said they'd get back to me.

They called late last week and asked if I could meet with them today. My calendar had things like, check the air conditioning filter, reorder planner refills, and straighten the wires in back of my computer, so I figured I could find the time to meet with them.

The person that interviewed me gave me a brief rundown on the responsibilities before asking, "Does this sound like something you'd be interested in? 

"As a matter of fact I would," I muttered.

A few moments later I was signing an intent to hire, and filing out a stack of forms as thick as War and Peace. 

There are still a number of obstacles I'll have to go through, but it looks like I'll be employed this time next week. I'm excited.

The sky had been beautiful all day, but I walked out of the interview into foreboding skies. I hoped that was not some kind of harbinger.

As I got closer to home, I saw the sun setting beneath the clouds making the horizon look as if it were ablaze.

I wheeled to the side of the road even though the driver behind me showed her annoyance by laying down on her horn. It was a small price to pay for a few moments of heaven, and a signal from above that everything is coming up roses.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A treasure of old photographs ~ my column this week

I stumbled upon a cache of old photos of Jilda’s family this week. She’d almost broken a hip trying to get sweaters out of the depths of my closet. From the darkness, I could hear muffled curses and unkind words about the way I stored my winter clothing.
I’d be the first to admit my storage methodology is a bit unorthodox and hard for others to grasp, but it works for me.
After the sermon, I started packing away all my summer things and fetching the sweats, sweaters and long johns from the bowels of my closet. In the back corner, I found a large plastic storage box the size of a footlocker.
It was filled with things her mother had kept for almost a century. We’d found it in the back of her closet while cleaning out her house after she passed away.
Once I had it out in the open, I poked it a few times with the broom handle to make sure no spiders or wintering mice hopped out.
Popping the plastic lid, I found old cards, letters, photographs, and yellowed newspaper clippings as fragile as a butterfly wing.
Jilda and I started dating when she was barely 16, so I attended holidays, funerals, family reunions and vacations. I took many pictures through the years. But these pictures predated me, and they showed a part of their lives that I’d never seen.
A rolled picture that resembled a scroll stood in one corner. It was about 12 inches tall, but about three-feet wide. I had to put a book on one end to weigh it down, and gently unroll the picture with the tips of my fingers.
The photograph was taken during the early days of WWII when her dad Sharky served as an Army medic. There were 112 soldiers posing in rows for the camera.
Normally with that many men, the photographer would have to back up so far that the faces in the picture would be unrecognizable.
But somehow, the photographer used a lens that allowed him to get close enough that every face was clear. I guess that’s why the picture was so wide.
Standing in the third row in his kakis with his garrison cap tilted to one side, was the young Sharky Phillips looking pensively at the camera. I couldn’t believe I’d never seen that photograph.
Another older picture was of Jilda’s mom Ruby standing outside in a dress and hat, holding her firstborn child Herbert. She was 15 years old at the time. The picture looked as if it could have appeared in Vogue magazine.
Jilda heard me say “Wow!” as I looked at it for the first time. She said, “Mama was so afraid that someone would steal her beautiful baby, that she pinned him to her breast pocket with a diaper pin whenever she took him anywhere.”
There was another picture of Jilda's mom in her Captain Anderson waitress uniform that was taken in 1942 when Sharky was in training at Kendall Air force base.
We both looked at the photographs for a long time. I wish I knew the stories behind all the pictures, but I’d never seen them before, and now it is too late to ask.
Old photographs add richness to the story of our families, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, they add color to the tapestry of our lives.
I made a decision right then to scan all these one-of-a-kind images.
It would be a shame not to share them with others in our family so they can be passed down to the generations that follow.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A story behind every photograph

The paper in which my column runs usually puts the lead paragraphs along with a picture of me on the front of the Lifestyle section of the paper. The second half of the column usually jumps to a page inside the section.

Today, the front page had the column as usual, but somehow they didn't include the last half of it. My phone number is listed in the book, and it rang off the hook today. 

When I pointed out to the folks that the entire column was online and that I'd posted it on Facebook, most of them said, "Well, I'M NOT ON THE INTERNET!!!!" 

One demographic that my column tends to resonate with are older folks who grew up hard. Many of them survived the Great Depression, and although I came alone much later, the circumstances around my early life were not that different than many of them, so they identify with many of my topics.

As I mentioned late last week in this blog, the column is about coming across a cache of old photographs. I'll post it tomorrow night, but in the story I describe the picture below which is of Jilda's mom.

She's barely 15 and holding her first child, and there is a story behind this photograph. 

Be sure and come back on Monday night to read it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Patient creatures

Dogs are patient creatures. They'll sit and wait for hours. Today I did yard yoga.  Caillou walked out with me to supervise.

He lay with his head on his paws while I moved slowly through my routine. It seems he's never bored, and rarely interrupts me when I'm doing my stretches.

Though meditation is hard for him to witness. Anyone lying on the ground obviously needs assistance.  

Today, while he didn't actually touch me, he was so close I could feel his breath on my face. He was so close, all I could see was his nose. 

I think he was trying to decided if I needed mouth to mouth. I'm glad he decided to wait until I opened my eyes.

Friday, November 21, 2014

And while we're on the subject of beaches

I'm not a world traveler like my blog buddy Jack, but we've been to a beach or two. I can say without a moment's hesitation, I've never met a beach I didn't like.

We've been in the Florida Keys, and points all along the gulf coast. We've been as far north a Boston, and as far west as California.

When visiting our friend Ken in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spent a weekend on Lake Michigan at Benton Harbor which was a treat.

I've been to Panama's Atlantic and Pacific shores, and we walked on beaches in Ireland. They all are multi-sensory intoxication.

I have a basket of seashells on the vanity in my bathroom that we've picked up on the beaches we've visited through the years.

This picture popped up in my Memoir app. It was taken at Gulf Shores several years ago. I thought it was serendipity that it showed up this evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thinking about the beach

Looking back at images from the past is interesting. This is a picture of me taken in the summer of 1969. Jilda's family had gone to the beach for the week and I was working at night while going to college. I sort of invited myself to go at the same time.

I headed out Friday afternoon with my cousin Tommy. I had a 1965 Impala SS at the time. It was fire engine red with an engine so powerful, it rattled the windows of nearby houses. We got a room at a hotel down the beach from where Jilda's family was staying.

I was as thin as a refugee when Jilda snapped this photo with her Brownie Instamatic. The color is washed out in this picture, but the gulf water was green as liquid jade. 

Even now as I close my eyes, I can smell the salty surf and hear seagulls squawking as they patrolled the sand seeking crabs and small fish on the shore.

It was before I understood the importance of sunscreen so hours after this picture was taken, I was red as firebrick. My cousin Tommy called me lobster-boy for the rest of the summer.

During the early years of our marriage we spent most every vacation at the beach because it was some place we could go that didn't cost an arm and a leg.

These days we only go once or twice a year.

We plan to go for my birthday in a few months and I'm looking forward to time on the water. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autumn walk

Last night the temps dipped to 17 degrees which is frosty in this part of the country. Tiny ice crystal formations settled around the bottom edges of the great room glass at the front of our house which faces north.

Even though the sun stood tall in a cloudless sky today, the wind out of the west would cut you like a scythe.

This afternoon I walked with the howling wind and screaming knees. Even when Arthur is kicking my tail, I try to get my exercise in. Setting my timer for 25 minutes, I set out.

When I got to the apple trees, there were about a dozen apples the size of softballs lying on the ground. They'd been basking in the autumn sun at the top of the apple tree, just out of reach of ladders and lifts. But the cold weather brought them to earth.

As I walked past today, I scooped one up, brushed it vigorously on my pant leg as if I were shining it for my favorite teacher.

When I sank my teeth into this apple, I stopped in my tracks and let the juice trickle down my chin as I chewed. It was, without question, the best apple I've ever put into my mouth.

I picked up several more apples and stuffed them into my pockets, knowing that Jilda would make something amazing with them when she got home.

I snapped a photo as I rounded the barn. It's just another example of light, shadow, and too many shades of color to name.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Old photographs

One of my accomplishments this week was cleaning out my closet. Back in the corner where only spiders and wintering mice fear to tread, I found a plastic storage box as big as a footlocker.

Inside the box was a cache of old photographs that belonged to Jilda's mom. We found it store in the back of her closet after she died.

Jilda and I started dating when she was only 16, so I witnessed much of her life and that of her family, but some of these pictures I'd never seen.

I decided to scan these and share them with family, but as I worked Jilda would comment on her memory of the photographs.

The experience was moving. In fact, it's the subject of the column that will appear in Sunday's paper.

I know it's a cliche, but I'll say it once more: Old photographs are what add color to the tapestry of our lives.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ushering November in right ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had a cookout on the first day of November. It just didn’t seem right that Halloween fell on Friday night and the following day, the kids were still cranked on high fructose corn syrup and their costumes were barely wrinkled. Halloween should definitely be a two-day holiday.

Jilda realized the opportunity a month or so before the end of October and started making plans. Its seems most of the parents were excited about such an event because it would be an opportunity for the kids to run off some of the sugar buzz left over from Halloween.

A call to our niece who is all about fun with the kids was in, and started ordering outside games for kids to play. I’m sure her credit card holders were smiling.

Our nephew Haven was all for it too. This was important too because he has the tractor and trailer we needed for the hayride.

Soon the commitments began rolling in. Jordan, his friends and cousins were excited.

The morning of the hayride, I gathered a truckload of oak and hickory from behind the barn to feed the fire pit. I put fresh charcoal in the grill and took another swipe at sweeping the deck even though I knew by party time it would be thick as a 1970s shag carpet with dried leaves and acorns.

That afternoon, Jilda put on a percolator of hot apple cider. If you’ve never smelled the blending of scents from vases of fresh flowers and brewing hot cider, you still have something to live for. There’s nothing better on a cool autumn afternoon than a cup of warm cider.

The weather was perfect. It was cool in the shade, so the grownups kept moving chaise loungers and chairs to keep them in the afternoon sun, which felt warm to the skin.

The fire pit was a great addition to our yard because the hardwood logs added an almost subliminal soundtrack as they snapped and crackled.

The kids would play until their hands got cold then run up to warm their hands over the fire before darting off to meet the next challenge.

Ella, one of Jordan’s friends from first grade came and stood close to me with her back to the fire warming her legs. I could smell the aroma of wood smoke in her hair and sweater.

It was that kind of day.

When the kids were about to spew from eating hot dogs, s’mores and leftover candy, it was time for the hayride.

Haven fired up the hay-strewn tractor and pulled it up the back of the fence. The trailer quickly filled with kids, grownups, and dogs that weren’t about to miss the excitement.

The tractor slowly puttered down around the barn and up the driveway that is lined with oak, hickory and pine. This time of year the foliage creates a colorful canopy reminiscent of the Old South.

The kids made a game of snagging scarlet and amber leaves as we passed.

When we were almost back to the gate, Haven steered the tractor under our apple tree.

His wife, Alesha, hopped into the tractor bucket, and he lifted her to the upper branches where a few choice apples were hiding. She picked one for all the kids and grownups and a few left over for an apple pie. Ella’s mom later commented on Facebook it was the best apple she’d ever eaten.

By the time everyone left, Jilda and I were whupped, but it was one of those memorable days. We hope the kids that came will remember it with fondness too.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fun gig

We played a gig in Muscle Shoals tonight. It's like music Mecca here in Alabama. The history and tradition here run deep.

Many of the songs you've heard and loved throughout your life were recorded here. There's a PBS special on Muscle Shoals that came out earlier this year and even though I knew the place had a rich history, I had no idea of the depth and breadth.

At any rate, we played a few hours at the The Shoals Songwriter Showcase. After our set, the stage opened up for songwriters in the audience. Almost everyone in the audience was a songwriter.

The support shown at this venue is humbling.

I hope we have the opportunity to play here again.

It rained on the drive up and only got harder as the evening wore on. By the time we loaded up to head for home, I needed water skis  on the Volvo.

Even through the rain, the autumn color was all around us.  The cold weather this week will probably take most of the color with it when it moves on toward the east.  I won't complain because it has been absolutely stunning here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cool day in Empire

The weather today's been picturesque. Even with full sun, it was cold enough to wear a jacket when we went out before lunch.

Jilda found an incredible deal on corduroy blazers yesterday, so I slid my arms into the black one today. I felt all distinguished and what not.

When we got back home, I took the dogs for a walk. They love this weather. Both of our critters have a lot of hair and struggle during hot weather, but today they ran with wild abandon.

The coldest weather of the year is marching toward us, so over the next few days I'll need to seal up the chicken house for winter, and wrap the outside faucets.

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Point of view

Life is all about perspective. In time, I've come to understand this simple fact. At 50 thousand feet we all look the same. But a closer look reveals that none of us are exactly alike.

I shot several frames of fall foliage earlier in the week and settled on one particular picture to post here for you.

But tonight as I scanned my recent photos, I came across the frames I didn't pick that day, and an idea twinkled, slightly out of focus,  at the edge of thought.

At the moment I chose the earlier picture, I thought it was the best view, but upon reflection, I wonder.

What is the best view?  Some people like the wide view that shows the entire picture so they can get a sense of the time, place, and feel of the picture.

Others like all the distractive elements cropped out leaving a more austere picture that represents the essence of the subject.

The point is this: Almost everything we hear, see, feel, touch, or taste can be rubbish or exquisite. It depends upon your point of view.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's getting colder

I could tell by looking at the sky last night as the sun sank low that it would be getting cold. The birds knew it too, because there was a sense of urgency to their evening work.

Drinking green tea before turning in last night, I could hear the wind in the trees. We fell asleep to the sound of acorns rattling the metal roof.

This morning had me drinking coffee early and making ready to head into to Birmingham for meetings.

By mid morning, the clouds were gray as woodsmoke, and I was glad I'd worn warm clothing. The forecast called for the temps to rise in the afternoon, but that didn't happen.

It took a steaming cup of hot caramel mocha to set me right.

It will drop into the 20s tonight but warm up a little before being brutally cold later in the weekend.

Old man winter is knocking on the door.

I shot the picture below, earlier in the week, before the sun got shy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How stories are born

Writing is an interesting job. I get suggestions about potential stories all the time. "My Uncle Bob has this dog that wrestles chickens, and I think it would make a great story." Or "My grandmother is a line dancer, and picks up bikers at the local roadhouse." OK, I'm kidding about these, but you get the picture. A lot of leads, lead nowhere.

But every now and then a story comes along that gently nudges at you and says, "This could be interesting."

Last Christmas, we played for the staff at Bevill State College. It was a fun gig, and the reception was incredible.

While there, our friend Jonathan, who teaches at Bevill asked, "Have you looked at that piano?" It was an old piano in the corner that looked like a survivor of one too many frat parties. Names were carved into every surface.

When I looked at it, the names weren't of college students, but of WWII soldiers. 

I finally got around to researching the story and what I found was amazing to me.

I mentioned this story last week, and I finished it up. I pitched the idea to The New York Times, and other publications, but apparently what the editors read was, "MY Uncle Bob has this dog........." because I got no response.

The American Legion did send me back and email that asked me to post the story on their blog. They said that editors of the International American Legion Magazine took articles that resonated on the blog and printed them in the magazine.

So, I posted the story and it appeared today at OLD PIANO.  If you have a moment, I would be grateful if you'd have a look and if you like it, make a comment or share it if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Basking in the beauty

I had a meeting in Birmingham yesterday at the Botanical Gardens. Actually it was a staff Christmas picture. I'm a freelancer and not really on the staff, but I've been writing for one of the papers since before my friend Dan bought the publication and he considers me a part of his team.

The little paper has grown from a couple full-time employees to about 15 full time staffers and a bunch of interns, photographers and writers. The talent pool there is mind blowing. I'm not surprised when the traditional media environment collapsed, it left a lot of really good writers, designers, and photographers on the street.

Anyhow, they asked me to come over to the Botanical Gardens and be in the picture. I was flattered.

Once the picture was taken, everyone had to scurry back to work to get the papers out, but I took a little time to wander around the gardens and soak in the color, smells, and sounds of this little piece of paradise in the middle of a large city.

On the way out of the gardens to the parking lot, I came upon a photo op I couldn't pass up. An oak and maple were putting on a show. I stopped by an old gate and snapped a few frames.

The drive home was incredible. Autumn, brief as it is, was all around and for a short while, I basked in the beauty.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking things for granted

There is a bouquet of zinnias in my bathroom in a tall ivory vase. They are red, purple and burnt orange. The color is more vivid than a Kodachrome slide.

They appear there every few days during the summer, almost as if by magic. I’ve never seen them wilt. While I’m running around chasing story leads and interviewing people, a new arrangement of flowers finds its way onto my vanity.

This morning as I straightened my collar, before heading out to a noon luncheon, I noticed a new arrangement.

Leaning down, the gentle fragrance of the fragile flowers drifted straight through to my brain sending me back 50 years to my great grandmother’s porch.

Closing my eyes, the color came back in a rush of memory, and I realized how easy it is to take things for granted.

I never have to think of clean towels, tissue in the dispenser or toothpaste in the antique Old Spice mug that holds my toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s always there within easy reach.

I tell my lovely wife Jilda thank you frequently, but is that enough? I wonder.

It’s hard for me to imagine my life without her, though as a younger man the thought never crossed my mind.

This week I’ve been researching a story idea and had an opportunity to talk with some WWII veterans.

All three had been married for over 55 years, and had lost their wives in the recent past. The voice of one cracked a little when talking about losing the love of his life.

“I live alone now,” he said. “There are people who come in to cook, clean, and check on me, but I miss my wife more than anyone will ever know.”

There was an indescribable sadness in his voice. I paused for a moment before moving on. During the silence, I thought of the flowers on my vanity and got a lump in my throat as well.

If he’d taken her for granted when she was alive, I’d be willing to bet he’s given that a lot of thought since she passed on.

The conversation with the elderly gentleman, and the sadness in his voice weighed on my mind for a long time.

Jilda and I have arrived at a time in our lives where we don’t have the luxury of taking anything for granted.

You can’t flip through the paper without seeing obits of men and women our age.

Jilda still weighs about what she weighed in high school, and looks much younger than her 62 years.

When people learn that she’s struggling with a chronic lung issue that forces her to take five-hour infusion treatments each month, they shake their head in disbelief. “You don’t look sick,” they say.

But few have seen the side effects of a serum that looks as thick as Karo Syrup dripping through a plastic tube, and marching through every vein in her body. It’s not pretty.

But thankfully, she has an appointment later this month with a doctor that specializes in her condition and there’s a good chance he can make recommendations to minimize the side effects in the future. We’re both grateful and excited.

It is not my intention to get preachy in this column, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned that I would like to share with you all it’s this — Don’t take your loved ones for granted.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A sliver of red and gold

I was delayed today. Someone stopped me at the grocery store to complement me on my todays column in the newspaper.

I would never be rude or ungrateful even though a silent timepiece in the back of my mind was saying Tick Tock, Tick Tock.

Life is often that way. You're stopped at a traffic light that seems may never change. A look in both directions verifies there's not another car in the county, but years of safety training won't let you run through it.

You sit stranded at the light beating your head against the padded steering wheel until it's bloody before it finally changes.

That happened today. I would have bet the farm I was too late to get the photo I've been wanting. But just as I drove up, I saw the evening light slowly sliding across the hills overlooking the lake and realized that I was just in time.

Off in the distance you can see a sliver of red and gold.

I guess the Universe is a better keeper of time.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

fiery foliege

The foliage is still not coming in full, but you wouldn't know it by looking at these oak leaves at the barn and a blue sky that looks Photoshopped.

We walked down around the barn to let the dogs get some exercise. The early dropper leaves created a crunch brown carpet on the ground.

When we rounded a corner at the back, I saw the sun filtering through the trees, and these leaves which looked as if there were on fire.

I hope you don't tire of autumn photos because I love this time of year.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Evening pond

I had to pick up scripts at the local pharmacy today. I was working in my office on a project and had forgotten about them until Jilda called from the kitchen to remind me. "You should pick those up before it get's dark."

"Dang, I can't believe I forgot those earlier," I muttered to myself.  Grabbing my keys, and a bottle of water, I headed out.

There was a chill in the shade even thought the sun was alone in the sky and I was glad I'd worn warm clothes.  I had to pull my shades from above the visor before I reached the main road.

About a mile from the house I passed a field with two frolicking fawns playing like carefree children. I slowed, but there was a car coming up behind, so I snapped a mental picture..............................can you see it? I guess not, but it was worth a try.

I'd refilled the prescription using the drugstore app on my phone earlier in the day. I'd launched the app, scanned the barcode on my empty bottle, and the message popped up-- "Would you like to pick that up in Sumiton?"  Well yes, I would was my reply.

Pulling into the drive-through I snagged my meds, and was on the road in less than a minute. Did I mention that some technology is really neat?

Once out, I realized I needed gas, so I drove to the station and filled my tank at $2.76 a gallon which is still high, but beats $4 a gallon by....well by $1.24 cents.

the road less traveled seemed like the right road to take home. It's across a stretch of road that in places feels as if you're driving across the crest of the world. At one point it looks as if you could see California with suitable eye ware.

I passed a pond as the sun settled in the west. Slowing as I passed, I glanced in the rearview and thankfully no one was following so I coasted to a stop, and then backed up until I could frame the picture appropriately.

Snapping a few frames, I drove away smiling. I knew there was some underlying reason I'd conveniently forgotten to pick up the meds. I need a picture and a topic for tonight's blog.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Autumn Color

I had to run down to the store this morning and on the way back, I swung by the lake. The ducks thought I was bringing treats so they squawked over to the bank expectantly.

I felt bad that I didn't have a little corn or bread to toss them, but the stop was unscheduled. I wanted to get a feel for the autumn color.

Some of the trees are beginning to show out. The maple, of course are stunning, but the dogwood, hickory and sumac are chiming in.

I snapped a picture that looks pretty good, but after the cold snap this weekend, the pace will quicken.

I hope you all are enjoying a beautiful autumn.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Random Wednesday thoughts

The clouds rolled in today, and without benefit of the afternoon sun, I got a little chilled. Soon it will be too cold for porch-sitting weather.

The creative space is where I go when things get tangled up in my head. It's one of my favorite places to unwind. 

It's quiet down there. About the only thing you hear is birds and squirrels rustling the leaves looking for food.

There's a 100-year-old oak in the front yard that I can't reach around. The lowest limb is about 30 feet off the ground and is as big around as my waist.

The old house has a tin roof. In autumn, when acorns fall from the oak and strike the metal, it sounds like a shot.

There's a well behind the old house and even in August when it's hotter than satan's sandals, the water from the well is cold and refreshing. I've kept the old bailer, which is a slender metal tube about  five feet long used to draw water from the depths. It was used before electric pumps. There's a rope attached to the bailer, and you let down until you hear a gurgle, before pulling it back up full of water.
We had one of these when I was a kid.

I find myself holding on to old things even though they are no longer considered useful in modern-times. But having them helps me to remember where I came from, and the long path that led me to where I am today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


I have an app on my phone that a friend recommended. It's called Memoir and once you install it, and give it access to the pictures on your phone, Facebook, Instagram, and any other programs that utilize photographs, it says OK. I'll get back to you once I'm finished.

I'm not sure what it did, or how long it took, but while I was busy doing other things, it assembled the photos I'd taken in the past into chronological story of my life over the last 10 years or so.

Every few days I'll get a message saying click here to see what you were doing four years ago today.  I always enjoy getting those messages and strolling back through the years.

Last year at this time we were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The sky was blue as a postcard, and the sun felt warm even with the stiff breeze off the mountains telling us that winter was on the way.

A simple swipe of the finger transported me back in time, to a beautiful place.

A picture book on the shelf of your living room will do the same thing, but how often do we pull it off the shelf and flip through the pages?

Some people complain that technology is ruining the world, and at times their arguments are compelling. But when I get a reminder that I was with my mom four years ago today, and I flip back through the photographs and relive our conversation, if only for a moment, I can't help believing that technology is a good thing.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Showdogs ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I have always had dogs. Most of them were “throwaways” that showed up at our front door limping, with mange, the worms, and other maladies stemming from abuse and neglect.

A big red dog of questionable lineage wandered up several years ago. He was so old, his teeth were worn down to nubs and one of his ears had been chewed off. We often got creative with names, but we just called this one Ol’ Red.

He was so far gone, it would have been more merciful to put him down, but with a little time and Jilda’s loving care, he lived several years and died happy.

I’m not sure if it was by chance or some hidden intuition, but they all somehow found the hidden path into our hearts.

When dogs show up here, they hit the canine lottery. They are petted, medicine, vet visits, and three-square meals a day with tasty scraps of chicken, and other treats that somehow tend to fall from our plates at mealtime.

Some die soon after they arrive, and others have stayed as long as 15 years.

The Universe must have bent slightly these last few years because instead of gimpy mutts, the two animals that arrived at our door have been show dogs. One was a thoroughbred collie, and the other a thoroughbred Yorkie.

They want the same thing as the mutts — attention, to be petted, a decent plate of food, and a warm place when it’s cold outside.

But these dogs need a good bit more than mutts. If you've ever seen the old television show Lassie, Caillou could have served as a double in that series.

Grooming him is a chore. After brushing, there’s enough fur on the ground to knit a blanket that could keep Rhode Island warm in winter. But he is a beautiful dog.

When we walk with Caillou, he runs through the woods with wild abandon. Upon return, he’s often dragging the forest behind him. I find myself saying unkind things as I wrestle the briars and brambles out of the six-inches of hair on his tail.

Over the weekend, our carpenter friend Ray helped us replace the lauan and commercial tile on our kitchen floor. It was a messy job involving lots of glue. I’m still finding glue on tools and doorknobs.

Today after my nephew Haven helped me move the stove and fridge back into the kitchen, we were standing in the living room sipping a cold glass of water.

I heard Caillou coming before he arrived. He seemed to be clanking against things as he walked through the house.

When I looked at him more closely, he had a broken corner of commercial tile covered in glue tangled in his tail.

I had to cut it out with shears. He looked a little embarrassed as if to say, “I have no idea how that happened daddy, I promise.”

As I say, I love our dogs, but I'm kind of hoping the next dogs that show up are just mutts.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Everything is relative

We had two small home-improvement projects planned. One was replacing the tile on the kitchen floor which we completed last week. The other was a small closet in the spare bedroom. We needed a place to store our luggage, and some other bulky belongings that took up precious space in our closets.

Today was the only day we could schedule our carpenter. The saws and hammers started around 8 a.m., and by noon we were so close to finishing we could smell the barn.

My knees were screaming from carrying loads of lumber and making no less that ten thousand trips up and down the stairs to the shed out back.

Deciding to take a short break, I sat at the wrought iron table on the deck to take a sip of sweet tea I'd left out there. The ice had melted a little, but it was still cold enough that condensation sweat beaded on the outside of the glass.

I took a slow sip. The sun felt warm on my aching knees. All of a sudden, I felt something move in my mouth.  Reaching in, my thumb and index finger clamped onto something. It didn't take an entomologists to realize it was a yellow jacket. All of a sudden my mouth was throbbing.

The little beast had stung the inside of my upper lip. As it wiggled on the banister, I smashed it flatter than an onion skin, and gave it a little twist for good measure.

The pain was exquisite.....for me I mean. I doubt the yellow jacket felt anything at that point.

The remarkable thing was, I no longer gave the pain in my knees much thought.

I guess it's true that everything is relative.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Making memories

We have cookouts here every now and then. Sometimes they are adult gatherings, and sometimes they are kid events. Today was a kid event.

Our niece Samantha bought a bunch of lawn games and invited several of Jordan's (her son) classmates from the first grade.

I cleaned off the deck, and gathered a load of oak and hickory wood for the fire pit. Our nephew Haven got hay for the trailer for the hayride.

Once all the kids arrived, they played the games until they got tired, and then went exploring in the chicken pen.

I'm not sure what's so fascinating about the chicken pen, but it is. They gathered eggs, fed the chickens and chased them around the pen.

We did hotdogs on the grill, and Jilda made a batch of her world famous hot apple cider.

When the sun went down, we loaded all the kids on the trailer and Haven pulled us around the property on the tractor.

Once the ride was finished, we made S'mores on the fire pit. About half the kids wanted to stay with us when it was time to go.

Jilda and I each took warm epsom salts baths and are about to call it a night. I can almost guarantee that we'll both sleep well tonight.

Making memories is hard work.

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