Monday, November 30, 2015

Under the weather

I’ve been under the weather the last few weeks with a nasty cough that sounds like a hound treeing a squirrel.

I’ve turned into a whiny baby. It takes great restraint from Jilda to keep from cutting my head off with a butcher knife to put me out of my misery.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this bad.

I know the exact moment it started. We were driving down Interstate 65 to play at an art festival in Clanton. Midway between Birmingham and the peach water tower, we both saw a small fire just off the Interstate.

Instead of the smoke rising as you’d expect, this smoke spread out just above the ground and hung there like a veil.

A moment after we drove through the smoke, we coughed in stereo. Jilda said, “I hope they weren’t burning toxic waste back there.”

We both laughed, but my cough persisted…and has for three weeks.

The last time a cough this bad settled in my chest was when I was about 13 years old. I remember that time clearly because it was my first trip deer hunting with my dad. I anticipated that I’d come back with deer meat and a story to tell, but the only thing I brought home was pneumonia.

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and the temps had dropped like a stone. We bunked with about 15 other hunters in a run-down hunting cabin. Pulling my pallet up close to the fireplace, I fell asleep to the sound of snapping logs.

The next day, the sun felt warm on my hunting jacket when the wind wasn’t blowing, but my shotgun was so cold I feared my fingers would stick to the polished blue steel barrel.

And then after lunch, the clouds rolled in. Soon, misting rain began to fall. By late evening, my clothes were damp and my boots felt like anvils on my feet.

That second night, getting a place close to the fire was harder because everyone’s feet got wet that day so boots took the choice drying spots by the fire.

The next day was the most miserable day of my life. The jeep dropped hunters every three or four hundred yards in the area. My stand was in a grove of oak and hickory with no one in sight.

I sat at the base of that tree for hours. The drizzling rain returned and brought flecks of sleet and snow with it.

When I couldn’t take the wind and cold anymore, I found a giant oak that had been damaged by fire in years past. The trunk was hollowed out and the opening was just the right size. I burrowed into the tree like a mole and stayed there until I heard the jeep horn at dusk.

A rattling cough started that night and by the time we got home the following afternoon, I was sick. The doctor took one look at me on Monday and told my mom I had pneumonia. It took forever to get over that hunting trip.

This past week when I went to the doctor for my current cough, he shot me full of antibiotics and medicine for the cough. I’m feeling much better, but I couldn’t run a race.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taking a pass

It's rained all day so we did a lot of indoor work. I've read and spent most of the day working on a Berkeley College of Music Songwriter class. I'm out of juice. today and I am frazzled.
So I'm going to take both a Pass Goal and Collect $200 card tonight.
I hope you all have a great week.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holding on

Our autumn has been a little wonky. The leaves got a head start and it looked as if it would be a stunning year, but then It stayed very hot and dry. The leaves struggled not to fall and turn into a brown crunchy carpet.

When the rain came, it brought wind with it and many of the leaves were blown off before they had a chance to show out.

We drove to the store to pick up some groceries this morning, and the sky was stunning. We noticed several crimson maples and Bradford pear trees.

Then on our walk after lunch today, I came up several small oak trees that had lingered and decided to put on their own show. I was glad they held on.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The day after

Today was a laid back day for Jilda and me. We took a long walk and then ran a few errands. Afterwards, we headed up some leftover turkey, dressing, and some other goodies followed by a long peaceful nap.

About 3 p.m., we heard a commotion outside and three of our great nieces and a nephew were running up the hill into the front yard.

Jilda and I sat on the back step of the deck along with their PawPaw and watched those kids run wide open for almost two hours. Their energy wore me out.

They didn't need toys, computers, lawn games, or anything else but open space and fresh air.

The setting sun highlighted wispy cirrus clouds sweeping up from the Gulf of Mexico and painted them the colour or orange sherbet.

I stopped them for a moment and asked them what they saw in the clouds. "An angel", one shouted.
"There's the wings, and there's her halo." "A dolphin," another one offered. And so on.

With kids, it doesn't take a lot.  I'm thrilled they enjoy coming to our house. Holidays would be a lonely time for us if it weren't for the children of our nieces and nephews.

We didn't have children (long story here, but maybe another time), but we've had the good fortune to live next door to Jilda's brother who had three kids and now they have children. We're surrogate grandparents. Whenever someone needs a kid picked up at school, or needs a place for a kid to stay when everyone else in the family is tied up, they have us on speed-dial because we are here to serve.

It's a delightful arrangement because we get to have all the fun with the kids and then send them home when they're worn out and cranky.

I hope you survived Black Friday. Click here for my post a few years ago about shopping at the time of the year.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I've only spent two Thanksgivings away from home in my life. That was November 1971 when I was in radio school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and the following year when I was stationed in Panama.

I was short on money to fly home that year, but I did consider hitch-hiking to Alabama. It was during those years when drivers actually picked up hitch-hikers. Soldiers in uniform and an added advantage because people wanted to help servicemen in those days. But I only had four days off and I feared I'd get stuck on the road so I opted to spend Thanksgiving with one of my married classmates who lived off-base.

Thanksgiving is such a special holiday for me. It's always been about family, food, and celebrating all the abundance in my life.

The first Thanksgiving in New Jersey was hard because I wasn't home with my family, but having Thanksgiving with my friends softened the bruise, but the following year in Panama was brutal. It felt as if I were a million miles away.

I could close my eyes and smell the turkey and ham baking in the oven, and hear the din of laughter coming from the living room where my family and friends gathered waiting for the blessing to be said.

Today as my niece said the blessing over the turkey and dressing at our house, I thought about that day in Panama in 1971. It was a short mental journey on to the soldiers serving on active duty around the world today. I wish I could have had them all here at our house today so they would not spend this Thanksgiving feeling like they were a million miles away from home.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Be here

Driving home this evening, the full moon looked as big as a dinner plate through the trees. The moon ends 2015 by giving us two treats. A full moon on Thanksgiving morning, and another on Christmas Day.

I don't recall the last time that happened. I tried to get a picture this evening, but my attempts were tragic...well, actually tragic might be a little harsh, but sad seems to fit nicely.

So tonight I surfed through older photographs. I came upon a picture I took five years ago in December of 2011.

I could come up with some tired phrase about how fast time slips away, but the thing is, it's getting away at an alarming pace.

It seems as if the older we get, the grains in our hourglass get smaller and woosh through to the bottom of the glass much quicker than when we were younger.

The only way to guard against the passing of time is to be Pay attention. Blog. Otherwise, we'll wake up one day and wonder where it all went.

I hope you all have a remarkable Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Inspirational walk

Thanksgiving week is a wonky work week. Normally, I have all day Wednesday to sip green tea and write. But this week I'm workingWednesday. So much for leisurely writing.

Today I completed work a little early and decided to dive in head first and knock the column out. I made a steaming cup of peppermint tea and sat down to type. Nothing.

I tried all the old standby muse nudgers but none of them worked. I decided to do a new technique that I learned about called freewriting. That means you start typing the first thing that pops into your head and eventually an idea dislodges from a long nap from somewhere inside your mind and your off. I typed until my fingers bled...bruised...well actually they grew tired of typing and I decided to
take a walk.

The walk was refreshing. The sun was lounging on the western horizon, and a few beams filtered through the canopy to highlight a few lingering autumn leaves.

I paused and snapped.  A little further along, I snapped another one.

I was walking the new path and as I got near the barn I saw something in the underbrush.

Bending down, I scooted off the path to investigate.

What I found was an old RC Cola bottle with the neck broken off.

Mother Nature figured that since the bottle was no longer being used, she'd use it as a vase.

There was a fern growing from the mouth of the jagged glass, and when I held it up to the light, I could see the fern flourished inside the bottle too.

Mother Nature will not be denied.

When I got back to my laptop, the words seemed to flow much easier.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A lesson in fear ~ my column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: I used a piece of one of my posts last week in this column.

Fear is an interesting emotion. Most of the things I’ve feared in my life never happened. They were figments of my imagination.

Fear sometimes caused me to say and do things I regretted after the threat of danger had passed.

When I was a kid, the closest dentist was in the town of Cordova. The town was about eight miles away from our house and was situated near the banks of the Warrior River.

I HATED going to Cordova. It wasn’t just going to the dentist; it was because I was afraid of riding over the old bridge into town.

The steel structure had a wooden roadbed. Over the years, the bridge deteriorated and the ends of some of the boards broke off and fell into the river. The bolts fastening the wood to the structure had worked loose and rattled when cars or trucks drove over it.

My mother always drove slowly across that bridge. We had a 1957 Buick which weighed just slightly less than one of the Great Pyramids, and she always feared it was too heavy for the ancient structure.

Even driving slowly, the clattering sound of the wood on steel was almost deafening.

A few times, I conjured up enough courage to look out the windows as we crossed that bridge. In places, you could see through the missing ends of boards all the way to the water 40 feet below.

To say it made me uneasy would have been an understatement. In fact, my rear end almost chewed holes in the upholstery during those infrequent dentist trips. It was enough to make me brush my teeth with more diligence.

It wasn’t the bridge itself I feared, but images I conjured up of us plunging into the depths of the river and being trapped in the back seat as the ink-black water rushed in through the cracks and slowly turned the passenger compartment into an aquarium. By the time we arrived at the dentist’s office, I was usually exhausted. Fear does that to you.

Facebook is a blessing and a curse. I love looking at Facebook on special holidays when people are sharing pictures of the family and kids.

But during election time the posts on Facebook often get mean spirited. I try to keep my views on politics, religion and hot-button topics to myself because I prefer not to add to the noise.

Some of the things I saw on Facebook after the Paris attack and the subsequent backlash about America accepting Syrian refugees looked almost like headlines from the National Enquirer.

People are filled with fear and the thing that concerns me is we’re letting a handful of terrorists rule our thinking and our lives.

The only real thing these savages can do is to instill fear. This is their weapon of mass disruption. If they can make us fearful, have they not already won the battle?

Autumn berries

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday stuff

We had to bundle up to day on our morning walk because it was the coldest morning of the year. Breath steamed out of my mouth when we walked up the hill. Normally we do a long walk in the morning and then a short one in the afternoon if we need the steps to meet our daily goals, but today was packed.

We joined Jilda's sister and her family for lunch but we had to leave early because one of our friends died unexpectedly and the funeral was today.

She was a of those people who saw humor in unlikely places. I often laughed 'till I cried whenever we dined with them.

Today as we stood in line waiting for our few moments with the family, I thought about all those good times we all spent together...the fun we had, and when it came time for us to hug her husband, I choaked up.  He said as we stood there, I know she's mad she missed this party.

This evening when we got home, we still had things we needed to do. But as the sun sank down, I realized I was short on steps and decided to take a walk.

Jilda threw on her shoes, put a harness on the pooch, and we were off. On the last lap, I noticed light on some twisted trees I'd never noticed before. I knew I needed a photo for tonight, so I snapped a photo.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Summer's gone

Summer's gone. We've flirted with frost once, but tonight the temps will drop into the 20s. We spent much of the afternoon prepping plants and finding space for them inside the house.

The big ones came in yesterday, but we have a forest of smaller ones that we shove into every nook and cranny that gets light through the windows.

The hardest one to find a place for was the oldest plant of the bunch.  It's philodendron that once belonged to Jilda's grandmother. Though the years, the plant passed through the generations to Jilda. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House the first time she remembers seeing that plant. We finally got everything placed this evening.

Jilda then started going through the books. Any that she didn't want to keep, she put them in a pile for me to consider before they go to the thrift store.

The Zinnias bloomed until just over a week ago. When I knew their days were numbered, I snapped an art photo of the last one standing before mowing them into mulch.

Jilda has peas on the stove and baked sweet potatoes with beets roasting in the oven. Soon I'll whip up a pone of my world famous cornbread and we'll have our supper.

It's been a productive day. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Neighbor's dogwood

I'd been dreading a task on my todo list for weeks. It's one of of those Important but not Urgent tasks that is OK to postpone for a while, but if you wait too long, you regret it.

My task was moving the citrus trees from outside the great-room windows inside. Several days ago there was a threat of frost, but I didn't get the trees moved inside. The cold snap didn't hurt them, but there is a hard freeze warning predicted here tomorrow night. Temps are expected to drop into the 20s which would do irreparable damage to the trees.

We've had them as long as I can remember, so I "man'd" up today and moved them inside. I didn't split my guts open as I feared, but by the time I finished I felt as if I'd gone 18 rounds with the young Cassius Clay.

The trees take up a great deal of space so Jilda had to do a lot of prep work to make room for them. She'd planned to cook supper, but she ran out of steam too. She suggested I go to Green Top BBQ and get us a BBQ Salad.  That sounded like a winner so in a flash I was off.

When I got back home, the setting sun highlighted the leaves on our neighbor's dogwood which stands at the corner of her yard a few feet from our driveway.  There was no traffic so I pulled to a stop, stepped out and shot a picture. Dogwoods are beautiful year around, but in the fall they are exquisite.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Art gig

Jilda and I played an art event at a museum in Sylacauga tonight. We were background music I thought we fit in well.

Afterwards, we drove down to the Waffle House and met a friend. She had coffee, but Jilda and I both were starving so we did a full breakfast. I don't know that I've ever had a better one.

We just got home and the bed is calling.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weather report

Slate-colored clouds moved in yesterday to give the sun a day off. About midday, the wind began to blow raking turning leaves off the trees.

The weatherman said things could get rough for us by daybreak. When I looked at weathermaps, it looked as though Texas and Oklahoma were getting hammered. A thin line of red on the radar screamed, "IF YOU LIVE IN A MOBILE HOME, GET OUT AND GET TO A SAFE PLACE!!!!!"

I slept with my cell phone by the bed. I have it configured to receive sever weather alerts so we'll have time to get to our safe place when it gets bad.

But when I got up this morning, the line was still off to the west and it looked like it was weakening. When it got here bolts of lightning stung the earth like angry red wasps. One thunderclap made the windows rattle, but in the end all we got was torrential rain. I ran out and fitted the chickens with life vests.

After lunch the rain moved off to the east and this evening when I headed to the store to pick up some milk and OJ, I could see the skies off to the west getting lighter.

By the time I headed home, there was a strip of cloudless sky sitting on the horizon. I pulled to the side of the road and snapped a photo.

I'm thankful the weather was violent here. I hope my blog friends to the north in Kentucky, and Ohio got off as lucky as we did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The bridge

The local Chamber of Commerce was doing a meet and greet in the town of Cordova today. I maintain the Chamber's website and do the newsletter so I swung by for a few moments to sip some tea, shake hands, and shoot photos, before heading to a session I had scheduled in Jasper.

There was a young policewoman there and during our conversation, I remembered something I hadn't thought of in years.

When I was a kid, the closest dentist was in the town of Cordova which was about eight miles from our house and across the Warrior River. I HATED going to Cordova. It wasn't just going to the dentist, it was driving over the old bridge.

It was a steel structure with a wooden roadbed. Over the years, the bridge deteriorated and the ends of some of the boards broke off and fell into the river. The bolts fastening the wood to the structure had worked loose which made driving treacherous.

My mother always drove across that bridge slowly because it freaked her out too, and she didn't want to get off on the edge and fall through into the river. While I loved to swim, falling into the cold dark water inside a Buick that weighed just slightly less than one of the Great Pyramids, did not appeal to me.

The boards clattered as cars drove across the ancient bridge. Even driving slowly, the sound was almost deafening. A few times I conjured up enough courage to look out the windows as we crossed that bridge. In places, you could see through the missing ends of boards all the way to the water 40 feet below.

To say it made me uneasy would have been an understatement. In fact, my rear end almost chewed holes in the upholstery during those infrequent dentist trips. It was enough to make me brush my teeth with more diligence.

Thankfully there is a new bridge now. I say that tongue and cheek because the new bridge was built over 30 years ago, but I can tell you, I don't miss the old one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Losing someone

As I sit here writing, the aroma of simmering vegetable soup and cornbread baking in the oven makes it hard to focus. I keep thinking about slipping into the kitchen, taking a long handled spoon and sampling the soup. But the soup isn’t for us; it’s lunch for our neighbors down the road who are going through a difficult time right now.

Nurses visit frequently, and her outlook does not sound good. He seems to be struggling with making sure she has what she needs and probably has little time for thinking of life without her. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

As Jilda and I walked yesterday, he pulled his SUV to the curb and rolled down his window to give us a brief update. We both listened. The sadness in his voice broke my heart. Jilda asked him if he thought he and his wife might be able to eat a bite of vegetable soup. He said he thought she might like that. Jilda promised some for lunch.

Before he rolled his window up and headed to the store, I told him if there was anything I could do to help, let me know. In reality, there’s little anyone here on earth can do.

I know the coming weeks and months will be brutal. Our friend Yvonne went through a similar situation with her husband, Charlie, earlier this year. They’d been married over 58 years.

She told me this week that at times when she walks through their house, she feels Charlie’s presence.  She realizes that some people write this off as wishful thinking on her part, but when two loving people are together for that long, it would be strange for him NOT to be with her on some level.

I thought about both Yvonne and our neighbor as Jilda and I finished our walk yesterday.

Trying to imagine how I would feel if faced with a similar situation was not an easy thing to consider.

There were times over the last few years that I feared the worst. Jilda was struggling with severe side effects from her monthly infusion treatments. The treatments were for a defective immune system.

This procedure causes side effects in only a small number of patients, but she hit the side effect lottery and struggled with aseptic meningitis. Some months it only put her on the couch for a few days, but other months she rarely left it. I can tell you it was scary to think I might lose someone who’s been with me for most of my life.

Jilda and I started dating in high school. That was in 1968, and aside from the two years I was in the Army, we’ve been together ever since.

Today, after the soup simmered and the cornbread browned, she boxed up enough for our neighbors to eat for a day or two.

He told me to thank Jilda for doing that for them. It wasn’t much, but under the circumstances it’s the least we could do for neighbors who are hurting.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I've tapped keys until I have a crick in my finger and not a word to show. Jilda is sitting beside me tapping away.

She has no trouble coming up with ideas. Sometimes I want to reach over and smack her hands off the keys. But as I've said before, I'm fond of eating and my cooking skills are even sadder than my idea generation skills so I'll keep my hands to myself.

Usually when I'm out of ideas I:

1. Read my old journals
2. Look at cards and letters from my archives
3. Look at Today in History
4. Holiday of the month
5. Look at old pictures
6. Listen to random songs on my iPhone
7. Whine like a baby
8. Wrap the ends of Q-tips with aluminum foil and stick the other ends in my ears to us as creative antennas.
9. Look at the souvenirs on my desk
10. Take a walk

What do you do when you're fresh out of ideas?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Saturday night

It's been a low-key day here. We'd plan to drive to Tupelo to watch our great nieces swim meet, but my energy level is still low so we opted to stick around the house.

The weather was stellar. While the sun was warm, a cool breeze out of the northwest made it long-sleeve weather. The dogs love this weather.

Since I haven't ventured far from home, my photo ops have been limited. Today I did manage to see an autumn weed (I don't know the name) but the sun highlighted it from the rear making it appear that it was glowing.

Alabama played on TV this afternoon. About 4 minutes before the end of the game, the lights flickered and then faded to black.

I stepped out on the back porch and the night sky looked like a velvet blanket covered with diamonds. There wasn't any wind. I can't imagine what caused this outage.

So we ate our supper by lantern light.  Thankfully, just after we used flashlights to load the dishwasher, the lights flickered to life. When I flipped the TV on, the game was over. Alabama had won, but I would like to have seen the closing moments.

I hope you all have a great Saturday night and Sunday.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Green room

We have lemon, orange, and grapefruit trees that are over 10 feet. They go outside in front of our great-room windows in the spring after the last chance for frost...and they thrive.

We've been anxiously watching the weatherman because the temps here are flirting with freezing. It's supposed to be 37 here tonight. The citrus trees don't enjoy 37-degree evenings but hasn't killed them in the past. But tomorrow, we'll need to bring them in.

That means Thanksgiving will be cozy this year with a house full of guests. The plants take up a good bit of space, but they turn our great room into a green room.

On a sad note, it breaks my heart to hear about what happened in Paris today. Let's keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Among the living

I worked from home again just seemed simpler. Working my list of people interested in finding jobs, I left a lot of messages, but I reached some people.

By this afternoon, I felt much stronger. Jilda called on her way to work to ask if the yellow gas light on her car was "a bad thing."  No, I explained. It's actually a good thing because it's telling you you're running out of gas instead of a sputtering engine in the middle of busy intersection being your first clue that you need fuel.

She sighed a little and said she'd go to the station near where she worked when she got off. The problem is that it's already dark when she gets off.

I drove to her workplace, used my keys, and filled her tank with gas. It's only about 15 miles up there and as I said I was feeling stronger.

I wrote a note and left it in the driver's seat saying, "The fuel fairy was here," and then headed to the store to pick up milk and OJ.

The sun was brilliant. The weatherman predicted we'd have bad weather last night, but the storm gods smiled upon us and the turbulent clouds dissipated before they got here and all we got was a little more rain.

Today the sky was beautiful.  On the way back from filling Jilda's tank, I saw a subtle cloud rainbow. I tried to snap a picture, but cameras can't capture things that fragile.

I did get a picture of the sun setting on a field of sage grass. It wasn't a cloud rainbow, but it will have to do today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I'll pass

I'm taking a pass tonight. I'm feeling better but still not feeling like running a race.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Under the weather

I feel like death eating a cracker tonight. I caught something Saturday and started coughing a little. It's gotten progressively worse.

I was at the urgent care when they opened this morning and got a rear end full of antibiotics and a script for more. I was so excited.

We tried to walk a little but I gave up after two laps and went inside.

It was a beautiful day and I hated to spend it indoors, but that's the way I rolled today.

I did shoot a picture of a bale of hay with green shoots sprouting from the top. Mother Nature will not be denied.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Senior dogs are gifts ~ my column from Sunday's pape

November is Adopt a Senior  Dog month, which is an idea I can embrace. I’ve written about our pets in the past. They’ve all been remarkable, but none of them have given us more joy than the old dogs.

We’ve never bought a critter. Often when our dogs chose us, they were in the late autumn of their lives.

We all love puppies and rightly so. They are beautiful, fun loving and vivacious. With a little care and a lot of love, they can thrive for years.

But caring for older dogs can be challenging. Their bodies change and often need more attention keeping them healthy.

And in the end, it’s painful losing an old friend but I believe you will cherish the time they spend with you.

I think most people do right by their pets, but there are some who can’t be bothered with frail or sick animals. So, they dump them and move on.

Several years ago a family with small children moved into the place up the road. They had two older dogs that they had owned for a while. In the evenings, I could hear the little girl stand on their front porch and call, “Charlie, Charlie, come home.”

A while later a dust mop of a dog would amble up from somewhere behind the house and play with the little girl until it was her bedtime.

We met the family, but they kept their distance from neighbors. They were here for over a year before moving off suddenly. They left their two dogs.

We assumed that once they were settled at their new place that they’d come back for their dogs, but that didn’t happen. It became obvious after several days that they would not return.

Jilda put bowls of food and water at the edge of our yard so the dogs wouldn’t go hungry. Charlie spent most afternoons at the end of our drive looking off into the distance. I can imagine that he wondered where his friend had gone and why she left him behind.

It took over a year for Charlie and Dawg to adopt us. They probably were thinking, “These people are old, and it’s going to take some time. I hope they’re potty trained.” I could write a book about those two.

Another dog that came to live with us looked like a full-blooded Labrador retriever that we named Wheezer. He was an elderly dog with health issues. Instead of euthanizing their old friend, which would have been the humane thing to do, his former owners dumped him on the road near our house.

He only lived a few months, but his last days were comfortable with plenty to eat and a warm place to sleep. He died in the doghouse in the backyard and we buried him along with our other beloved pets we’ve lost through the years. Wheezer was one of the most loving dogs we’ve ever cared for.

Many of the older dogs that lived with us weren’t much to look at, but they had a lot to offer. They were all great with small children and they seemed to know intuitively when either Jilda or I weren’t feeling well.

All of our old dogs were gifts, and I admire anyone who opens their home and hearts to a senior dog.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


There are African Violets in our kitchen window. Jilda got one for her birthday earlier this year from our niece Jayna, and one she got several years ago from her sister Nell. But the one below she got from her mother over 15 years ago. Jilda had taken her mom to the local grocery store where they saw the violets on sale for 99 cents. Ruby told her, "I'll buy you an African Violet. Everyone needs one."

Jilda has nursed the plant like an infant with the cholic. Some years it pouts, but some years it shows out.

This morning the sun came out for a brief visit and kissed the violets.  I happened to be lucky enough to be a witness.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Driving in the rain

The weatherman says the rain's moving out tonight, but I'll believe it when I see it. Today was dungeon dark and it rained on us most of the way to our gig and back.

People here seem to speed up  in the rain. I know I must drive some drivers insane because I leave plenty of stopping room between my car and the vehicle in front of me. This apparently pisses people off because several times a car came up behind me close enough scratch a bumper sticker off with their pocket knife. I'm driving in the right lane and exceeding the speed limit, but they are unhappy. Apparently, I'm supposed to speed up, move over to the shoulder until next Thursday when traffic is lighter. But I usually just slow down to make them even crazier. They should be thankful I haven't gotten a patent on my tailgate taser/vaporizer yet.

Once we arrived at the arts center, there was a good crowd and the sound system was good. Not many people came up to listen, but after the show as we walked out, several people stopped up to say they really enjoyed our set.

Traveling in the rain was tiring for both Jilda and me so when we got home around 4:30 P.M., we both on our pajamas. The Tide comes on at 7:30 P.M. but the jury is out on whether I'll be awake at halftime.

Y'all have a great Saturday night and Sunday.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Two hearts

Jilda and I walked in the rain this morning.  I had another packed day so we walked early so as not to miss our step goals.

When we headed down the narrow woody path behind the barn, I saw two solitary leaves reaching toward open space.

Snapping a picture, I wasn't sure how it would look. After downloading it onto my computer, I realized it looked like two hearts.

I think we could write a song about this.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

November Sunset

The skies looked threatening most of the day today and just when I began thinking the sun may never shine again, it peeped out at sunset.

I've been saving up for a new computer to replace the workhorse in my office that I use for recording music, building websites, and heavy-duty graphics work. So today after work, I drove to the Apple store in Birmingham.

They make buying things painless. A young woman met me at the door and asked what I was looking for. I already knew what I wanted so I pointed to the screen at the computer. She pulled out her phone and clicked a few buttons as we stood there at talked.

A few moments later, a young man walked up from toward the back with my iMac.  I whipped out the cash and moments later I was wheeling toward home.

Just as I reached my exit I pulled to the shoulder and grab the photograph below.

(NOTE: My blog last night had a goofy error in the item about reducing the number of adverbs. The "stronger" word I used was also an adverb. Kezzie pointed it out in a comment, but a few others sent me an email mentioning it too. I'm thankful I started the entry out saying that I didn't know much about writing. As I often say, every day's a school day.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Things I've learned about writing

The more I learn about writing, the more I realize I don't know squat. But this much I know for sure:

1. You have to write often.
I write daily whether I have anything to say or not. But writing is like walking, lifting weights, or playing an instrument. You don't get better by have to put in the reps.

2. You can write about any subject if you do it well. It's good if you can throw in a surprise or two. Most of you already know this and do it without thinking, but it's important.

3. You can lose most of the adverbs in your writing by using stronger verbs. 
"He walked very fast" is one way to say something, but "he darted" is better.

4. Any time you touch the heart you touch the reader.

5. Humor, when done well, keeps the reader reading.

6. Do what you love and love what you do. If you don't enjoy writing, you should learn how to knit, play golf, or toss a pig.

Now, this is all I'm going to say about this.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Love the sun

There were times today when I thought the sun might shine. At one point, the damp courtyard cobblestones had a sheen that caught my eye through the window.

My fingers lifted from the keyboard and I stepped to the glass to get a better look. Up in the sky, one section of grey cloud looked like it might allow the sun to peep through, but as quickly as it came, it was gone and rain began to fall again.

The tune to A Rainy Night In Georgia came to my mind.

So tonight, I looked back through my old pictures and found one of a sunset with a quarter moon. We needed the rain if only to remind us of how much we love the sun.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Skills ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My dad quit school in the fifth grade and went to work. Of course, this was in the early 1930s around the time of the Great Depression, so his story was not unique.

Like most boys his age, he learned early in life how to work with his hands. These skills served him all of his life.

Many parents these days place a high value on a college education for their children and rightly so. Some start saving for college before the child is born.

Education is the key to a better life for children, but it’s become apparent to me that a college education is not for everyone.

Some kids might be better suited for skills training, and they can earn as much as many college graduates. You’ll see what I mean the next time you call a plumber or an electrician.

I try to reinforce the idea of skills training at every opportunity with my great nephew Jordan. This past week he was trying to open the side gate to the backyard. He was standing there wiggling the latch trying to open it.

I could see his frustration level rising, which only made him wiggle harder. In his seven-year-old mind, he thinks a good wiggle should work in most instances.

To be fair, I often wiggle things too before looking more deeply into a problem. 

When I stepped over and showed him how the gate latch mechanism worked, he wasn’t interested at first, but when he watched more closely and solved the gate latch puzzle, I could tell he was hooked. 

He quickly tried his newly learned skills on all three gates. With a few simple movements, the gates swung open.

I then told him it was important to try and understand how things worked. He listened for a moment before his eyes glazed over and he was ready to move on to something else, but I wanted him to know that learning how things work is a valuable skill.

I’ve tinkered on most of the cars I’ve owned throughout my life. Years of experience taught me which projects to try and which ones are better left for those with better tools and more patience.

I’ve saved an incredible amount of money by fixing things around the house instead of calling a repairman.

More often than you’d think, the problem is obvious. When you discover you have a bad bearing or a broken belt, the problem is halfway fixed.

Late this past Sunday afternoon, my nephew James called to say he was in a jam. The alternator on his minivan had died and needed replacing. Since all the garages were closed, he was in panic mode. Staying overnight wasn’t an option because he had to be back in Mississippi on Monday morning.

I fetched my tools from the shed and headed out to help. Fortunately, his Uncle David who tinkers too lived nearby and was willing to help. Between the both of us, we managed to pool our tools and experience to replace the alternator. 

My nephew, who is very smart, has two left hands. Often when he tries to fix things, he winds up causing more damage, so he was grateful for a couple of old “squeaky kneed” uncles with skills.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Old gray day

It's been an old gray day today. The rain train moved in a few days ago and it has rained on and off ever since.

We spent most of the day working on things inside and resting. But this afternoon when I looked at my steps for the day, I knew it was time for a walk in the rain. I got nowhere near my goal, but I did manage to get 7,500 steps.

Later this afternoon, we drove over to Home Depot and purchased a new dishwasher. Our old one has done a good job of washing our dishes for a while now. A dishwasher has one wash dishes. When it stops doing that, it's time to toss that baby in a crusher and move on. The delivery date on our new washer is next Friday. I'll take pictures of the current dishwasher after it's crushed and use it to threaten the new washer.

Tonight we got back into the swing of practice because we have two art council gigs this month. 

I'm taking an online course in Songwriting from Berkley College of Music. It's taught by Pat Pattison who is a remarkable teacher. We met him several years ago at a music conference in LA and bought some of his books.

I've completed most of the lessons in week three of the seven-week course and already learned a great deal on how to improve my approach to writing songs.

I hope you all have a remarkable week.

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