Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year's Eve

Spending New Years Eve with friends was what we did for many years, but driving on that night in the wee hours of the morning is treacherous so we started celebrating the occasion at home. 

Jilda fixes a good meal and at midnight, we pop a bottle of bubbly. It's a low-key event these days but an important one. A year is a significant chunk of time. 

Today, I've read back over my blog updates and I spent time finalizing goals and plans for the coming year.

I hope you all have  remarkable evening, and that 2016 is your best year yet.

South of San Francisco 2004

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Singing in the rain

The rain left a small pond in the lower part of our garden and yesterday our great nephew Jordan came over to investigate.

He'd been itching to try out his new rain boots and when the rain moved off to the north and east, he had his chance.

I heard him and his grandpa out there, so I stepped out to investigate. I heard him singing before seeing him dancing in the puddle.

He's making the most of his Christmas vacation. After this weekend, it's back to school. He's had a large time over the past few weeks.

Happy New Years Eve Eve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday stuff

The rain moved out late yesterday afternoon and the sunset was remarkable. Today when Jilda and I drove to town on errands, we saw that the water at Sipsey Forks had dropped several feet. That's good news for the folks here, but all that water is creeping slowly southward. I'm not sure when it crests down there.

The sky today was gorgeous.  I spent several hours writing my column for Sunday's paper but afterwards, I walked my 10,000 steps.  

Over the next few days, Jilda and I will be working on our goals for the coming year as well as our vision boards. Both of us accomplished a great deal this year, but in looking back, there were a lot of things left undone. 

Does this picture make me look fat?

Monday, December 28, 2015

A year of change ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Each year during the holidays, I find myself seeking solitude in the old barn on the back of our property. It’s away from jangling phones and the tether of Internet connectivity. The hayloft is quiet and through the years, I’ve found it’s a good vantage point for viewing the past year. I’ve always wondered if I could get a glimpse of next year from the roof, but I haven’t tried that yet. I’ve found that it’s helpful spending quality time thinking about where I’ve been and where I’d like to go.

This was a year of change for both Jilda and me. I started a job at the end of last year, but I really didn’t get cranking until January of this year. Many people asked why I came out of retirement to go back to work. All I could say was that I’d caught up on my honey-do list and wearing my pajamas until lunch wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d imagined it would be. Working part-time helping people over 50 get back to work turned out to be enjoyable.

This has been a year of change for Jilda, too. As I’ve written before, she’d been taking monthly infusion treatments to strengthen a faulty immune system, but she was one of the few people that experienced severe side effects from the chemicals being pumped into her arm each month. The side effects lasted anywhere from a few days to a few weeks each month. Her quality of life index plummeted.

After consulting with a specialist, she (we) decided to take a vacation from treatments earlier this year. What’s interesting is even though she stopped treatments in February, the side effects continued until well into summer. They weren’t always as brutal, but they were always there.

And then something weird happened. She walked out on the deck in July with our great nephew Jordan to go for a walk and the vibrations of their steps angered a swarm of red wasps who’d somehow built a nest behind the cover of an outdoor power outlet. In a matter of seconds, she was stung almost a dozen times. That was a bad thing. But after the swelling went down, she has not had one episode of aseptic meningitis since. It’s true what they say, “Fun ain’t cheap.” She quipped, “If I’d realized that a few wasp stings would have stopped the meningitis, I would have kicked a nest back in February.”

Also during the summer, a thunderstorm stomped through and blew a tree down through the middle of my truck. I loved that truck but had resigned myself to finding something newer. As it turns out, I found another identical truck with better tires and fewer miles on it. I love America.

As with most years, we’ve lost dear friends but we’ve also made new friends. It’s the ebb and flow of life.

The new year turns another page in my life. On Jan. 15, I turn 65. On Jan. 1, I’ll use my Medicare card when I see a doctor. It’s hard imagining how this happened so quickly.

During the winter when I hear people whining about cold weather and saying, “I wish summer would hurry up and get here.” I want to shake them. Take it from me — never wish a second of your life away because it gets away much too soon on its own.

I hope 2016 is a remarkable year for you all.

Jilda and me 1980

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How highs the water mama?

It didn't rain today which is a good thing. We did our last Christmas gathering this afternoon with the extended family and their extended family. The only kinship of some of these folks is that we all are humans living in the south :) Just kidding. Some of them came from up north.

But it was fun seeing everyone. Jilda and I made it a point to head out before the sun went down because the weatherman is forecasting more rain for our area.  I know it sounds like I whine a lot about the weather, but it's on our minds a great deal.

Tornados and torrential rain swept through here on Christmas Day, but areas in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee also had it really bad. Then another front moved through Texas and officials are still counting fatalities. It's bee a brutal few days.

Yesterday, Jilda and I drove the Sipsey Forks to get a first-hand report. The water was already up into the parking lot, and  the water is expected to continue rising until sometimeTuesday morning. But, the weatherman says we could get more rain tonight and tomorrow. If that happens all bets are off.

We live on high ground, but many of our friends live much closer to the water so our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Tonight we'll be doing an anti-rain dance.

Water is normally 40 feet below this bridge, but it will be touch and go
if the water continues to rise.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Strange and wonderful

When I stepped out on the deck at 5:50 this morning, wispy clouds from the south were drifting off to the north as if they had no where to go.

The air was still way too warm for December, but I could hear birds and other critters bustling. They sounded almost like they do in early spring as they prepare for nesting and all the things they do when the weather warms.

After coffee, Jilda slipped on the new walking shoes that Santa brough her before we headed out for a short walk.

Outside our gate, something caught our eye over on the terrace row where the blueberries live. I shook my head when I realized that what we saw were buds as big as ticks on the ends of the stems. This warm weather and rain has them guessing what time of year it is. There's a good chance they will bloom out tomorrow when the temps push into the mid 70s.

By next weekend, the temps will be 30 degrees lower and the blueberries will be confused, asking themselves how they could have misunderstood. We live in a strange and wonderful place.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Today was family time. We had lunch with the family of Jilda's sister Pat. It was a full house and the food was off the charts. Jilda's family knows how to cook.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to my sister's house for yet more eating. I was still so full that I ate only a deviled egg and a little potato salad.

All afternoon thunder rumbled and winds out of the south made the trees sway.  At one point the rain fell so hard that you could not see the road in front of my sister's house.

We cut our visit short so that we wouldn't be driving after dark and I'm glad I did because parts of the rural road to our house were like small rivers.  I gripped the steering wheel so hard my hands cramped. 

Our house is situated on one of the highest points in Walker County, and I was glad when we pulled into the driveway.

Just after we arrived, our weather alert sounded telling us we were under a flash flood warning. It didn't take an alert to tell me that. There were tornado warnings in the next county to the east of us and clouds are still rushing northward like a train from the gulf, but I'm hoping the severe weather dissipates soon.

Tonight we're watching the weather but wishing you and your family and Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Last night had a lot of eyes on the sky throughout the south and midwest as storms stomped through. At 9 p.m. when I stepped onto the deck to dump the old coffee grounds, a thick warm wind was blowing out of the gulf. In fact, the mercury rose after the sun went down.

We stayed up past 11 p.m. which is LATE for us, and even after we laid down, we were up checking radar throughout the night.

When the morning light slashed through the edge of the bedroom blinds, I was drooling on my pillow (just kidding.)

We swilled down a few cups of coffee before walking next door for our annual Christmas Eve breakfast and Jilda's brothers house this morning. He has three kids, and six grandkids. Fun was had by all.

Later, some of the grandkids came over here to bake Christmas cookies. Jilda makes a special cookie dough and the kids come over to punch cookies out of Christmas cutters. The next step for them is to
load the cookies down with colored Christmas sprinkles.

I took a phot of them all, but I'm sure Jilda will want to use it on her blog.

After getting the kids cranked up on sugar and artificial flavoring, we sent them careening home and we took a nap. I love America.

I hope you all have a remarkable Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Christmas eve eve

Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house, nothing but slugs here. Both Jilda and I took two naps today.

She's been battling some kind of crud and decided to go to the doc this morning instead of struggling through the holidays.

So, we took a nap when we returned home. Then we walked. Then we took another nap.

I can't remember when I've relaxed as much. I feel taller.

Tomorrow starts early with Christmas breakfast with her brother's family.

I did manage to snap a photo on our walk. It's a fallen limb with fuzzy moss.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Last day at work

It's a ghost town at work. Students had finals last week so they're al off for the holidays. When the teachers finished grading papers, they followed. The only folks left were staffers and security.

I ran out to grab a sandwich for lunch and ate it at my desk while responding to emails. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the community cat sitting on the patio looking in my window, seemingly at my sandwich.

Taking another bite, saved a chunck for my fuzzy friend. I stepped out on the patio and bent down to offer the food to the cat. He/she wasn't the least bit afraid and walked right up and took the offering. Sitting on the brick steps, I watched the critter enjoy its lunch.

When I pulled the door to go the few steps to my office, I found the doors locked. Hmmm.

I had to walk to the main building and through the serpentine halls back to my office. That's OK, because I needed the extra steps to get closer to my daily goal, but I decided to call it a day before I was totally locked out.

I'd planned to work tomorrow, but the custodian told me that he wasn't sure how I'd get in the building so I'm starting my Christmas holiday early.

Tomorrow could be a stormy day. The Weather Channel people have been pointing to multicolored globs on the weathermap and jabbering like coked-up spider monkey.

We'll be watching the sky tomorrow, but my friends west and north of us should be mindful too.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Traditions ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Family Christmas traditions are treasures beyond measure. Some of my fondest memories are of Christmas.

The aroma of hot chocolate steeping on the stove and pecan pies baking in my mama’s oven on cold December mornings told me that it was finally Christmastime.

Soon the tree would go up with popcorn ropes, tinsel, spun glass angel hair and bubble lights silently fizzing away the seconds until Santa arrived.

Families are living portraits and time changes Christmas traditions. Kids get married and bring grandkids into the picture. And sometimes Christmas traditions are forever altered when we lose a loved one.

Both Jilda and I learned this lesson when our parents died, but it holds true for every family.

My traditions changed when I married Jilda. We celebrated Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with hers.

Christmas at my parents’ home was a madhouse when my brothers and sisters grew into adults and started families. We’d all meet just after dark at mom’s house and often we’d find members of our extended family who had come by as well as friends who had no other place to go on Christmas.

Mother always had ham or turkey laid out on the table for munching. But the sideboard was filled with what she did best. Homemade fudge, divinity candy, pies, cakes and cookies to die for. If anyone left without a sugar buzz they had no one to blame but themselves.

Migrating to the living room, we jockeyed for position around the mountain of gifts beneath the Christmas tree and once the gifting began, the living room turned into a sea of toys, discarded wrapping paper and bows.

One Christmas a niece who was still in diapers pulled a bow from her gift and stuck it on Mama Watson’s arm. Everyone laughed at the gesture which was enough to encourage the other kids to join in the sticking fest. By the time all the gifts were opened, Mama Watson was a Christmas rainbow and a new tradition was born.

We trudged on when my dad died in 1986, but when my mom began having health problems our Christmas traditions changed dramatically.

Christmas at the home of Jilda’s parents was just as wild as it was at our house, but there was more focus on food. Except for the two years I was away in the Army, I spent every Christmas day with her family from 1968 until her mother passed away. She was the duct tape that held that tradition together and when she was gone, their traditions changed, too.

This past weekend, our good friend Billy invited us to his house for a Christmas party.
Through the years, visiting Billy and Nila’s house always ended up on the holiday highlight reel. Their gathering put the joy in Christmas. No matter how stressful the holidays were, no one ever left Billy and Nila’s house without a smile on their face.

This year’s celebration was a good one too, but it was bittersweet because Nila, who’d been the love of Billy’s life for over 50 years, died in February.

His house was wall to wall with people Saturday evening. Old friends who’ve stuck together through the years came to enjoy each other’s company.

Billy has a lot of support to help him through the holidays, and he will make it through, but I know from experience that Christmas will never be the same.

Jilda and I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gate-post moss

Today's been a low-key day. We knew Jilda had several hours of card painting to do today because the remaining cards must be in the mail in the morning. These go out to people who live nearby so delivery shouldn't be an issue.

My niece Samantha who lives next door is doing some drastic cleaning and rearranging in her room. I've hauled loads of stuff to Goodwill and to the dump. It's hard to believe she had so much in that small room.

Today, she had one antique dresser that she no longer needs and wanted it moved out so she called me. I told her we could store it in the barn. We've learned through the years not to toss good furniture. Families grow, people move or lose all their belongings in tornadoes and house fires. You wouldn't believe how many things we've redistributed through the years.

She called before breakfast so I drove the truck over and helped her load the dresser. She hopped in for the short ride back to the barn. I let the truck idle to warm the cab a little while opening the gate.
Dappled sunlight poked through the underbrush and spotlighted gate-post moss. I pulled the camera from my pocket and snapped a picture before opening the gate.

A few moments later we'd unloaded and by the time we passed back through the gate, the light had changed and the picture opportunity was lost. 

It occurred to me that life is that way. Sometimes opportunity has a short window. If you dawdle too long or think about it too much, the opportunity is lost forever.

Sorry to get all existential and what not, but that happens to me from time to time.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My git up and go

I am whupped and Jilda did most of the work today. We cooked for several members of her family that are celebrating birthdays in December.  She baked a ham, prepared butterbeans, rutabagas, baked sweet potatoes, mac and cheese. I whipped up a pone of cornbread, Jilda's sister Pat brought collards, and our sister-in-law Debbie brought a grape salad. Our niece Samantha brought green been caserole. The food was out of this world. 

I ran to the store before everyone arrived to grab a bag of ice and on the way back, I drove by a field of what looked like cattails growing in a filed of sage, but I've never seen cattails grow except close to water so I'm not sure what they were, but I like the way the sun played on their tassles so I stopped and snapped a photo.

We sat around for a long while enjoying each others company, but by the time everyone left and we cleaned up the kitchen I realized that my git up and go got up and went. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Strangely warm

I said yesterday that the weather had been strange this fall. This morning when I walked out to go to meet the new college president where I work, Jilda pointed out that the Jasmine on our front arbor had bloomed.

Normally it blooms in April but the days have been so warm, I guess the plant thought this was a short sleep and bloomed out.

It was colder last night, but the next few days it will warm up again and it could be 80 degrees here on Christmas Day with storms. I'm excited.

The local newspaper reporter came by today to interview Jilda for a Christmas story. She'd been painting our Christmas Cards for 30 years. Some of our friends started framing the cards.

I'm not sure when the story will run, but I'm guessing it will be out in the next few days.

I was running late this morning and didn't get a shot of the jasmine and it was too dark to shoot one when I got home this evening, but I found one I shot last year during early spring.

Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bare trees

I walked later than normal tonight. A conference call and some wrap-up work kept me chipping at my desk.

When I looked at my desk clock, I realized I had to scoot to get to the post office. Jilda hand paints our Christmas cards and some of them were going to Europe so they really needed to be in the mail today in order to have a chance to get there before Christmas.

Grabbing my wallet, I stamped my envelopes and dropped them in the box moments before pickup.

After arriving home, I put on my sweats, walking shoes, grabbed my walking stick and headed out. It's been unseasonably warm here until the rain moved out this morning and then the temps dropped like a stone. When I stepped onto the back deck, I realized I had to get all the citrus trees back inside off the deck so the frost won't bite them tonight.

Caillou the wonder dog loped out of the gate the instant it opened and he was off after a rabbit in a flash leaving me to walk by myself.

It was peaceful this evening. After the sun sunk below the horizon, the sky began changing shades every few seconds and at one point was the color of butterscotch.

I realized that all the leaves are now gone from the trees. Some years they hang on until January, but with the recent winds, they decided to give up the fight.

I snapped a picture of the sky through the bare trees and realized that winter is less than a week away.

Hope you all have a remarkable Friday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A day of writing

I've spent most of the day writing. With Christmas next week, I had to not only write the column for this coming Sunday, but work on the one due the following Sunday. I know the newspaper staff wants time off with their families so I try to get my work submitted early during holidays.

This weeks column was the one before Christmas, but the following column will run after the fat elf does all his mischief.

I  was struggling with an idea until a yellow finch flitted up to our window and peeped in to see if anyone was home.

He was a messenger I'm sure, but his peeps will follow in a few weeks. So that gave me the idea to do some kind of word play with grinch and finch. 

Being inside for most of the day, I didn't get a photo to use tonight so I looked back at pictures taken last November and came across this one. It suited me just fine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Changing traditions

Our friend Billy invited us to his house this past weekend. We've known Billy all our lives. Jilda once worked with his wife Nila at a dress shop. Their daughter Kaye was in Jilda's class a school from first grade on.

We've attended many Christmas parties at their house, but we knew going in that this year would be different. Billy lost Nila in February and this is the first Christmas without her.

His house was wall to wall people Saturday evening. Old friends that have stuck together through the years came to enjoy each other's company.  We had a good time, but it was, to use an old cliche, bittersweet.  

We all have our Christmas traditions. Families are living portraits, expanding and contracting through the years.  When one person dies, the portrait changes forever. 

Billy has a lot of support to help him through the holidays, but Christmas will never be the same for him or his family. 

Note: The idea of changing traditions is the basis for my column next Sunday.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Shopping with Ruby

Standing in the checkout line with Jilda at Tractor Supply last week I learned something about myself I’d never realized. As we waited our turn, she held up last-minute gift ideas for kids. After holding up two or three stuffed animals and getting the same blank look from me, she said, “I miss my mom because she was FUN to shop with.”

The round dented the shopping armor I routinely wear during the Christmas season.

“I’m no fun to shop with?” I said in a hurt tone, with a little bit of a dejected curl on my bottom lip. “Please! You should just give me all the credit cards and go sit in the car.”

The man standing behind us got a good chuckle out of that. I glanced back at him with my best “We husbands must stick together look” and he just grinned and shrugged his shoulders. Wife -1 the Rickster - 0.

As we were leaving, Jilda said we need to run by Hobby Lobby. I said loud enough for the gentleman
behind me to hear, “I’ll go, but I won’t be any fun.” The guy snorted with laughter and the cashier joined in the merriment.

After we bought all the gifts we’d come to buy, we headed out to get some lunch and I thought back at all those years I had to work and Jilda went Christmas shopping with her mom.

They spent days going to every store in the area in search of the perfect gifts for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. They’d walk down aisles holding up tiny dresses, fire trucks, puzzles, and books. Each item was evaluated to make sure it was the perfect gift.

Every trip included lunch where they sat in booths glowing, absorbing the ambiance of Christmas.

When I got home on those evenings, every surface in our spare bedroom would be covered with gifts. Jilda would start at one end, unbox and hold up every gift and describe who it was for and why it wound up in the Christmas buggy.

She would not only tell me everywhere they went but who all they saw along the way and what they had for lunch. I could close my eyes and smell the warm cinnamon rolls and the aroma of the coffee they had for dessert.

This was a routine repeated every year. The first few times I only listened to the recap out of a sense of Christmas duty. But as the years passed, it became clear how much Jilda loved shopping with her mom.

They always had fun. And hearing her give the play by play became something I enjoyed too.

After our shopping trip last week, we ran by the cemetery to put Christmas holly on the graves of our parents. I stood nearby as Jilda knelt by her mom’s grave and tied a Christmas ribbon around the arrangement. I wish Ruby had been there with us Christmas shopping. And then as I remembered the gentleman laughing with us in the line at Tractor Supply, I’d like to think Ruby was laughing along with us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let the decorating begin

When the tree was in place we realized it had gotten a good bit bigger than we thought. Not only was it taller, but it was a lot fatter too.

Not to worry, we have mountains of decorations and after I got 1000 new white Christmas lights we began decorating the tree today.

After putting Christmas music on the stereo, we got down to business. We got most of the decorating done today, but our shipment of crystal ice cycles from the Vermont Country Store won't arrive until Wednesday so we'll finish up then.

I think it's a good start.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It ain't heavy, it's our Christmas tree

I staged the tree to bring inside for decoration. The tree stand is a #3 washtub. Wrestling the tree from
the wheelbarrow into the tub was a CHORE, but wrestling that baby up the front stairs and into the house was an even bigger chore.

The tree with the root ball weighs only marginally less that a Buick LaSabre with an anvil in the trunk. So I bent my knees to be kind to my back and stepped it up the stairs one at a time before putting the tub on an old beach towel. Once on the towel, I could easily drag the tree inside and into place.

When we looked through the decorations for the lights we remembered that the lights from last year had issues and were tossed when we took the tree down on New Years.

I could have jumped in the truck and fetched some lights from the store, but we both had a good bit of work to do getting the house tree-ready so we decided to get the lights when we went to town tonight and put the tree up in the morning.

I'll post pictures of the decorated tree. Right now, I'm going to drink my hot tea and hit the hay soon. I hope you all have had a remarkable Saturday.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Let the decorating begin

We headed out to COSTCO early today to replenish our pantry and get some things for the holiday table. It was a fun trip.

We headed back just before lunch and stopped by Starbucks for a couple of holiday coffees. Our niece Samantha works nearby,  so we decided to crash her workplace. We'd never been there before, but I knew where she worked.

When we walked through the door and asked for Samantha, the receptionist said, "You're Aunt Jilda and Uncle Rick." I wasn't sure if Samantha had every mentioned us there, but apparently she had.

She came over and introduced us to everyone there. We only stayed for a moment, chatting before heading out. We didn't wear out our welcome, as Jilda's mom used to say.

When we got home, we shifted into our decorating mode. After hauling up the storage bins from the shed, I left her to work on the inside while I went out and dug up a Christmas tree. It was a tree we had the year before last. It's grown about a foot since we replanted it, but it wasn't hard to dig up. It's a beautiful tree.

We'll get Samantha and Jordan to come over and decorate it tomorrow. I'm sure we'll listen to Christmas music, drink Christmas hot chocolate, and have a large time trimming the tree.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

December Sky

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Late blossoms

I stayed on task at my desk in the office today. So wrapped up in a project that I lost track of time...until my stiff back reminded me.

Standing up, I stepped into the courtyard to get some sunshine and fresh air. I glanced over at one of the ornamental cherry trees standing next to the red-brick building.  For a moment, I thought I was hallucinating.

The tree had tiny blossoms that looked as if they carved from bone. I'm guessing their proximity to the sun-warmed bricks coaxed them out long before their time. I shot several picture but the wind was blowing through the courtyard and all the pictures are a little blurry because of the movement so I added the "art" effect to compensate for the picture being a little blurry.

It was a beautiful site to behold in December. I'm sure when the temps dip drastically next week, the blossoms will go scurrying back into their winter sleep.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


The mind is a strange and wonderful thing. Last night I dreamed about one of our old friends we haven't seen since the first of the year.

I thought about the dream a number of times today. I had a conversation with her in my dream and I struggled to remember the words, but they would not come.

Then this evening when Jilda and I ran by the grocery store to pick up a few things, we headed over to the pharmacy area to pick up a bag of Epsom salts. Just as I came to the turn for the aisle, our buggy clinked on a buggy coming out of that aisle. It was our old friend that I'd dreamed about last night.

How strange is this? How could my mind have known that she would be there? It's a mystery.

 It's happened to me before and I can't explain it. Have you ever had something like this happen? I'd like to hear your story.

My old trusty rusty bush hog

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Tea sunset

I'm reading a book the Book of Tea. It was recommended reading in one of the meditation classes that I've taken recently.

I wasn't sure what the book was about or whether it would be something I would enjoy reading.

As it turns out, it's about tea. I know what you're thinking - What a waste of time. But it was written by Okakura Kakuzo. His ancestry is Japanese and this book is about more than just tea. He does talk about the history of tea, but he puts it in context and describes its impact on art, beauty, and simplicity.  I'm only about three chapters in, but so far, it's a beautiful book.

The best part about reading is the surprise you experience when you least expect it.

When I walked late this afternoon, the sun was dawdling on the western horizon. Apparently it was waiting until I passed by the old house at the right moment to snap a picture. It's a reflection of the setting sun in the ancient glass of the windows.

When I got back home, I had a cup of green tea.

Monday, December 07, 2015

A list for Santa ~ My column from Sunday's paper

Now the countdown can begin for Christmas at the Watson household.

Actually we’ve been clandestinely ordering presents for months. But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we had a crew of kids playing in our backyard, so I took the opportunity to do a little reconnaissance work for the fat jolly guy. What I found was that kids think about Christmas much the same way we did 60 years ago.

Asking my great niece Joy if she’d been good for Santa this year, she glanced uneasily at her older sister Daisy. The three-year-old seemed to be mentally sorting through some of the events over the
past year when Daisy bailed her out by reporting, “She’s been good.” That was excellent news, I said to the child who was obviously relieved.

When we discussed Christmas gifting with Jordan, my great-nephew who lives next door, he gave careful consideration to what gifts he’d like Jilda and me to get him. I’m sure in his mind he was clicking off things he’d like along with the associated price tags. He’s very mindful of money and rarely asks us for anything expensive.

“What about a new winter outfit,” Jilda suggested. He jumped all over that with, “No, my mom takes care of my clothing needs. I think you guys and Santa should focus on toys and games.” Good answer, I thought.

He’s almost eight years old and extremely bright for his age, but I shook my head at the way he framed his answer to our question. I might have thought that same thing when I was his age, but my answer would have been a lot more direct. “I’d druther have toys.”

In the 1950s, The Sears Christmas Wishbook hit our mailbox in the fall. They got it into the homes early enough to torture kids for months. That was a genius move on their part because it gave families in rural areas of the country a chance to help Santa shop for their kids.

Those pages were “visual crack” for most kids. By the time Christmas rolled around, the pages were dog-eared and worn as thin as onion skin.

Our TV was black and white in those days, and I think toy manufacturers believed that TV was a passing fad not worthy of spending a lot of advertising dollars on.

I do remember advertisements for Slinkys and for Viewmaster slide views. These looked like binoculars, but you poked in a round cardboard disk with tiny color photographs in cutout slots in the disk.

You would point the Viewmaster toward the light and click a lever, which advanced the pictures. Santa brought me one of those.

These days, sales pitches inundate children’s programming on TV and fill their parent’s email inboxes with the latest and greatest in technology toys, games, and other high-dollar offerings.

Jilda and I don’t have kids, but we find ways to spend Christmas dollars on our nieces and nephews. We try to get them things they might enjoy but probably aren’t on their “A” list.

We look for unique toys, books and games that will last after the Christmas lights are packed away for another year.

I know the Christmas Wishbook is pretty much a thing of the past, but if it were the only way to reach children today, I’d bet they would enjoy it as much as we did when we were kids.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Enjoyable weekend

We gathered at the home of Jilda's sister along with her other siblings. Her brother Ricky turns 62 in January and he's the baby of the family.

Back when Jilda's parents were living, family functions usually meant almost 30 folks clammoring for position I the food line. After her parents died, it seems the family scattered in the wind and it's hard just getting all the siblings together.

These gatherings are alway fun and I always find myself asking why we don't get together more often.

When people started leaving, we offered to stay and help cleanup, but that didn't fly so we headed out too.

My folks are buried in a small country cemetery not far from her sister's house so we decided to run by there and decorate their graves with the Christmas flowers we bought yesterday.

The sunbathed cemetery was peaceful and I sat on a nearby tombstone and watched Jilda do her magic with silk flowers and strips of ribbon.

Afterwards we ran over to where her folks are buried and repeaded the process.

It was a lazy evening for me. I sat working on the final from my songwriting class while Jilda wrote her monthly column for The Leaf Magazine.

I hope your weekend was as enjoyable as ours.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

O Christmas Tree

We finished up our Christmas shopping today and bought cemetery flowers for our parents. Then after lunch we took our great nephew Jordan down behind the barn to find his annual Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

The only requirement for the tree is that it has to be his choice. Everybody else's job is to try and persuade him to get one that if fuller with more branches. It's a game we play every year.

But he has a gift for choosing the saddest tree, the one that Charlie Brown would choose.

It's a good way for everyone to tramp around in the woods and burn off lunch.  It's a fun tradition that we started with his mom twenty years ago.

Below is a picture of Jordan and his Charlie Brown tree.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Relaxing day

Today was a day of rest. This past week has been intense and Jilda and I both had things on our list we'd planned to do today, but we blew those things off and enjoyed a relaxing day.

We had lunch at our local Mexican Restaurant, came home and took a long nap.

Afterwards we took the dogs for a walk. The air was definitely crisp so I wore my longsleeve workout shirt, but Jilda has thinner skin and gets chilled easily so she bundled up.

When the rain moved out yesterday, it took all clouds and humidity with it. Today was all about blue skies and sunshine. Our walk was delightful.

Later in the afternoon, I walked down close the door to the chicken pen and then I stepped to the back gate. Leaning my forearms on the wire, I realized how much the mercury had dipped. I watched for a while as a bunny rabbit scampered cautiously under the apple tree. He was having fun, but keeping an eye on me.

Up in the pines, I could see the last remnants of sunlight playing in the treetops and I snapped a picture.

This evening I feel I've finally caught up on my rest, and I'm ready to have a great weekend.

I hope your Friday was at least half as good as mine :)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Call of the Wild

I'm reading Call of the Wild by Jack London. I read the book when I was very young but couldn't remember much about it. I did recall that I loved the book, so when I saw it discounted I picked up a copy.

Now I'm reading the book through the eyes of an aspiring writer. I find it interesting how writers I've admired through the years, told their stories with language, style, and words that brought it to life.

If I'd realized when I was younger that I wanted to be a writer, I would have paid better attention as I read years ago. But the vision looking back is always much clearer than looking forward.

I worked until dark today and didn't have an opportunity to snap a photo of the day so used an old photo of my trusted companion Caillou. I have a feeling Caillou and Buck from Call of the Wild would have been great friends.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Happy 10 Year Blog Anniversary

Ten years ago tonight I sat down at my computer and wrote my first blog entry.  I started doing a website for my high school alumni in 2001 and I wrote stories and profiles several times a week for that site.

I'd been reading about blogging and thought I'd give it a try. The destination wasn't clear, but it
seemed to be an outlet.

I posted one update, and the next night I did another one...and I didn't stop.

At first the only readers were a few people who when to my old high school, but then somehow out there in the ether, the words found their footing and people from places other than Dora, Alabama began reading my updates.

Ms.. Soup from Australia was one of the first, and then Grandpappy from Arizona. And it grew from there.

There were fewer than 10 nights I did not post and update. Several years ago when tornados damaged the infrastructure so badly that we didn't have power for over a week. I missed a few nights then, but as soon as the roads cleared, I drove to a local McDonalds and did my updates from there.

As of tonight, I've posted 3836 posts, thousands of photographs, and I now have 555 followers who've left almost 18,000 comments.

The blog helped me land a weekly column in a local paper and now five other papers are running the column too.

To be honest, there were times I asked myself why I bothered to write every night. The only thing I can say is that I've felt compelled to continue and the routine has helped me find my voice...and to become a better writer. But even now, the more I write, the more I realize how little I know about the craft.

The best part is the friendships I've made through the years. I feel like many of you are old friends even though we've never actually met and to me that's the biggest benefit of blogging.

Thank you all.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Happy Birthday Mama

If my mother had lived, she'd be 91 today. I have very few good pictures of her standing around, because her hands were always busy with work - cleaning, baking, or bouncing children on her knees.She never felt she photographed good, but the reason was that in almost every picture taken of her, she'd be talking or making a face.She had a twisted sense of humor that few people "got". I think that's where I learned the art of humor.I posted this picture on Facebook today and I got several comments from people who knew her through the years. What follows are a few of the comments left today.

Rick I spent as much time at your house as mine your mother was a first rate mother to all of us I have memories of her same as my mom and dad your mom proved how much she cared especially when it was time to whip us she got my Respect for that everyone was treated the same we all have that to rember some of my favorite memories where at your house we are Brothers Forever Love you Brother

Oh, I miss Nana!!! She always kept me in line. She would be so proud of Laura Lee Ellis.
I miss her to I have no one to give me advise anymore
She was a wonderful lady ,I miss her and know you have an aching heart , my little brother spent time at your house too , thank goodness for our special memories.

Happy Birthday Elwanda, always looking for my hug.

She produced some awesome children!
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of her. 

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