Monday, February 29, 2016

Decluttering ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It seemed like our home was closing in around us. A few weeks ago while reaching for something on the top shelf, an avalanche of books, papers, and a box of pencils comically pinged my head like a bell. “It’s time to get rid of some stuff,” I said to myself.

Serendipity kicked in, as it often does, by serving up a story about a book on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  After reading a brief summary, I ordered the book from 

 A few days later, the UPS man silently delivered it to the side porch one afternoon while we were napping. 

Jilda was under the weather with the flu that week, but she felt strong enough to sit on the couch and read the book while sipping a few cups of steaming green tea.

I was happy she read it because it would do no good for me to get on a decluttering kick if
she wasn’t invested in the idea too.

When she finished, I started reading. It's an excellent book, and the author has a great approach to decluttering. But her situation is different from ours because she looks to be in her twenties. I have shoes that are older.

Jilda and I will celebrate our 42 wedding anniversary in May. The number of years we’ve been together is a major factor in the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated. An added issue is we both had mothers who survived the Great Depression and rarely discarded ANYTHING that might remotely be useful later on. “These apples didn’t fall far from the tree,” as the old saying goes.

When I started evaluating my closet and under our bed, it was a little scary. As it turns out, I needed to do a little decluttering before I could even start the process described by Kondo.

That first day, I took a truckload of things to Goodwill that still had a lot of use in them, but were no longer things we needed. 

Kondo recommends a particular order and suggests doing it all at one time. I get that, but the sheer volume of things in our house made it difficult doing it all at once.  

Over the following days, I went through my closet and pulled out all the jeans and tried them on. Any that didn’t fit right got tossed in the bag. Some of them looked brand new but there was one pair of bell bottoms I wore after we married. My legs fit into the jeans, but the zipper wouldn’t budge past halfway. Who would have guessed 40 pounds would do that to your rear end?

After getting my closet in order, I’ve found that it takes me a fraction of the time to get dressed.

We’re saving the hardest part of the decluttering chore until the end. Going through the books, photographs, and knick-knacks will be the most difficult because there’s a lot of history to sort through. The criteria Kondo uses in the book is a good one I think. If something doesn’t “give us joy,” we need to pass it on to someone else.

Spring cleaning is refreshing, but we’re hiding the problem. We often move the things we no longer need to get them out of sight. The only issue is that our shed and closet have been full for years.
Real change only happens when we rid ourselves of things we’re keeping, “just in case.”  Our mothers would have had a conniption at the thought of tossing something we might need later, but our little home seems to be breathing a sigh of relief.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Angry tools

Today, Jilda and I practiced for an upcoming gig for a few hours. So long in fact, that my fingers felt like they would bleed if I played another song on the guitar.

When we sat down to rest for a while, we saw on Facebook where one of our dear friends lost a brother to cancer in the night. There's not a lot anyone can do in this time of grief, but Jilda whipped up a bowl of her soup, and I ran it down to their house while they were away at the funeral home making arrangements.

We didn't have a lot on our calendar for the rest of the day, so I decided to do some much-needed work that I haven't been able to do before now because of weather.

Part of the new property we purchased recently has underbrush as thick as thatch. It's how I imagine the land here in America must have looked when pioneers pushed west across the Mississippi. Progress had to have moved at a glacial pace back then as they chopped trees and cleared paths.  The tools they had were broad axes, scythes, handsaws, and hatchets. A little iron and a lot of muscle doing the work.

I'm guessing at the end of the day, most of them didn't bother checking their email or play games on their iPads. Blogging was probably rare in those days. They probably hit the hay early getting as much rest as possible for their weary bones before the hacking, sawing, and sweating began early the next day.

I headed out to survey the wilderness on the new property. I have many of the same tools the pioneers used, but thankfully I've upgraded my tool chest.

In fact, I have a few angry tools that make short work of clearing.  Even so, after a few hours of my joints were screaming. Jilda fixed me a hot Epsom salts bath, and I soaked. I'm guessing the pioneers didn't have those either.

People sacrificed a great deal for us to enjoy what we now have.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Purple door

I mentioned a few days ago that the jasmine by our front door is blooming. It started peeping out the first day the light began to change and the sun was warm enough to forego jackets.

I'm concerned because I feel sure the cold weather has moved on yet, but apparently the Jasmine could not wait. We're hoping for the best.

When our niece was about 10 years old, she came over the afternoon Jilda painted the front door purple. She stood back for a long while considering the door before turning slowly toward us and saying with more authority than I would have imagined she could muster – "You know people around here are going to think you're weird."

Both Jilda and I howled with laughter for a moment, but Samantha's face remained stone still. Jilda then said to her, "I sure hope so kiddo."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Music has changed

In reading a post by my blog buddy Jack yesterday, he mentioned the recently deceased Sonny James, who sang Young Love. This was one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar. That was over 50 years ago.  It was about the same time that Elvis recorded Falling In Love.

Through the years, there were so many remarkable songs written. The Sixties had hundreds of songs that were important to me during my brooding adolescence. They helped me to survive and cope with an ever-changing world that was too big to wrap my youthful yearnings around it.

I wanted to be everywhere; somewhere else;  anywhere but a small mining town in rural Alabama. These songs helped take me where I longed to go.

I know it's the "old fart" in me but it's rare I hear new music these days that feels as important as those songs were from my youth. It seems too much of the country music today is about getting drunk with half-naked girls out on the farm.

Last night I wrote about the sky being a shade of purple. The picture I shot doesn't capture the incredible view I had yesterday evening. But if you see the image while listening to I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams, perhaps you could imagine it.

  I'm So Lonesome
by Hank Williams
Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me, he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry

Hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Scaly-bark-ivy tree

After almost a week of rain-heavy clouds, the sun returned today. When I headed out for my walk, this evening I had on a short-sleeve shirt, but it only took a moment for a cold breeze strong enough to fly a kite to change my mind.

After a few minutes of power walking, I fell into a rhythm and clicked off the steps needed to satisfy my Fitbit tracker.

On my last lap, the sun highlighted a scaly-barked tree that's normally in shade. The ivy creeping up its trunk caused me to step back and pull the phone from my pocket and snap a few pictures.

I wasn't sure how it would look so before I walked into the back gate I shot a few photographs of the evening sky. Dark clouds were sweeping from west to east and the setting sun tinted them a subtle shade of purple.

As it turns out, I was happy with the tree picture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Layout improvements

You might not be able to tell right away, but I'm making some improvements to the layout of my blog. For one thing, I had advertising enabled, and they appeared at the end of every post. There were times when I was reviewing posts, and I noticed ads that I did not like. When I looked at the revenue from these ads, it was close to nothing. 

Like most of you, I go to blogs to read, not to shop (unless you have books or things that interest me.) So I ditched the ads. 

Also, I had several links to things in the sidebar that were distracting. I know there's still a lot of stuff on there still, but over the coming days, I plan to take a hard look and see what adds to the reader's experience and what distracts. 

If you see something on this blog that bugs you, let me know, and I'll consider letting it go. I think it's a continuation of my decluttering initiative.

I've made good progress here at home though we still haven't done the books, pictures, and knick-knacks. Those will be the most difficult.

One of the things I have that's taking up space here are boxes of my first book. I got a great deal from the printer, and I over bought. If you'd like a copy of my first book Remembering Big and would be willing to pay for the envelope and shipping (around $3 to most places in the US), I'll give you an autographed copy. 

It was too dreary for pictures again today, so I'm down to seeds and stems when it comes to photos. Jilda snapped this one of me last year at a small seafood place on the beach.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It gets away

Rain ticking on the tin roof woke me early this morning. Too early in fact to actually start the coffee, so I kept my head on the pillow for a while longer. 

The clock moved like frozen taffy so I marked time by breathing deliberately and listening to the rain. I thought the shower might pass and allow the sun to peep through but that was not to be. The sun took the day off.

Without the light of the sun casting light and shadow most pictures I take are flat and uninteresting. I
passed a few scenes on the way to my workshop this morning, but I didn't bother stopping.

So tonight when it came time to post, I was at a loss for a topic; until my phone chirpped to show me a memory from two years ago on this day. It was an overcast day, but I took pictures of my great nephew Jordan who came over to play in our back yard with Caillou and his dog Lady.  I snapped a picture 
or two, but never did anything with them.

When I looked at the picture tonight, I noticed how much Jordan has grown in two years. Seeing him daily, it's hard to see the changes but when viewed through the lens of time, it's quite remarkable.

Poets, authors, and philosophers through eons wrote countless words about time. One would be hard pressed to come up with fresh words that express a new thought or perspective about time.  But still, here I am trying to wrap my mind around it. 

All I know is this – it gets away. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Flowers ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The sun peeped out for a few hours between rain clouds this week, and I took the opportunity to eat my lunch in the cobblestone courtyard at Bevill State where I work part-time. The sun felt warm on my face, but the wind out of the west wouldn’t let me forget it was February.

As I sat there blissing out, I noticed the flowerbeds around the courtyard were a little gnarly as they sometimes get in winter, but it made me think of my mama. She was a stickler for her flowerbeds. We lost her four years ago this week.

Before age and ill health had their way with her, she often sat near the windows in winter drinking morning coffee. If the temps rose and the sun came out in late winter, she’d be outside with her hand tools scratching in her beds.

Her beds weren’t fancy but by the time spring rolled around, they thrived with irises, roses, and daisies. She had a fig tree that stood against the south wall of her house that reached to the roof. When the fruit turned the color of a bruise, you knew they were ripe enough to eat. You could also tell by the yellow jackets that feasted on the figs that fell to the ground.

When I was a kid, we grew much of what we ate. In summer, we had fresh ripe tomatoes with every meal including breakfast.

There was a great deal of whining from us kids in late spring and early summer when the garden needed a lot of attention, and we weren’t getting benefits, but later when squash, okra, corn, peas and beans started bearing, we were all happy campers. Fried green tomatoes were a personal favorite. That was some of my early training in the subtle lessons of reaping and sowing.

The lessons were reinforced in winter when we enjoyed the vegetables we’d canned during harvest.

My favorite meal in winter was vegetable soup with a pone of cornbread.

I think the hardest time she went through during the last years of her life was in late February when the weather began to turn warmer. During the last several years, she couldn’t stay at home by herself, so she moved in with my sister Mary Lois.

On warm later winter days, Mary Lois would help her to the deck and let her sit in the sun so she could watch the birds and other critters in the yard.

Even though my mom no longer lived in her old house, I kept the grass cut and worked in the flowers during the summer months. I made the mistake of taking a picture of her flowerbeds so that she could see what was in bloom.

She was not happy with my level of care.

Note to self: No more pictures. Take her flowers, and tell her what’s in bloom.

As I sat in the courtyard this week, I thought to myself, “I bet my mom would have some advice for the maintenance man on how to care for these flower beds.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday walk in the woods

The humidity today felt as thick as a wool blanket with sporadic showers all day. The pressure changed which made breathing more of a challenge. Thunderstorms are moving in later, but hopefully it won't be another sleepless night.

My niece came over this evening to walk with us. We'd walked earlier in the day but didn't get enought to meet our daily goals so and evening stroll resonated with us all.

It was a pleasant experience. She's getting serious in her relationship but her boyfriend is a city boy and not really interested in living where he can hear rooster crow in the mornings. I dread the day when she moves away.

At the end or our walk after getting the chickens in their pen for the evening, I had to snap a picture of our camelias. A friend gave us this bush last year and as soon as the weather warmed a little, thick buds appeared. A few days ago, they did their work.

Jilda blogged about them a few days ago, but I thought it would be a shame if I didn't share a picture and mention how much we enjoy them.

I hope you all have a great week.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Total loss

Our phone rang at 11:45 p.m. last night. Calls at that hour rarely bring good news. This one was from Jilda's brother who lives next door. The first words out of his mouth were, "We're all fine. But the house across the road is on fire."

I scrambled out of bed for my shoes and a flashlight, but I really didn't need a light. Flames engulfed the house sending sparks into the night sky. The people who lived there the last several years fell on hard times and couldn't make payments. They left in December. 

Earlier this week, the power company came and pulled the meter. We expected For Sale signs in the yard, but those never appeared.

No long after my brother-in-law's call I heard screaming sirens in the distance, and a few moments later firetrucks huffed to a halt. A crew of volunteer firemen worked together like a well-oiled machine unwinding hoses and flipping pump levers.  Within what seemed like seconds, they put a stream of water as big as my arm on the blaze.

I told one of the firemen that no one lived in the house thinking they should know that before sending someone in harms way to look for residents that no longer lived there.

For another 20 minutes, more firemen and more trucks arrived from surrounding communities to lend a hand.  These are guys that work day jobs, coach little league, and countless other things required by life. But when they get the 911 call, and someone is in need, they stop what they are doing and respond. I have lots of respect for these guys.

The house was a total loss. It wasn't because they didn't respond, but because the house was vacant and the fire started in the middle of the night. It was too far gone to save before my brother-in-law made the call to 911. 

We didn't get a lot of sleep after that. Even after the flames were doused and red lights no longer flashed on our bedroom blinds, sleep came slow, and it was fretful for both Jilda and me.

Today, I checked smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

So tonight will be an early to bed night here in the Watson Household.

Friday, February 19, 2016

I'm back

Our Internet connectivity was back on this morning but just slightly faster than it was when we had dial-up.

When I called tech support, they confirmed there was a problem (I was gratified that they agreed) and scheduled a technician for this afternoon.

Connectivity was spotty until about 15 minutes before the technician arrived. The needle pegged to the right when I clicked on the connectivity speed test.  The test showed we were getting a speed of 65 megabits which was a screaming connection. I shook my head and walked to the front porch to meet the technician who would be pulling into the driveway at any moment.

As I sat there, I noticed the Confederate jasmine climbing our arbor was blooming. Tiny yellow butter-colored blossoms were hanging from the top.

I meant to get the stepladder and get a photo, but the tech drove up so I walked out to greet him instead.

He went inside to the computer and checked the connections, but the problem was gone. He replaced several of the couplers and connectors to eliminate them from the equation, but I think he did that to appease me. I hate intermittent problems.

On another note, today was like spring time here. The temps rose to 73 degrees. It wasn't warm enough to swim, but almost warm enough to wear trunks.

I looked back through my old pictures for one to post tonight. The one I chose was of a pond at sunset that I shot last year. The color was remarkable.

I hope you all have an incredible weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Internet's down

Out internet connectivity decided to take a day off. I'm posting this with cellular service that has one leg handled by a carrier pigeon. 

This is the first picture the grabbed my attention. Maybe it's a repeat, but at this point, I have my fingers crossed that something will make it into the ether so that you won't wonder if I've been abducted by aliens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Barn repair

I was struggling with a topic for tonight's post and came up with a blank. Often when this happens, I look back through my pictures to see if something clicks (no pun intended.)

While scanning backwards through the years, I saw some photos I took five years ago on February 17, 2011. I was in the process of repairing the barn.

When I first surveyed the damage, I naively thought a few boards on the front and maybe some on the side would be sufficient. But when the carpenter came over to give an estimate, his findings were grave. It might be easier to tear it down and replace it with a metal building. I took a step backwards and he quickly added but we can fix it "if your pockets are deep enough."

He's a country carpenter and I knew he wasn't trying to pad his wallet, so he took the pencil from behind his ear and began walking around the barn scribbling notes. Next he pulled his 50' measuring tape from his pocket and began writing down numbers.

We pulled up a few concrete blocks and sipped on a glass of tea as he began to list the materials we'd need.

A few days later, I'd bought all the lumber and supplies for the job. It was slow work, but there was no hurry. The weather was agreeable and we chipped away until the job was done.

Perhaps it would have been easier to set a metal building on the back of our property and it probably would have kept the tractor and equipment safe and dry, but I can tell a metal building devoid of soul would have been a canker on a beautiful spot of land.

The old barn is in no way a showplace, but it is something that Jilda and I love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

That old tired cliche rang true

I know it's a month early, but the light this morning looked like the light of spring.  The sky was the color of buttercream, and the Rosa-a-Sharon bush had seven male cardinals vying for a position on the bird feeder.

When the sun peeped over the horizon, it looked as though the rain moved off to the east for a while. 

Indeed, when lunchtime rolled around at work today, I heated my food and went out to the cobblestone courtyard and ate lunch in the warm noonday sun. The wind was chilly, but it felt more like late March instead of mid-February. 

By the time I left work at 2 p.m. clouds had moved back in, and sprinkled my windshield on the ride home.

I'd almost resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't get my steps in today, but then the clouds again parted in time for a beautiful sky at sunset.

There's a joke here in the south – if you don't like the weather, hang around a minute, it'll change. That old tired cliche rang true today.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A special souvenir ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This morning when I moved some magazines making room for two mugs of steaming coffee, I accidentally knocked a yellow glass ball off the table. It bounced off the area rug, hit the wooden floor and rolled into the corner of the fireplace, which cracked the knick-knack into three pieces.

It was not entirely my fault and seemed insignificant, but the result was a look of sadness on Jilda’s face that I had not seen in a long time.

I asked if her mom or grandmother had given it to her, but she said no. Turns out, it was the first gift I ever bought her after we started dating in 1968.

I turned that over in my mind a moment digging for a trace of memory and finally it came back to me slowly.

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and she’d somehow convinced her mom and dad to let her go with me and our friends Dale and Debbie to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The only hitch was that we’d have to drive up and back on the same day. Her mom and dad were not idiots. Allowing their 16-year-old daughter to stay overnight without adult supervision was not in the stars.

We left out before daylight that morning and drove the five hours to Gatlinburg in Dale’s Ford Maverick that was the color rust.

As we weaved our way through scenic roads into the mountains, we passed deer and all
kinds of critters who regarded us curiously. The clouds were gray as woodsmoke, and soon snow began falling. When we stopped at Maloney’s Point for a photo op on the way into town.

Once we got into Gatlinburg, we did a little sightseeing and grabbed a bite of lunch but realized there were many miles to go. Getting snowed in didn’t seem like a good idea, so we got back on the road though we did stop at one point long enough to build a little snowman.

We pulled into a tiny gift shop filled with candles and glass figurines to buy a few souvenirs. The place smelled of musk and patchouli. Somewhere in the back, a percolator was gurgling a fresh pot of apple cider, which made the shop smell like Christmas. That’s where I bought her the little yellow ball.

I know that it must have been inexpensive because I didn’t have a lot of money then, but it was a hit with my new girlfriend. It seemed to make her happy, and she held on to the keepsake through the years.

It managed to survive generations of children who’ve visited our home. For some reason, kids who could barely walk would hoist themselves up wobble-legged, balance on one hand and reach straight for that little yellow ball. I can’t count the times it dropped and rolled across our wooden floor like a big marble.

In years past, we’ve gone through phases where we’d declutter our home. Each time we did that routine was painful because it meant deciding what was meaningful and what we could let go. The little glass ball always made the cut.

I felt a little sad standing there with the pieces of that keepsake in my hand as I remembered that magical day in Tennessee.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day from Rick and Jilda.
I hope this day has been a good one for you all. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A bargain

I've been reading about a book that seemed to resonate with me. It's entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  I had some Amazon promotion points so the book was $2 including shipping.

It arrived earlier this week when Jilda was so sick. She couldn't watch TV, but she sat on the end of the couch with light filtering through the front windows and read the book in a few hours.

When she finished it, I started reading it too. It's a good little book and the author has a good approach to decluttering.

When I started REALLY looking in my closet and under our bed, it was a little scary. As it turns out, I needed to do a little decluttering before I could even start the process they way Kondo describes it.

This evening, I took a truckload of things to Goodwill that still had a lot of use in them but they were no longer things we needed. 

Over the coming weeks, we'll go through our clothes, books, photographs, and knick-knacks, decided on what things give us joy and what things we should pass on to someone else.

On the way back from Goodwill, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up cherry tomatoes and a few other things for tonight's dinner. By the door, they had nice arrangements of flowers. A few roses, but assorted other flowers. 

I thought to myself, this is the day before Valentine's Day and my lovely spouse hasn't been at the top of her game this week, why don't I buy a bouquet for her? So I did.

When I walked in with the flowers, it was obvious I scored points.  There were enough flowers in the arrangement, that she put them in the kitchen, great room, and a few in both bathrooms.

A few bucks bought a little happiness and I think a little happiness is a bargain at any price.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A good day

We don't feed the deer during the season because we'd prefer not to coax them out of the shadows with the promise of food and into the crosshairs of a high-powered rifle. 

But beginning in February, when their food source gets scarce, we feed them under the apple tree down in the field between the house and barn. They are still too skittish to come out in daylight by summer, they're almost eating out of our hands.

This evening when I walked down, Caillou almost knocked me down as he scooted through the back gate between my legs. He weighs close to 80 pounds now and he's a lump.

After dumping the corn, I leaned against the apple tree and watched the sun dip ever lower. A few feet from the tree, a shaft of sunlight fell on a patch of moss the size of a basketball. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I snapped a few shots for grins and giggles. 

When I started back toward the house, Caillou was watching me expectantly. I hurled the plastic feed bucket as far as I could throw it. He was off like a shot and almost caught it before it hit the ground. Snarling and growling, he gave that plastic bucket a piece of his mind before bringing it back to me for another toss.

The cooler weather suits him and he will fetch until my arm is weary.
Jilda is feeling much better and she called us in for supper from the back deck. All in all, it's been a good day.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yard Art

I got around early this morning because I had to be in West Alabama for a meeting which meant road time.

I think the chickens were still sleeping when I eased in the pen and dumped the feed in the feeder and swished out the waterer.

A pike of sunlight pierced through the underbrush and highlighted a piece of yard art Jilda had placed on a stand in the corner of the back deck.

The light wasn't that good, but I snapped a photo anyhow because I knew I wouldn't have an opportunity to get many pictures today.

It was a productive day, but tonight I am one tired camper. I hope your Friday is the gateway to a remarkable weekend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I started this morning off with a bang...literally. I moved a magazine to place coffee on the coffee table and I heard something hit the floor. It was a keepsake. I didn't recall the significance of the knick-knack, but when Jilda reminded me, it triggered a thread of memory.

The only good to come out of it was that I got a column from the experience. That's one of the upsides of writing. Even when things go wrong, something good can come from it. I'll post the column next Monday.

Today was beautiful here, but cold. When I drove to town to pick up Jilda's meds at the drug store, the bank blinking sign said 39 degrees at 2 p.m. That's not that bad, but the 15 mph wind out of the north made the windchill if felt much colder. When I got back home, windburn on my face made it look as if I'd been slapped.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Flurry day

I've had no flu symptoms so I decided to work in the office today and let Jilda rest. No appointments were on the calendar, just phone work.

As I walked to the car, the scarf Jilda had wrapped around my neck to protect against the cold, flapped in the north wind.  Flakes of snow tickled my nose. I stood for a moment listen to the wind aloft. It sounded like a distant train or a jet flying too low.

Once in the truck, I cranked the engine to let it warm a moment before backing out of the driveway. I called Jilda inside on my cell phone to make sure she'd see the falling snow.

Just before lunch, the clouds scattered a little letting a spoke of sun fall on the lone plant in my office. I thought I saw it smile.

I left at lunch which was a few hours early and headed home. Normally I stay until 2 p.m. but the local news network wanted to interview me at 6 p.m. about the BTW 50+ program that I'm working with and that would take a couple hours.

When I got home, Jilda said that one of our friends had called to say they were bringing us something. They weren't coming to visit because they'd seen on Facebook that Jilda wasn't feeling well, but wanted to bring us something.

He arrived a few moments later and I stepped outside to greet him so he wouldn't be exposed to the flu. He and his wife had picked up lunch at the local Mexican Restaurant. They chose chicken tortilla soup with chips and salsa. It tasted incredible. We were both moved by their gesture.

After lunch, I suited up and went out to get in my steps. I'd missed my goal the last few days, so today was catch up day.

After a few laps, I sat for a moment on the bail of hay at the edge of the garden and watched the clouds. The sun peeped in now and then. I shot a time-lapse photograph but I'm not sure if it will work here.

Jilda is still quite sick, but she is feeling better. There's a good chance I won't have to put her down:)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Let is snow (a little)

I took Jilda to the doctor this morning without much of a fight. She said that if I preferred, I could simply shoot her, but this could have been problematic with the authorities, and to be honest, I'm quite fond of her cooking when she's not afflicted and what not.

We were the first few in the urgent care doctor's office, and it didn't take long to get the scoop – even though she had a flu shot in October, took vitamins, exercised, and avoided sneezing people as if they were lepers with oozing sores, she caught the flu. They swabbed me to be on the safe side, but my results came back negative. I got the shots and the meds anyhow because the doc said even if I didn't have the flu now, I would get it before Jilda stopped being contagious. I didn't whine, but it did feel as if she'd used a screwdriver instead of a syringe.

It was 49 degrees this morning, and the temps have dropped all day. The weatherman has said all day that we could get a little snow today and tonight.

Even with Jilda sick as a rooky sailor, she's still longingly looked out the front windows and asked, "Where's the snow?"

Last year when we got some of the white stuff, Jilda and our great nephew Jordan (and his mom) were beside themselves. In reality, I have fun with that crew too when we get a little white stuff. I did a long-armed selfie that almost cut Jilda from the picture, but you get the idea.

So, Jilda and I say –  Let it snow (a little.)

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Burning boxes

We had a pile of boxes in the laundry room awaiting disposal. We don't put our cardboard in the landfill because there's enough stuff going in there. We would recycle it, but the closest place that recycles cardboard is 35 miles away so we choose to burn our boxes. I know there are arguments against this but currently, that's the way we roll.

I went into the laundry room this evening to get a cleaning cloth and tripped over the boxes so I decided it was time for them to go. 

The wind out of the west had calmed to an infrequent whisper so I hauled the cardboard out and fired 'em up.

The temps dropped after the sun went down, and I'd worn a short-sleeve shirt out. Once the cardboard caught, the warmth of the fire felt good on my bare arms. 

I promise I'm not a pyromaniac, but standing there this evening as the flames licked at the night sky and the gentle roar was hypnotic.

I snapped a photo because I liked the colour.  

My spouse is a sick puppy. She's been on the couch for most of the weekend. I'm taking her to the doctor in the morning.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


I finished the first draft of the profile I'm writing for the paper before lunch today. Afterwards, I decided to jump into the next thing on my to-do list that I've been dreading...TAXES.

After about four hours sifting through drawers, online records, and filling out spreadsheets, I had to take a break. The wind was cool but the sun was warm so it was a cinch getting my 10k steps. At one point, the sun highlighted a broken limb with fungi the color of porcelain.

Afterwards, I made myself a cup of hot peppermint tea and headed back to the office into hell.  Jilda called to me from the kitchen after 6 P.M. saying dinner was served. Those words were like a song to me because I was about three decimal places away from jabbing a #2 pencil  into my temple and twisting it.

Why can't the government simply take my word for it. Hey dude, I think I owe you about 25 bucks, do you take checks?

But NO, they want proof. Receipts that I trip over in December, but become completely invisible when it's time to do the taxes.

I tell you I'd rather have a wisdom tooth gouged out with a Phillips-head screwdriver while donating a kidney than work on taxes...!@#$$#$%^^&!!!&&&&&.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Screen doors

I moved Jilda's yoga blankets from the back seat of her car to the side porch this morning before heading to town to buy groceries. As I reached for the porch handle, I noticed that the bottom section of the aluminum door had a place that looked odd. A closer look and I realized the material used as the core for the door is separating and soon there will be a hole there.

I'm a little miffed because this is the second door I've installed out there. Both were aluminum storm doors and both had issues in about the same place.

Driving to town, I made up my mind to buy an old fashion door made of wood and screen. We had them in the old place where we grew up and they worked just fine.

I smiled as I recalled that old screen door. One hidden benefit of the door that didn't appear in the advertising literature is that I could tell my mother's mood by the sound the old screen door made as it closed.

She was usually content in the evenings when she stepped out on the front porch to wait for my dad to drive into the yard after work. The keeper spring made a sound that was almost like a yawn, and she'd catch the door with her fingers so that it would lightly tap the jamb.

If on the other hand, she was aggravated at me or one of the other kids in the neighborhood, the spring made a sound like a guitar string being tuned WAY too high and when the door slapped the jamb it sounded like a gunshot. That old door lasted until they tore the old house down.

So the next screen door I get will be made of hickory or pine. I'll keep it varnished and it will outlast me.

Ivy on an oak tree by the gate to the barn.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Spidering the sky

I knew it would be a beautiful day today by the color of the dappled light coming through the front windows where we drink our morning coffee. The birds got busy early at the feeders eating seed and pecking at the frozen fountain. 

When I headed to work, the windshield looked as if it were covered with a gauze blanket. I had to scrape frost as thick as a playing card off before I could back from the driveway.

By midmorning, the sun had warmed things up nicely. When it came time to eat a bite of lunch, I took my soup out to the courtyard and sat alone at one of the picnic tables. I had to weigh down the napkins to keep them from blowing off with my crackers and stick cheese. The wind reminded me that it was still February and not yet warm enough to swim. But still, it felt fresh and rare.

After work, I headed home but Jilda had just left for her job so I focused on the profile I'm writing. I'm waiting on sources who once worked at The Washington Post to call me back but it didn't happen today so I filled in other gaps in the piece.

Still short a few steps, I decided to walk before sundown. I put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt but without the sun, it was a chilly walk.  

I snapped a photo of the sky just after sunset. I know I've shot similar pictures before, but the creative ones I tried to shoot looked lame, so I trashed them and went with the trees spidering the sky. It's hard to go wrong with pictures of the sky.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Picture post

I walked this morning and caught the sun highlighting the trunk of an old hickory tree in the barnyard. Moss and ferns have hit a growth spurt on the old tree, but I don't think it minds. I'm fresh out of words tonight, so I think this will be a picture post. I'll do better tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Weather walking

The threat of bad weather closed the schools early today. The college where I work closed early as well, so I headed home to work for a while.

Once finished, I decided to get some steps in before writing.  After a lap, rain began to fall, so I cut my walk short so not to get my Fitbit wet. 

A few minutes later, the rain moved off, but the high-level roar of the wind sounded like distant thunder.

After a few more laps, the skies brightened a few stops (a photographic term), and I sat on the concrete blocks that form the flowerbed around the wild black cherry tree at the barn.

During winter with the leaves on the ground, I can see for miles to the south. The clouds today were stacked on the horizon, and the upper layer looked like a sooty meringue. One moment the air felt warm as early spring, and the next it felt December like.

Tonight we spent time watching the weatherman, but we just got the all clear, and hopefully we'll get some sleep tonight. 

For the folks north of us, keep your eyes on the sky.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Cracking walnuts ~ My column from Sunday's paper

It’s interesting what triggers memories. An aroma, souvenir, or a ticket torn in half from a movie I saw in 1993 can unleash a flood from somewhere deep in my brain, and for a few moments, I relive that experience. I had one of those recently, and it gave me the idea for this column.

Last week while on my way to New Orleans, I stopped at a place in Meridian, Mississippi to eat. As I stood in line at the counter waiting to pay for lunch, I saw a muffin under glass. It called out to me, and I had the waitress put it in a bag for the road. 

A few hours later when the road stripes began to hypnotize me, I stopped at a fast food place and bought a hot coffee. Once on the road, I pulled the muffin from my brown paper sack and took a bite of heaven. It tasted like my mama's banana nut bread that she made with black walnuts.

There are few things I like as much as banana nut bread with black walnuts though I’ve had a few muffins through the years that came close. The muffins with pecans aren’t bad, and the ones with blueberries are tasty, but if given the choice, I go for the ones with walnuts every time.

There was a grove of black walnut trees standing near the old homeplace where I was born. We didn't live there long, but we always lived within a short bicycle ride away. Every year in late summer and early fall, my mom would send me down there to gather nuts the size of lemons. 

The only downside was a dark substance that coated the shells which made them a little messy to handle. After an afternoon's work, my stained hands looked as if I'd been spreading tar on the roadbed. 

Gathering the walnuts was the easy part. Next came the real chore. Cracking the armor to get at the goodie required heavy tools like hammers and anvils. It was brutal work. 

After the demolition phase came the most delicate operation of digging the goodie out with a knitting needle, and the final inspection. The inspection process took special care because one piece of the shell, which I’m convinced is harder than diamond, would crack a tooth. I learned this the hard way.  

I don't think anyone could have paid me enough money to do this job, but as I sat there beating my thumb and fingers bloody cracking nuts, I could smell the aroma of my mama's banana nut bread baking in the oven, and taste the warm bread as it almost melted in my mouth.

These days, the work of gathering and cracking black walnuts is automated. Machines go about whacking and through some automated magic, separate the meat from the hulls.

Most of the time progress is great, and technology can make our lives much easier, but I doubt a banana nut muffin on the road to New Orleans would have triggered such a vivid memory had they not bloodied a finger or two cracking black walnuts.

Me behind my older sister near the old place.

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