Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Blessed rain

I fell asleep watching the weatherman last night. Angry lines of storms pulsed, thundered and raced toward us, but  the rain gods must have read your comments last night because the violent storms split before they arrived here and went both north and south of us. 

The line of storms finally organized and pushed toward us in the wee hours of the morning. Torrential rains fell making the metal roof roar. When my brother-in-law called just after 7 a.m. he said he'd dumped 5.5 inches of rain out of his rain gauge. And it continued to rain until about 10 a.m.

The Weather Channel said some areas got close to 8 inches of rain. It's not a drought-buster, but it's a start.

I had meetings this morning and I got soaked while loading my truck. When I arrived at the center to set up for the meeting, I had to pour water from my shoes. There were times in the past when I would have cussed as I did this, but today I simply smiled.

Jilda and I walked when I arrived home this evening and everything looked so fresh. You could almost hear the earth sigh. The rain had apparently quenched its thirst.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Yesterday the weathermen/women started jabbering early about strong storms moving into the area in the evening. Monday evenings Jilda does a community yoga class. The normal crew is people from 18-80. 

We'd rather not have our folks driving through turbulent weather, so Jilda made a management decision early in the day to cancel class.

Jilda was still at work when I got home yesterday afternoon.  I hate missing yoga, so I decided to do yoga alone on the back deck. When I practice alone, each pose is slow...and methodical. I try getting the alignment as good as I possibly can while breathing deeply. 

One moment I felt a gentle breeze out of the south and the next a cooler breeze whipped out of the west. The winds aloft sounded angry. It sounded like jet aircraft racing just above the clouds.

The last part of yoga is called Shavasana. Laying there paying attention to my breath,  fat raindrop hit in the middle of my forehead. A moment or two later, one hit my stomach. Soon the rain peppered down. 

In the past, I would have snatched up my mat and hustled inside to roll it up in the shelter of the great room. But we haven't had any substantial rain in over three months, so I laid there and let it rain on me.

By the time clouds moved off to the north and east we'd gotten well over an inch of rain.  It wasn't a drought buster, but it was a start.

We're supposed to get more tonight, but the shower tonight comes with a threat of violent weather. It will be eyes to the skies for several more hours.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter Chores ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Last weekend, Jilda and I did our winter chores. We had a long list we wanted to complete before Thanksgiving Day. We had invited family and friends over for “Turkey Day,” and we wanted to make sure the house looked nice. They probably would not have cared that our house wasn’t super spiffy, but we would. We take pride in making the place look homey for our company.

After coffee, I thought about calling in reinforcements. Strong backs for the heavy lifting seemed like a wise course of action. I thought I’d bribe them with steaks, beer, and exotic vacations in exchange for a few hours of backbreaking labor.

But I remembered Alabama was playing an evening game, and they’d managed to score inexpensive tickets. I admit the window of opportunity for the plan was narrow, but I hoped it was doable.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there was no way those boys would wear themselves out before the game. They are too much like me.

So rather than ask my potential volunteers to work, and hearing them laugh uncontrollably as I call them unkind names without regard to political correctness or any modicum of civility, I decided we’d suck it up and do it ourselves.

After coffee, I said to Jilda, “This stuff won’t do itself.” So, we commenced.

I dragged the ladders out and washed our floor to ceiling windows. The ceiling on the inside of the house is 14 feet at the apex. Outside it is better than 16. I guess it’s close to an acre of glass on the front of our house. After about an hour of rubbing and a few dozen trips up and down the ladder, the windows were spotless.

Then I cleaned our ceiling fan. From the floor, I could see dust bunnies on the blades as big as beagles.I dragged the shop-vac up the ladder and made short work of that chore.

After this, we started on the one I dreaded.The tropical trees and plants that summer outside our front glass have to come inside before the first frost. Also, a philodendron that
Jilda inherited from her mom, who inherited it from her mom in 1965. So, it’s been with Jilda since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. It’s a beast with gnarly roots and leaves as big as hubcaps.

We haven’t repotted the plants in some time, and when I wrestled the old pots off, you couldn’t see the soil. The only thing visible was a tangled web of roots. When I tried to break them apart, they were as hard as teak. I wound up hacking them apart with my pocket knife.

When I finally managed to break them apart, I could almost hear a sigh of relief. We purchased larger pots and placed the old plants into the new pots with fresh potting soil. They should be happy for a year or two.

Getting the plants inside was a challenge since each of them weigh just slightly less than a piano. But I borrowed some hand trucks from my brother-in-law and began the heavy lifting. Grunting like the front four of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, we got all plants cozied up inside. These trees are like old friends and make our great room feel like we’re outdoors even in the dead of winter.

After supper, I slipped into the TV room to watch the game. It was hard to concentrate becauseI was so weary that I was nodding out by the end of the third quarter.

By the end of the fourth quarter, we were both sound asleep.

Hard work is one of the best sleep aids available.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lonely leaf

You may have noticed a recurring leafy theme of late. I'm fascinated by the contrasting color all around me. 

Landscapers consider the persimmon a scrub tree. It's a throwaway tree in most landscaped yards. Mother Nature landscaped our yard and the persimmon is welcome. Even though the tree is spindly with splotchy leaves in autumn, I think it's a beautiful tree. It's also one of the best predictors of spring. Some trees  in early March, get in a hurry to get at the sun. They leaf out before it's wise and late frosts makes them pay. In the fall when the persimmons ripen, they fall to the ground and look like tiny smushy (is that a word) pumpkins. 

If someone (Jordan) walks into our yard and steps on a persimmon, we can hear him howl "YUCK" from the front yard. He sits on the front steps and digs icky stuff from between his toes with his fingers.

Then later when cold weather creeps in, that first frost is a harbinger that winter is just around the corner. The leaves of the persimmon turn a beautiful color that's hard to put a label on. It's a cross between amber and sunset red.

This morning as Jilda and I walked, the last leg of our path which takes us up the narrow asphalt road that runs in front of our house, I found my photo of the day. Midway up the hill, I noticed the leaf on the road blown there by the wind.

It looked lonely.  I knew that the truck I heard off in the distance was the farmer down the road taking hay to his cattle down in the river bottoms. The wind that chases trucks down the road would take the leaf away, so I snapped a quick picture.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sorghum syrup

Jilda cooked an Irish breakfast this morning complete with fried eggs, ham, grits and cathead biscuits.

We usually have cereal or a blueberry protein shake. But this morning she surprised me. It was scrumptious. The last time we went to Mississippi we bought several quarts of honey, but on the way out, I saw a jar of sorghum syrup.  An old farmer that we knew many years ago used the PTO (the thing that spins the blades of a bush hog) of an antique tractor to drive a sorghum press. You could almost count the revolutions of the engine as the farmer fed the sweet stalks through. A bucket hanging beneath the press collected the nectar.

Sorghum is made from a broad-leaf plant that looks like miniature corn.  But sweet sorghum is delightful on biscuits. If you've never tried it, it's worth a trip down south. Take my word for it.

This evening was the Iron Bowl in Alabama. My team the University of Alabama played Auburn University. It's always a nailbiter. Tonight it was close for a while, but my team kept chipping away and won the game 30 - 12. We'll have state bragging rights for another year.

I hope you all have had a great weekend so far.
After the damage was done :)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Lasting color

Jilda and I both slept hard last night. Exhaustion crept in when the company had left and by the time we'd cleaned up the kitchen I dropped onto the couch like a sack of taters.

Normally, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. whether it's a work day or not. I'm an early riser. What can I say?  But this morning, it was after 6 before the yawning began.

I let Jilda sleep while the coffee brewed but she hears the beeping indication the nectar is ready.

We took yesterday's paper down from the mantle and leisurely read it while sipping  or coffee.

Afterward, the dogs were driving us crazy. They knew the temps had dropped in the night and morning walks are pure joy to them, especially when it's colder.

Down behind the barn, Jilda told me to look to my right. Over near the edge of the woods was a  young hickory and oak beside each other. One had yellow leaves, and one had red.

Just when I thought the drought had robbed us for autumn color, I'm seeing color everywhere.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving.

We got a sprinkle of rain last night, but not enough to dampen deck. The early morning clouds moved off to the east leaving blue skies behind. We did most of the heavy work cleaning the house last weekend, so today it was all about the food.

After coffee, Jilda swung into action baking a sweet potato casserole. Half of it was topped with roasted pecans and half with marshmallows. Our elder friend Lewis has problems eating pecans but he loves sweet potatoes so this was a good compromise.

After that, Jilda prepared a 12-pound fresh turkey and started working on the dressing.

I'd finished vacuuming, and doing my other assigned chores, so I took the dogs for a walk mostly to get out of Jilda's way while she worked.

On one lap behind the barn, I saw the red sweetgum leaf on the ground. Snapping a picture, I posted it on Instagram with the caption: Red leaf in morning, Sailor take.....Well, you sailors know what to do.

A few hours later, it all came together like the crescendo of a well-rehearsed orchestra.  By the time guest began arriving just before noon, the aroma of Thanksgiving was in the air.

We had 20 people here. Some were family, some were friends, and some were people we'd never met before today, but there's a good chance we'll become friends.

I hope you've had a remarkable Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Perpetual leaves

It's the time of year of perpetual leaves. At any time day or night when I look outside, I see falling leaves. I bought a battery-powered leaf blower a few weeks ago, and I love it. Snap on a fresh battery and soon the deck, walk, and the porch is all swept clean.  Thirty minutes later, it's time to do it again.

At work, we have maintenance men who will retire hearing the scream of gas-powered leaf blowers. Yesterday, they'd blown all leaves off the courtyard, but today as I walked back to my office from the main building, leaves had collected at the steps.

The leaves on redbrick looked interesting to me, so I snapped a picture.

I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 1963

I know within a few feet of where I was sitting just after lunch on November 22, 1963. My physical education class met at that time in the old stone gymnasium behind the high school. 

There were about 20 rows of bleachers that went from floor level up to the huge windows. As
I sat on about the 12 row awaiting for the coaches, whistle signaling that class had begun. I passed the time by watching several of my friends shooting hoops. The reverberating sound of squeaking tennis shoes and basketballs bouncing on a hardwood floor echoed off the stone walls. 

Suddenly, a kid that lived not far from me ran into the gym screaming at the top of his lungs - "Kennedy's dead. Somebody shot the president." It sounded almost as if he were happy. 

I struggled to wrap my 12-year-old brain around what he was saying. But as word spread among those in the gym, the shoes stopped squeaking, and the ball stopped bouncing. It took a while for the echo to stop reverberating.

An overwhelming sense of sadness overcame me. The kids talked in hushed tones. The PE teacher came in and confirmed that what the kid said was true. President Kennedy died in Dallas, Texas. 
The next few days were a jumble. But on the following Monday, the high school watched the funeral in the auditorium. When I saw John F. Kennedy's baby boy step up and salute his daddy's coffin as it passed, I cried. When I found the face of the kid that announced the news on Friday, he was crying too. 

I think our country changed that day. The innocence of the 50s was lost in a wisp of smoke from the barrel of a rifle in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Monday, November 21, 2016

November holidays you rarely hear about ~ my column from Sunday's paper

When one thinks of November holidays, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of Advent are the ones that come to mind. But the month has some obscure holidays too. Men Make Dinner Day, Deviled Egg Day, and Square Dance Day are some that jumped out at me.

Dunce Day fell on Nov. 8 this year (I kid you not.) There were other wacky holidays that never got off the ground, but one caused me to pause and reflect — Plan Your Epitaph Day.

Pushing back from my office desk, I walked outside and fell into a deck chair in the blinding afternoon sun. Sitting there, I started thinking about my life. An epitaph to me is a life motto. Words written in stone are things that give the generations that follow a glimpse into who you were, what you believed, and what you lived for.

An Internet search revealed that not everyone took a serious approach. Rodney Dangerfield’s tombstone reads, “There goes the neighborhood.” B.P. Roberts’ marker reads, “I Told You I Was Sick.” One that caused me to laugh so hard that I snorted was, “This Sucks.” But others were poignant and some thought provoking. “Anything but Ordinary,” is an incredible tribute and great advice for those who follow.

Kris Kristofferson who is a notable songwriter once said that he wanted his epitaph to be the opening lines to Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”
Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

Reading this was particularly sad because Leonard Cohen, a prominent Canadian poet, and songwriter, died this past week.

I heard about one professor who assigned a paper to his creative writing class entitled, “Write Your Epitaphs.” A topic this profound would be hard at any age, but I think it would be much harder for young folks. If they were like me at 19, I thought I would live forever. It wasn’t until my hair disappeared down the shower drain and my knees began squeaking like rusty hinges each time I stood that mortality came into sharper focus.

I thought of several funny epitaphs that would work, but upon reflection, I was unsure if that is what I wanted to leave behind. I love a good laugh as much as the next guy, but it’s not what I am about, or who I am.

After I’m gone, my possessions will filter down to loved ones, then to their loved ones, and so on. In hundred years, the house I helped build, the truck I drove, the clothes I wore will probably be gone. The jewelry I wore on my arms and fingers will be trinkets passed down, and they will probably lose their story somewhere along the way.

In the distant future, most people would not recognize me in a photograph unless a mindful descendent scribbled my name on the back. But the words inscribed on a gravestone should survive.It’s my opportunity to leave something behind that will give an idea of what I stood for and who I became in my lifetime.

I can promise you this — I will give this some serious thought.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Watching her grow

Our niece Samantha (Jordan's mom) invited Jilda and me to lunch Friday for the first time. We've
always been there for her. When she was in a pinch, and needed someone to pick up Jordan from school, we were there. Whenever she had a fashion question, a financial question about her 401k, insurance, or other things, we hooked her up.
She's always thanked us profusely and told us she wanted to take us out for lunch or dinner.

She's lived next door to us all her her life. We babysat for her when she was an infant. We took her to Chicago and to San Francisco with us. We've watched her grow up.

The stars aligned this week so on Friday she asked us to meet her for lunch. Our calendars were flexible so we agreed.

It was a delightful experience. We are both so proud of her because she is a single mom. She put herself through school while working full-time and caring for a child.

On the way out of the restaurant, I snapped a photo of Samantha and Jilda in front of a fountain on the sidewalk next to the eatery.

In looking at the  photograph, it's obvious to me that she has grown into a remarkable young woman.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Goofy tired

Both Jilda and I had a list of things to do before Thanksgiving and it kept growing. We have family and friends coming over on Thursday and they probably would not care if our house wasn't super spiffy, but we take pride in making the place look homey at Thanksgiving so we made a pact to get things done today.

We finished up late this evening and we're both so tired we're acting goofy. But it feels good.

I didn't have time to take a picture today, but I'd taken one yesterday on the way home. I'd stopped by the Forks to get the fishing news. All the guys had headed home, but I snapped a picture so I'd have something to post tonight.

We got a trace of rain last night. Looks like my rain dance is beginning to work. We have a 60% chance next Wednesday. Woo Hoo.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pink sand

With little to say tonight, I went in search of a picture from the past. Scrolling back through the years, I came across this beach picture I took in January 2013. 

It was an early morning picture taken on the hotel steps on the way to our morning walk. The sand at Gulf Shores, Alabama looks like sugar, but the early morning sun turned it cotton candy pink.

The only visible tracks were that of the beach litter buggy that empties trash cans and any other debris that's washed in overnight or tossed into the sand by a thoughtless tourist.

It's my favorite time to walk there.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Starlight star bright

The sky was stunning this evening. I sat out in the backyard on a lawn chair watching, listening, being.

Directly overhead a jet plane smaller than a firefly whispered across the sky toward the northeast. Usually, they drag a contrail behind them, but it requires moisture in the atmosphere to make stringy clouds. So this one slipped across the sky almost unnoticed. 

As I reclined on the wooden chair, the chickens came down from under the pines where they scratch for bugs all day. It was close to bedtime so they headed into the roost.

It's a magical time – those moments between daylight and dark. Birds and squirrels scurrying to their nests. I listened for the owl that lives in the barn, but the hooter must have been sleeping in.

I laid there longer than I realized. All of a sudden, I noticed a star (I think it's Pluto) off to the south. I remembered a poem from my childhood – Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may; I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Productive days

Wednesdays are usually off days for me, but not today. I have things I promised I'd do before year's end and times ticking.

So I was off just after the sun came up and didn't get home until after sun was waning.  Jilda teaches an early morning class on Wednesday, but once she gets home just after 8 a.m., she has the rest of the day free. Well, that's not entirely true. She still has a list of things she does here in the house a mile long. I'm not exaggerating. I took a tape measure and measure her list once and hit was 5283 feet long (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.)

When I got home this evening she asked if I wanted to walk. I didn't have to look at my band to see how few steps I'd taken today. So after swilling a few glasses of water, we were off.

Both of us capture pictures of the sun filtering through the autumn leaves. Even with no rain, some of the trees are still colorful.

I hope you all have had productive days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rain dance

Looking at the radar this morning, I saw a line of showers to the north. It looked like rain was drenching Northern Mississippi and Alabama. It seems the jet stream shifted which pushed cooler weather southward and all along the boundary where cool air met warm, it was raining.

Normally our humidity is so high that makes the air feel like the consistency of a Pepsi. But the drought pushed all moisture out to sea and our humidity is similar to what it is most of the time in Colorado.

I stepped outside to feed the chickens and survey the sky for an analog weather report. There were clouds sweeping down from the north, but the sun peeped through and highlighted the tops of the trees. It was a beautiful thing to see.

What this means for us is that the rain came all the way to with 15 miles of our house to the north, but the moisture dissipated before it made it to the ground.

The weatherman says that we should get rain by the end of the week. Jilda and I plan to do a rain ceremony out in the yard on Friday if it hasn't rained. I'm not sure what this will involve, and I'm quite sure I don't want to know until it's time. I will gladly sacrifice my dignity for a little bit of rain.

Monday, November 14, 2016

We lost a treasure

Leonard Cohen died this week.  He was a remarkable songwriter. His son said that his father wrote up until shortly before he drew his last breath.

Cohen was 82 years old and influenced other songwriters for over 50 years. He only had one major hit song and that was Suzanna. Judy Collins' rendition was the version I heard and remember. But he has volumes of incredible songs that many have never heard. He released his final album in October of this year. 

I love his deep baritone voice but it was not one that resonated with commercial radio. So Leonard toured and played all around the world for adoring fans. 

He had a song entitled Hallelujah. It's a dark song but it's incredibly beautiful. Another songwriter Tim Buckley recorded his rendition of Hallelujah in the early 1990s (I think) and since then the song has been recorded by hundreds of people. 

An acapella group, the Pentatonics, recorded a version of Hallelujah and it took my breath away. I'm posting a link to the video here. I'd be interested to know your thoughts.

RIP Leonard.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

A little bit of color

Most of the remaining autumn leaves are dry and the color of parchment. There is no chance for stealth while walking through the woods here.  The crunching carpet is audible for at least a half mile.

But this afternoon when I went out to finish up my steps for the day, I decided to walk the path we cleared this spring.

The trek goes down one side of the hollow which is easy if you don't step on a hickory nut and slide down the hillside on your behind. But what goes down, must go.......  You get the idea. By the time I reached the apex of the other side of the hollow, I was panting like a thirsty dog.

Leaning up against an oak tree older than me, I surveyed my surroundings. To the west, dappled sunlight coming through the woods highlighted a few leaves that decided to show out before winter came. I'm glad I was there to witness the show.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The day after

Jilda and I attended a Veteran's Celebration this morning at the local community center. Normally it's
held on Veteran's Day, but yesterday was chocked full of ceremonies and the local vets decided today worked better for our community.

One of my neighbors who is a decorated veteran that served in Vietnam was the guest speaker. He did great though he choked through the words in places.  

The local veteran's board does a good job with these events. 

As I parked before the ceremony, I snapped a picture of the giant flag hoisted on the boom of a city fire truck. This is one massive flag and for those driving nearby, it's hard to miss. 

I hope you all have had a great Saturday.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day

We had a quiet Veteran's Day here. We wrote our columns for the art publication in Birmingham and afterward we did morning chores.

With both of us working part-time, things have a tendency to pile up, but today, we knocked out our lists. 

We stopped watering the garden when it became apparent we'd have to use too much water keeping the sad plants alive we mowed the area until next spring.  

We are watering the blueberry bushes because we have a lot invested in them and the harvest each year is abundant. 

After a nap at noon, we decided to drive to the local Starbucks for a coffee. It's a treat for us, and we were in the mood. As we stood at the counter, contemplating our order, I asked the clerk if there was a discount for veterans today. She smiled broadly and said, "Your coffee is free today. And thank you for your service."  I smiled a thanked her for the peppermint mocha.

My Army experience seems like a lifetime ago – but sometimes it feels like yesterday. I can still feel the weight of the duffel bag on my shoulders. I've never had boots that fit me as good ad my Army boots. I wish I still had them.

Many of the good things that have happened to me were because of my time serving our country.  

After serving my time Uncle Sam footed the bill for my job training and later picked up the tab so that I could complete my first two years of college.

Later, when I applied at MaBell, the hiring manager told me my service was the deciding factor in their decision to hire me. 

It was during Vietnam, but my duty station was in Panama which is half a world away. I would have gone there, but it wasn't in the stars. I'm thankful I can look back on my time and smile. Many of the soldiers who served during that time don't have that luxury.  

I've read stories today of soldiers who gave their lives while serving this country. We owe them a debt that we can never fully pay. 

I salute them.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Final word

We have an eclectic collection of friends. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, nationalities, and sexual orientation.  Once past the obvious differences, one finds that they are all people. Like most every other human on the planet, they seek the same things. These things closely align with Abraham Maslow's psychological theory "The Hierarchy of Needs."
 1. Physiological  - The need to breathe, drink water, eat, and other things to sustain life
 2. Safety needs - The need to feel safe in their environment
 3. Love and belonging - This one is self-explanatory
 4. Esteem - A feeling of being respected
 5. Self Actualization - The hope, dream, the need to reach higher
Here's the thing. A little less than half the voters in this country are happy about the outcome of the election. The majority of voters are saddened.
I rarely mention politics here and I don't intend to start except to say that even though my candidate did not win. My prayer is that the new president finds it in his heart to do right by ALL the people who live here.

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