Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wishes and dreams

Another year comes to a close. I checked several things off my list of goals, but there were others where I fell short. Goals, like most things in life, is a matter of focus. You do make strides in areas where you focus and spend time and energy. The ones where you fall short are usually wishes and dreams. If something is important enough, I normally move it to the next year and vow to make it happen.

As Fishducky commented a few posts back,  "Life happens while your busy making other plans." I smiled when I read her words because it's so true.

In a few hours, we'll say hello to 2017. I hope the year is kind to us all.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Pizza Man

Our great nephew Jordan came over today. His grandmother works at the local grammar school and is responsible for payroll, so she had to work for a while today. Rather than Jordan going to school with her, he asked if he could stay with us. The main things on our todo list were to run to the store and afterward, begin taking down Christmas decorations. So he got the green flag to come over and hang with us.

Jilda snagged a pizza at one of the stops, and when we unloaded the errand haul, she popped the pizza in the oven for lunch.

The phone rang as we sat down to eat as it ALWAYS does, and it was one of the people where Jilda works calling to firm up her schedule for January.

Jordan was waning from hunger, so Jilda gave him his pizza and lemonade before taking the call. I waited on her, but he scarfed his food down and was playing with boxes when we sat down to eat.

He came up behind us and said, "Pizza Man." I turned and snorted lemonade out my nose. I got him to stand still long enough to grab a pic.

This is how my day went. I hope yours was a good one too.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Beach bound for birthday

I had a follow-up appointment with the oral surgeon today and he said I could start eating solid foods. I could have hugged his neck.

We rented a condo at the beach for my birthday in January. We try to go down there every year. If you remember, last year's visit was cut short by a fluke accident. As I tried to break the plastic around a case of water with my key to Jilda's car, it broke in two. It was one of those "smart keys" which meant if without putting the pieces together, the Honda wouldn't drive.

Normally, that's not that big of an issue because we could have used Jilda's keyring, but she'd left her's home so that her brother could borrow our truck.

At any rate, after spending one night at the beach, we headed back home the next day so that we wouldn't be stranded.

I learned two valuable lessons that day:
1. Never leave home without a spare key
2. Smart keys should not be used for anything but cranking cars

When we get to the shore this year, I plan to eat my weight in seafood. Maybe a bucket of seafood gumbo, oysters, shrimp, flounder, and maybe a few crab legs.

I'm counting the days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pure Joy

One of the main reasons I love to be around kids is that it gives me a chance to be in the presence of pure joy.

Our great nephew Jordan loves to play video games, but if give the chance, he will toss his iPad and opt for experience. Whether it's a walk in the woods, go on poop patrol in the backyard with a shovel (I know I couldn't believe it either), or roast s'mores over a firepit.

The governor lifted the burn ban after a week of rain earlier in the month so we've been waiting for a chance to light up the firepit.  This evening gave us the excuse.

Jordan's mom got off work early and they came over at dusk. I built the fire in the pit earlier so when he got there he was pumped.

He got my flashlight and teased our new rescue Hook with the beam. Ol' Hook is not the smartest tool in the elevator so he chases the beam of a flashlight like a cat.

The dog ran around the yard and we all laughed until our ribs hurt.

Then Jilda went inside for the s'mores fixing's. I snapped the picture below as Jordan roasted his marshmallow.

You can tell by the look on his face that he enJOYed the experience.

If you haven't had roasted a s'more with a child in a while, I suggest that you do one soon. You'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Heavenly Bamboo

It was warm enough to sit on the back deck this morning as the coffee brewed. Ol' Hook, our latest rescue dog, makes every move I make so when he saw me heading outside, he was out the doggie door like a shot.

As I sat on the back steps, a fine mist on a breeze out of the west coated my face. I stayed out for a few minutes watching dawn-clouds.

Ol' Hook barked at the solar lights around the flowerbeds. He's fascinated with lights. I watched him until I heard the coffee maker beep.

The clouds burned off after lunch and the sky was brilliant blue as we walked. The light on the Heavenly Bamboo (Nadina) was so bright that it caused the photograph to "wash out."  Using Photoshop filters, I managed to get a decent picture, but it's nothing like the pictures I took with my eyes.

I've worked cleaning up my end-of-year projects and planning for things I want to do next year.  I know many people think I'm goofy for planning. My record is questionable, but it's part of my process.

I hope today has been a good one for you.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Stepping back

This morning while the coffee gurgled and aroma'd up the house, I stepped onto the back deck to get an analog weather report. It was warm enough to swim here yesterday, and this morning as I looked through the bare trees, I could see clouds advancing out of the Gulf. The wind out of the south blew acorns from the water oak, and they pinged the roof like summer hailstones.

The weatherman said last night it would be partly cloudy today, but I think mostly cloudy would have been closer to the truth.

When the coffeemaker beeped, I stepped back inside, poured two steaming cups of java, and headed to the great room. Jilda was still sleeping, but turning the Christmas tree lights on was enough to get her moving toward her coffee.

Under the coffee table were several magazines that came earlier in the month. I haven't had much time to read during the holidays so pulling one from the pile, I flipped to the index to see what they offered. It felt good reading stories that weren't about the current political climate or world events that make one cringe. 

One of the things under consideration for my goals this coming year, is to take a step back from the connected world.  

I've found that news before coffee has a tendency to hijack my day and start me off down the wrong path and that bothers me. 

The idea behind modern technology is to make one's life better –  tools that help you be more productive and informed. 

When it begins to affect you morning mindset, it could start affecting your wellbeing, and that's not a price I'm willing to pay for convenience. So for me, stepping back a little at this point in my life seems like a good thing to do.

What are your thoughts on technology?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Mistake in Christmas Planning ~ my column from Sunday's Paper

I made a Christmas planning faux pas this past week. It was a grievous error that will be hard to forget. Scheduling oral surgery during the Christmas holidays seemed smart. Insurance deductibles and the fact that the college is out for Christmas figured into the decision. I’d have time to recover without missing any work, I thought. The surgery on Thursday, and by Saturday things would be hunky-dory. But I was wrong.

Just after surgery as I drifted back into consciousness, I heard the nurse talking with Jilda in hushed tones. She was going over all the things I could expect over the coming days and weeks. There was something about soft foods until after the first of the year.

Trying to wrap my addled mind around the conversation proved too difficult, so I took a nap instead. I’d barely stopped drooling from the anesthesia when they wheeled me toward the car in a chair. “Do you want me to drive?” I asked helpfully. Jilda and the nurse snorted with laughter, but I didn’t get it.

I had not eaten since the night before, and although the surgery was early, I was starved. We’d pass many fast-food places on the way home, and I wondered if we’d be stopping at Arby’s or Mickey D’s for some breakfast. But thoughts moved through my brain like snails on pain meds and the words would not come, so I took a nap.

It wasn’t until I got home and Jilda warmed up a bowl of oatmeal that I realized she had not picked up a Big Mac and fries for me.

The weight of my planning error didn’t hit me full force until the next day when Jilda went over the routine I’d be following for the next two weeks. No solid food. This meant no roasted peanuts, no pecan pie, no cornbread and no turkey and dressing unless it was first pureed in the Vita-Mix turning it into a kind of warm salty Jell-O. Yum.

Apparently, the four extractions, two bone grafts, and two implants meant it would be weeks before I could munch on chips and salsa. I’m pretty sure corn nuts were on the list of forbidden foods too.

Christmas for me is not about gifts. With no children of our own, Jilda and I pretty much save our money and buy the things we want all year long. We don’t have to wait for the holidays to gift ourselves. Christmas for me is about the get-togethers with families and friends. And it’s also about the food.

Typically, during the holidays, I’ll gain about five pounds. Losing the Christmas weight is always near the top of my New Year’s resolutions. But five days after surgery, and four days before Christmas, I’ve lost eight pounds.

Who knew that foregoing fatty foods, adult beverages, and desserts would make the weight fall off your frame effortlessly?

I took courses on planning and time management while working for MaBell. I carry a daily planner around like a preacher with a Bible. In the planner are events scheduled into the first quarter of next year with dates, times, and things I’ll need to take with me. But sitting here this evening while Jilda whips up a batch of scrambled cheese eggs for supper, I realized I still have a lot to learn about planning. One thing I did learn is: It will be a long time before I schedule elective surgery during the holidays.

To my readers, please be kind and don’t post your Christmas food pictures on Facebook.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

The Christmas Eve breakfast with family was delightful this morning. The chefs had taken my condition into consideration and had several things I could eat.  After exchanging gifts Jilda and I walked back home.

A while later, the great nieces and nephews  came over to make more Christmas Cookies.  After that, while they waited for their parents, the went outside to play.

We have a dogwood in our yard that is one of the biggest ones I've ever seen. These kids have played in that tree all their lives. Jilda wrote a short story about The Magic Tree that she's read to them all. It's a special place they love.

Today, I interrupted them for a moment and grabbed a picture.

It's been a good day. Tonight as I write this, Jilda has fixed fettuccine and we're opening a bottle of prosecco.

I hope do day has been kind to you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Eve Eve

Jilda baked and wrapped presents for most of the day. I'm willing to help, but the work requires surgeon-like precision and experience has taught her that she makes better time when she does it alone. So, I answer the phone, fetch water, and run interference while she works.

At one point, she needed a break so we took the critters for a walk. Taz which is our rescue Yorkie is fearless and thinks she's as tough as the pit bull, so we keep her tethered to a leash when we walk.

Down at the barn, we stopped for a little Christmas contemplation. I pulled the phone from my pocket and shot a picture of the two girls.

Jordan and one of our other great nephews came over in the afternoon to help make a batch of Christmas Cookies. Apparently, they are handier than me and are welcome in the kitchen. I snapped a few photos and sent them to Jilda for her blog tonight.

We have Christmas Eve breakfast with her brother next door. It's a fun traditional event that gets a little rowdy during gifting, but it's something to which I look forward every year.

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. And, I hope Santa brings you everything you wished for.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Family birthday fun

Yesterday was my nephew's birthday and he invited us to join the celebration at his favorite local restaurant. It's a Mexican Restaurant not far from here.

I scanned the menu and chose refried beans, rice, and bean soup. Yum. There were bowls of chips and salsa in front of everyone. It was all I could do to keep from getting nakid' and jumping in a bowl of chips and eating my way out.

I finished my column for Christmas yesterday and I wrote about making a planning error for this surgery. I used the idea that I had a few nights ago, but I did this one with more detail. Jilda snorted with laughter when she proofed it. I'll post it on Christmas night.

Today was a relaxing day. I might go fishing before I head back to work in January.

I might be able to convince my blog buddy Joe at Cranky Old Man to come down a toss a few trout flies on the river.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Winter SolsticeI sh

Mother Earth turns a page today. The Winter Solstice slipped in early this morning and the days will begin to get a little longer.

Today was my last day at work until after the first of the year. I plan to rest and start my annual process of considering goals for the new year.  After my goals, I'll do a vision board with Jilda which is a constant visual reminder to reach for those meaningful things in our lives.

The last few weeks in each year is a time of reflection, contemplation, and in a sense, renewal.

I hope you all have had a wonderful Winter Solstice.
This picture is from December 2013

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nice List

At the risk of sounding like a big whiney baby, I will forego the health update tonight. The college tomorrow was a ghost town today. All the students have finished finals and are home for the holidays until after the first of the year.

Tomorrow it will be even worse because it's the last day of the year and most of the staff have enough hours built up they can leave early. Since I'm part time hourly, I'll need to get my hours in if I want a paycheck but I'll probably log in and do training from home rather than hang around and make the maintenance people stay just to lock up when I leave.

Tonight, Jilda is making chicken and dumplings. I'll have to cut my chicken so small that I can swallow without having to chew, but her C&D's are incredible and I don't remember ever looking forward to a meal more.

I"ve got Christmas music gently playing and the tree is the only source of light in the living room. 

I shot the picture below in 2013, but it works for this post. Christmas is five days away. I hope Santa has you on the Nice List.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Pig ~ my column from Sunday's paper

What's pink with jingle bells around its neck and goes hippity-hop through the mud and snow? CHRISTMAS PIG!

Yep, our new Christmas feature by the fountain in the front yard is a pig on snow skis. It has colored lights and a festive scarf wrapped around its neck. We also got a Christmas chicken, but the pig is the centerpiece of our exterior illuminations.

Jilda saw the pig in the yard at one of the patient cottages where she works and instantly knew she wanted one for our yard. She could not contain her excitement when she told me about it.

The patients had bought their pig at Dollar General, so I made it a quest to find one for our yard.

The first stop we went inside and searched every aisle, but we didn't see one. When I asked a nearby clerk if they had any Christmas pigs, she stopped what she was doing and peered at us over her glasses.

I could almost see the wheels turning in her head, and her first thought was, “Now I’ve heard everything.” I imagine her second thought was, “Are these people drinking? I might want to alert local law enforcement.”

When she realized we were serious, she put down the box of ornaments she was stocking on the shelves. Slowly walking up and down the aisles, she didn’t see a pig either. She said with a half smile on her face, "Looks like we don't have any Christmas pigs.”

We thanked her before heading back to the car and the next store. I didn’t look back to verify, but I’m pretty sure she was shaking her head.

By the time we arrived at the second Dollar General, I had decided to play it for all it was worth. Walking inside, I changed my persona to the lead character in the movie Sling Blade.I grunted, “We want one ‘nim Christmas Pigs.”

Without looking up, the clerk pointed toward the back.“The Christmas decorations are on aisle nine.” The people waiting in line gave us a wide berth.

They didn’t have a Christmas pig either. We tried one other place but never found the pork. I’d almost given up the search, but while browsing the decorations at the local Walmart, I noticed a box with a pig pictured on the side. It was high on the top shelf where workers store things that rarely sell. They only had one, but a few moments later it was in my buggy.Heading for the food section, I could not wait to share the good news with Jilda.

That evening when we flipped on the outside lights, the Christmas pig was the highlight. When we decided to paint our front door purple, our niece Samantha gave us a great compliment.

Looking at the door carefully, she said, “You know people around here are going to think you’re weird.”

When she saw the Christmas pig, she shook her head and smiled as she said, “People will KNOW you’re weird.” I sure hope they do.

Our pig says Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Stronger every day

Late yesterday afternoon it was 71 degrees when we went to bed it was still unusually warm. The winds aloft roared and I knew thunderstorms were on the way. 

Acorns from the water oak in the front yard began pinging the roof about 10 minutes before the rain came. Thankfully, all the thunder and lightning never materialized. But once the rain raced off to the northeast, the temp dropped like a stone.

Jilda is painting the last of her Christmas cards so I've spent most of the day on the couch. I'm feeling better every day, but I still don't feel like dancing.

I didn't have any photos, so I looked back through my Google Photos and found a picture I shot last December. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Planning faux pas

I'm usually good at planning. The planner on my office desk has dates, goals, and brainstorm notes for events into next year and beyond. Before I put something on my calendar, I ensure there are no conflicts.

Having said that, I did something really goofy when I scheduled my oral surgery for this past Thursday. I thought I was making a smart decision because the college closes after this week and I would have plenty of time to recover.  Also, insurance deductibles figured into the decision. However, had I read the fine print of what all was involved with the recovery I would have realized that I would not be able to eat solid food during Christmas. No turkey, dressing, cornbread, or pecan pie.  What the heck was I thinking?  

We do have a VitaMix so I guess I'll be eating pureed turkey and all the fixings – yum. So much for my planning expertise.

On the upside, is we got the tree decorated today and Jilda has most of the Christmas cards painted.

Friday, December 16, 2016

LIkin' this lichen

I woke up chipper this morning which was unexpected. I normally like my coffee so hot it removes enamel from my teeth and takes a little hair from my tongue, but my instructions were to, "Let it cool." My spouse is not one of those people who glances at the instructions and then only looks at them in detail when something goes south. She actually reads them and quizzes doctors and nurses to ensure she understands them correctly.

You wouldn't believe how bossy she can be when I try to slide something past her. So when my coffee arrived this morning, there were a couple ice cubes tinkling against the edge of the cup to get it one degree above tepid. 

Last night was downright chilly so we waited until the sun came out before walking this morning. I only made one lap, but it felt good to stretch my legs. I'll have to double up this weekend to bring my average number of steps up so that I meet my weekly goal.

Behind the barn, the morning light played on the side of the old Ford truck parked there. Gray patches of lichen that resembles sand dollars are growing on the side of the door. The old workhorse hasn't been cranked in years, but it belonged to my father-in-law and we can bear to get rid of it. One day nature will get rid of it for us, but the journey back to the earth is an interesting one.

I'ma liken this lichen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Behind me

Thanks for all the well wishes for my oral surgery. It went well. One moment I was talking about my work at the college and the next moment I could hear the surgeon and nurses talking. They sounded as if they were off in the distance, but when I opened my eyes they were standing over me.

At one point, I felt the suture thread on the corner of my mouth. And then it was time to go. As male nurse was wheeling me toward the car in a wheelchair, I asked Jilda if she wanted me to drive. Jilda and the male nurse snorted with laughter. 

The afternoon was low key. I spent most of the time on the couch reading magazines and books that I'd been holding on to until I found time to read them.  I also caught up on my blog reading.

I'd been dreading the surgery for weeks, and I'm glad it's behind me.

A new fashion statement incorporating a mobile ice pack

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The first time

I know when I posted my column Monday night and said that we'd be putting our Christmas tree up this past weekend, you may have gotten the impression that we were putting our tree up, but you would have been wrong. 

We actually planned to pick up the tree Sunday, but I Googled the business before we left and discovered the tree farm was closed on Sunday.  No problem,  I thought, we'll go on Wednesday.

This morning we headed out shortly after 9 a.m. and drove the 20 or so miles. The parking lot was almost empty. In years past we've gone through the week, and it was hard finding a place to park. 

"This is not a good sign," I thought. 

As we wandered across the fields looking for a suitable tree, we could tell the drought had taken its toll on the trees. Apparently, the owners lost a lot of trees. With the lack of rain and the water restrictions, the trees suffered.

The tree in the picture below would have been OK, but it wasn't tall enough, and the trunk was bowed We decided to after a lot of soul-searching that we would buy an artificial tree this year.

It's the first time since we've been married that we haven't had a live tree. 

We'll use it this year inside the house and next year if the weather is good and the trees at the farm mature as they normally do, we'll get another live tree and move this artificial tree to the side porch.

I just hope our little farm family had drought insurance. If not, this will be a thin Christmas for them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Kicks in the sticks

This is a short week for me so I had to put in extra hours these last two days. I'm taking off Thursday. I have oral surgery scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and it's impossible to express just how excited I am. Just thinking about extractions, bone grafts, and implants make me giddy. It should be a day to remember.

At any rate, it was dusk when I got home this evening and too late to walk. I'll have to make up for it tomorrow. 

The downside to darkness is that I don't have a picture for tonight. The upside is – I store my pictures on Google Photo. I paged back through the years until I found one taken in December of 2008. I remember the day I took this photo. Like today, the sky was overcast and the temperature was colder than usual. Sparrows were on the banister of the back deck munching at the birdseed buffet that we leave there for them each day.

In the picture below, it looks almost as if they are posing for me. "Smile Chippy, the nice feeder man is taking our picture." The sparrow on the right chirps, "Does this seed make me look fat?"

Watching the birds is how we get our kicks here in the sticks.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Dessert ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It’s officially Christmastime for us. This weekend we’ll get a live tree, fire up the Christmas music, and light up the fireplace mantel. The celebrations are still special, but they more
subdued since our folks passed on. Like always, there will be time with family, good food,
and great desserts involved.

I miss those huge Christmas gatherings at home of Jilda’s parents. As families arrived and settled in for the feast, they splintered into satellites of conversations. Most of the talk was about jobs, health, and what Santa was bringing for Christmas. The drone got ever louder until it was time for the blessing. After that, the only sounds were grunts and the clatter of forks on dinner plates.

The food was always exceptional. Each family tried to outdo the other by bringing their best covered dishes. Some of my favorites included green beans, coleslaw, and “smashed” potatoes. And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without my mother-in-law Ruby’s world-famous coconut cake.

A well-made coconut cake is moist on the inside and has frosting like divinity candy with coconut sprinkled liberally over the top. The only downside to coconut cake is that it requires toothpicks and digging flecks of coconut from between the teeth. But it’s still one of my top five favorite desserts.

This past Sunday, Jilda’s siblings gathered to celebrate. I was happy to see her sister Nell kept the coconut cake tradition alive. It was hard for me to enjoy the entrees because I saw the coconut cake out of the corner of my eye. It was just sitting there unattended. Bolting from my seat, grabbing the cake, and dashing out the back door would have been a cinch. I could have locked myself in the car, and eaten the entire cake by myself.

Jilda’s family is a peaceful bunch, but absconding with the cake could have changed all that.

So rather than act on my impulse, I munched on BBQ, potato salad, and baked beans while biding my time. The coconut cake was worth the wait.

On the way home, I told Jilda that she needs to ensure she gets that recipe from her sister who is now in her 80s. She’d already thought of that.

My lovely wife has a book of family recipes that she’s collected over the years. I call it her good book.

When my mom was living, she made these incredible apple pies. Jilda asked her for the recipe many times, but my mom was hesitant, and we didn’t know why.

After years of asking, my mom finally gave in. Mama knew we were health conscious and watched what we ate. The apple pie recipe called for real butter, buckets of sugar, and a scoop of lard. Even though those pies were heart attacks in a Corningware dish, they were incredible. Getting the recipe thrilled Jilda.

When it comes to great food, we go with the Bible’s take on this topic. The book of Ecclesiastes said it best: “To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” To me, that means it’s OK to pig out on coconut cake and apple pie during the holidays.

One Christmas a few years ago, Jilda made mom’s apple pie for some guests who were dining with us. After the meal, Jilda pulled the apple pie from the warm oven and served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The aroma of that dessert brought back old memories. As our guests ate, the woman closed her eyes and had what seemed like was an out-of-body experience. She then asked, “What’s in this?” Jilda smiled and said, “You don’t want to know.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Remembering the canyon

Jilda and I went to Sedona, Arizona several years ago for our anniversary. We'd heard about Sedona through friends who promised us we'd love the area. They were right.

We stayed at a small place on the edge of town in cottages that were rustic and felt good. I could smell the pine in the rough hewn logs used to build the cabins. The first night we slept with the windows open so the cool spring breeze would blow across us while we slept.

On the nightstand was a journal we thought someone had left. When we looked inside, it was a journal placed there by the owners of the cottages. Guests were encouraged to write something for the reading pleasure for those who followed. 

Reading back through the entries, we found funny notes, some that were simply the names of guests and the dates of their stay. Others were well-written posts that were poignant and moving. We tried to write something of substance, but who knows if our words hit the mark? 

One day we headed out through Flagstaff and on to the Grand Canyon. We'd seen it from the tiny porthole window of an aircraft 5-miles in the sky, but it was the first time we'd seen it up close and personal. It took my breath away.

I didn't have much to write about tonight so I flipped back through old photographs and came across the picture below...a post was born.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Christmas feature

Do you know what's pink with long ears and goes hippity-hop through the mud with sleigh bells on its neck? It's the Christmas Pig. Yep, we have a Christmas pig.

Jilda saw it at one of the patient cottages at work and loved it. So, I went on a quest at the local stores to locate one.

Ours isn't exactly like the one she saw, but it's on snow skies and we love it. My column this coming next week will be about the Christmas. I haven't written it yet, but it should be amusing.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Give life a chance

Today was absolutely beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, warm sun, and a cool breeze out of the north. Jilda needed some craft paint for the Christmas cards she paints each year, so I sat outside on a bench in the sun while she shopped. Closing my eyes, I was THERE. I heard every sound, smelled the aroma of BBQ from a nearby restaurant, and listen to Christmas music coming from one of the stores.

One of the things I struggle with is BEING HERE. My mind jumps from one thing to the other working on problems BEFORE they are problems. I navigate through scenarios that will never happen. All the while, the leaves are turning, birds are singing, and rewards are offered up if only I wasn't fretting about things that will never come to pass.

Case in point: I'd been troubled the last several weeks. The work I've been doing for the last two year is on a grant through the college from the AARP Foundation. The grant I'd been working under expired the end of November and the college had to reapply.

The college has undergone a leadership change, and I wasn't sure if the Foundation would renew the grant. Until the decision came down, I wasn't sure whether or not I needed to look for another part-time job.

I got an email today from the Foundation as I sat on the bench. It said our grant would continue for two more years.

I felt a little foolish for spending so much time worrying about how I would tell my candidates that I too would be looking for a job and would no longer be able to help them.

Life has a tendency to work out if you give it a chance.

Thursday, December 08, 2016


This evening after work was the annual Christmas Parade in our hometown. It's sponsored by the chamber of commerce and I do the website and social media for the organization so I stayed after work and shot pictures.

Parades are always fun to watch at any age, but the kids are what make them special. Walking the parade route before it began, the kids along the way were cranked.

I'm off tomorrow and I plan on sleeping in until at least 6:30. Have a great Friday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Remembering Uncle Marvin Lee

I have December 7, highlighted on my calendar. It's the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. My Uncle Marvin Lee Ferguson died. He was just a kid having the time of his life in the U.S. Navy. I scanned several pictures from my mother's picture albums. Uncle Marvin Lee had sent home to his family in the weeks prior to the attack. 

On that Sunday morning, he was on board the USS California which was one of the battleships in the harbor on that fateful morning. 

It was before I was born so I never met Uncle Marvin Lee, but my mother teared up when she spoke of him.

He was the first soldier to die in WWII in this county.  The local  VFW is named after him.

He has a headstone at the family cemetery near Jasper, but I'm not sure his body was ever recovered. I should have asked my mom, but I never thought to ask.

War is a dirty business. I know there are times when it's difficult to avoid, but the cost is staggering. There are victors, but I'm not sure there are ever winners.

USS California ~ Navy Photograph

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Slow news day

Recycling is almost non-existent where we live. When my nephew became publisher of the local paper back in the summer, one of the first things he did was start recycling newsprint. But to recycle glass, cardboard, plastic, and other items we have to haul it the thirty miles to Birmingham.

We recycle as much as we can, but cardboard is a hard one.  We're mindful of landfills, and we're aware of polluting the atmosphere, but we can't eat it...not yet anyhow. So, I wait for a windless day, and I burn the cardboard in our burn area at the edge of the yard. 

We stopped burning cardboard back in the summer long before the governor declared a state of emergency and instituted a burn ban. 

I took our cardboard to the tool shed and stacked it neatly in the corner at first. But after almost five months, whenever we had cardboard, I'd open the door to the tool shed toss the cardboard in and slam the door before it tumbled out.

It's rained almost every day this past week and today's headline read, "Governor lifts burn ban." This evening when I got home, the air was still thick as a curtain with misting rain, but I piled up a mountain of cardboard and began to burn. It took about 10 trips between the shed and the burn area, but I finally rendered it to gray ash. I then took a shovel and tossed damp soil on the pile to prevent it from spreading though I felt sure it wasn't going anywhere. 

Afterward, I went back to the shed, and it had miraculously tripled in size on the inside.  

I guess you can tell by this entry that it's a slow news day in Empire.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Be kind to all ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Thanksgiving has evolved through the years for the Watson household. Looking back, celebrating this special holiday with our parents were some of the best memories of my life. But when they passed on, things changed for us. We now make Thanksgiving Dinner (lunch) for family and an eclectic collection of friends that have no other place to go on Thanksgiving.

Everyone I know loves this holiday and the recent trend of making Thanksgiving just another shopping day is disturbing. We decided never to shop on Thanksgiving or the day after. I don’t care that I can get a great deal on a flat-screen television. Everyone deserves time with family on Thanksgiving.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we went to Walmart for a few items. The woman who checked us out looked frazzled. The place had been a madhouse over the holidays, and she’d had her quota of rude customer and people who treated her poorly. We’ve been through her line several times, and she’s usually upbeat and smiling. On this visit, she looked raw and tired.

On the way home, Jilda was somber. She was in retail for over 20 years, working every Black Friday and Christmas Eve. It was rare that customers were rude to her back then, but it happened. I’m not sure why some people think that spending a few dollars at a place of business gives them the right to treat those who work there like chattel.

I witnessed this in October standing in line at a local department store. We were behind a man who was buying a shirt, and while we only heard bits and pieces of the conversation, the look on the young sales clerk’s face was telling. When the man finished, he stormed off. I’m guessing he was looking for someone else to abuse. When we stepped up to the counter, the young girl, who was new on the job, had tears in her eyes.

We spoke to her kindly, and within a few moments, she looked as if a weight lifted from her brow. I made a few observations about the abuser and probable causes for his behavior. By the time we left, she was smiling.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday. I scheduled a meeting for 10 a.m. and ordered a deli tray from Walmart. I placed the order a few days before, and without thinking it through, I told them I’d pick it up at 9 a.m. When I arrived at the store an hour early, I hoped it would be ready. It wasn’t. A young woman who’d never prepared a deli tray before was working on it. I looked at my watch and realized that if I didn’t get the tray soon, I’d be late for my meeting.

The alpha male voice which originates in a dark part of my brain kept firing off suggestions for snippy things to say. “Snort! Tap your foot! Look annoyed! Ask her if she plans to finish that tray today!”

Then the wiser voice, asked a simple question, “Who’s at fault here? Did you tell them you’d pick it up at 9 a.m.?” I took a deep breath and smiled at myself. I watched the young woman put the tray together with care. Finishing the job, she smiled as she sat the tray on the counter. “It looks nice, don’t it?” I told her it did and that I was going to recommend that her boss double her salary. She beamed, and I did too.

Maybe we should celebrate Thanksgiving daily.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Snow's a comin'

Last week it was so hot here that I contemplated walking naked. I apologize for that visual folks I hope you can forget it and forgive me for using it, but I needed contrast because next weekend the weatherman says we could have snow! Jilda yipped with glee when she saw the forecast because that's when we're going to get our Christmas tree.

A few years ago as we walked the hills and hollows of Pine Hill Farms looking for our Christmas tree, snowflakes began to fall. As we stepped into the gift shop to pay, the aroma of hot apple cider greeted us. We sipped tea as we browsed and watched the snow falling out the windows.

The truck had a light dusting on the rails of the bed as we loaded the tree but it was gone by the time we pulled into our driveway.

In the spirit of that forecast, I'm posting a picture from that same year. I hope you all have had a remarkable weekend.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Just another rainy Saturday :)

Our great nephew Jordan and great niece Breeze had a swim meet today in Birmingham so we headed out just after coffee. The skies were already thick with low-hanging clouds with a stiff wind out of the west that made goosebumps race up my arms as we climbed into Jilda's car for the trip into town.

Thousands of kids from all over the state were at the complex and by the looks of the parking lots, each kid  brought a bunch of kinfolks.

Jilda wore a jacket, but I wore a long-sleeve shirt. A clump of decorative grass by the walk caught my attention so I stepped over to grab a quick picture. Jilda was cold and she didn't slow down to wait on my so I had to hustle to catch up after the shot.

Jordan and Breeze both did well in their respective races. We were proud of them both. Afterward, we did a little birthday shopping at Books A Million superstore. We buy a lot of books for the young folks in our family.

This afternoon, I watched my college team spank the competition in the conference championship game so the Tide is headed for the playoffs. I'm hoping they continue to play well.

As I sit here typing tonight rain in drumming on the metal roof. There is not thunder in the distance or forks of lightning in the night sky, just and old cold rain.

Even though we got several inches this past week, we were still under a burn ban. But when the rain moves out next week, I think I'll be able to make S'mores in our fire pit for the first time this year and burn the mountain of debris in the backyard.

Whether I'll be able to burn or not, I welcome the rain and I hope our friends north of us get rain too.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Blog Anniversary

We don't shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. As my granddaddy would say, "We're agin it cause
people need to be home with their families."  So today, we went out to pick up some things for the nieces and nephews.

The shopping took longer than we'd anticipated and we were both starving. We decided to grab a few tacos to tide us over until we finished our galavanting.

The next stop was the cemetery to decorate for Christmas. We pulled up to the top of the hill where my folks are buried and cut the engine. I cranked down the side window of the truck while Jilda pulled a couple tacos from the bag.

We ate them sitting there in the cab of the truck. There was a cool breeze out of the west, but the sun was warm. It was peaceful in the cemetery.

We took the old faded flowers from the vases, put them in plastic garbage bags, and I tossed them in the bed of the truck for disposal when we got home.

The red and white poinsettias should take our folks through Christmas. After the first of the year, we'll do some arrangements that will be there until Decoration Day.

As I wrote this entry, my computer dinged. When I looked at the notification, it said "Rick's Blog Anniversary." My first entry was 11 years ago tonight.

I wasn't sure where I was heading with the blog. It started out as a blog for the alumni of my old high school. But it evolved into a kind of daily journal for me.

I've posted every day with few exceptions. The times I missed was because violent weather knocked out power for extended periods of time. Even then, when the roads were clear, I'd drive to the McDonalds which is 11 miles away and post using their WiFi.

Someone once asked me why I write every day. My only response is – so that I can find my voice.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Happy birthday Mama

Today is the first day of December. Had my mother lived, she would have been 92 today. She died in February of 2012. 

I heard a young woman this week complain that her mother was, "Driving her crazy." I started to tell her that I would give anything if my mother was around to drive me crazy, but I figured she'd learn this lesson in time.

I hope that if your mother is still living that you tell her often how much she means to you. I know that I didn't tell my mother enough. 

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