Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I'm here

The last day of January was almost warm enough to swim here.  I wore a long-sleeve shirt to work this morning but by lunch, I regretted the decision. But then, shorts and tee shirts would not be on the list of recommended attire for college employees. 

Tomorrow is February 1, and it's the point where we scratch our heads and say, "Where did January go?"  With a few clicks, I can look back at my blog and see what I did...what I thought...what I photographed. Sometimes it's not much but it's a written record of my existence.

Someone asked me once why I blog every day. The only answer I have is that I can prove I was here.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Thinking in the woods ~ my column from Sunday's paperC

I’ve been at a creative low tide since November. The oral surgery in December didn’t help.

Usually, when I get in a slump I simply wait it out. But that tactic wasn’t working this time. So many times in the past when I found myself flailing, I did a mental reset and got back to the basics. That’s what I decided to do this past week.

I needed a book that I first read when Jilda and I moved to the country over 30 years ago. I knew it was there hidden among the books that most writers have in their library. As my finger slid from spine to spine, I found it. “On Walden Pond” by Henry David Thoreau is a book that provided inspiration when I needed it.

The work is a reflection on the two years Thoreau spent building a small cabin and living near the banks of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1800s.

Thoreau was a philosopher, and I won’t pretend that I grasp the full meaning of this work, but I remember that it resonated with me the first time I read it. He seemed to be stepping back and taking a very close look at life. In doing so, Thoreau figured out what was important to him on a basic level.

I read until my eyes were tired. Stepping to the office window, I noticed the rain had stopped and the sun peeped out from among the clouds. Grabbing my walking stick, I headed toward the barn.

Ol’ Hook jumped a deer. He was off and running as fast as a rumor. The January sun felt good on my back. When I circled the barn and headed toward the new path we built last summer, I heard something I hadn’t heard in a while.

Caillou Creek Watching ~ I've used this pic before sorry
It was the small stream deep in the hollow on the east side of the barn. It winds through the roots of ancient oaks and hickory trees that keep it shaded in summer. Last year’s drought made the creek bed dry as old snuff, but as I walked, the gurgling sounded like music in the silence of the hollow. It felt like an old friend had come home after a long season away.

Finding a flat rock about the size of our coffee table, I sat for a while thinking. My mind settled down as I fell into a state of bliss. The place felt sacred.

As I sat there on that rock listening to the soft song of the water, I wondered what was going on in Thoreau’s life when he decided to move away from civilization and refocus his life force on the simple things.

I think the time by the stream helped me sort through why I’d been in a slump. There are things in our lives we can control, and things outside of that control. Sometimes I struggle trying to change things and the resulting frustration sows seeds of doubt about who I am and why I’m here.

Leave it to an old book and a small stream that found its voice after a long silence to help me find some answers.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

That kind of Sunday

The frost this morning covered the fields behind the house like a thin silver blanket. I looked through the great room windows while we sipped coffee and saw that the wind out of the north was making the pines sway as if they'd had too much to drink.

When I stepped out to feed the chickens, I had on my thermal shirt, but the wind cut through that so I hustled back inside for a jacket.

On the walk to the mailbox to pick up the Sunday paper, I noticed out jonquils are budding. They haven't bloomed out yet, but the ones in our neighbor's yard were in full bloom. Those flowers like to be first in class.

It's been a laid back day here. We slept until 7 a.m. but spent much of the day relaxing, reading, and doing small chores around the house. It's been that kind of Sunday here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Late evening

We had a gig tonight and we're just now getting home. Had I been clever, I would have written my blog before I left, but that didn't happen.

Tomorrow is a big day for our great nephew Jordan because it's his birthday. he will be nine-years-old tomorrow.  He's been in North Alabama this weekend at a swim competition but they're heading home in the morning.

We always get him a gift card for Books-A-Million. He loves books which is fine with me. I love them too.

I hope you all have had a great Saturday.

I shot this picture of Jordan four years ago.
It's amazing how much he's grown since then.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fried chicken

Wednesday when we drove north to Muscle Shoals, we had lunch at a restaurant that is a favorite of the locals. The menu is eclectic. They are known for chicken, but they have all kinds of food. 

Jilda ordered tamales and she grunted with pleasure all through lunch. Max ordered the catfish, and Jerry ordered chicken soup. But I ordered fried chicken. 

It's one of those places that doesn't try to appeal to the health conscience. They make no excuse, but they do make some of the best fried chicken I've had since Jilda's mama died.

This chicken was unlike the fast food fried chicken because it didn't sit heavy.  It hadn't been sitting under a sunlamp either. After ordering, it took a while for the waitress to bring to the table. 

Jerry, who is a regular said, "Y'all must have ordered the chicken." He knew that they fry it when you order it.

We eat very little fried food. Most of what we eat tastes good and nutritious. That's because Jilda cooks most every day. Sometimes on Thursdays, I pick up Chinese food because she works late. But other than that, she prepares what we eat.

My recommendation to you is this: Find yourself a roadhouse outside the city limits. You'll know when you find it because they need police to control traffic in and out of the parking lot. Sit down by a window, and ask the waitress what dishes they're known for. And be prepared to be amazed.

Champy's Yard Art

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Old pictures

I pulled a book from a shelf of my office library today. The book was dusty. It was on a top shelf, and I had to tiptoe to pull it down. It was On Walden Pond, by Henry David Thoreau.

An idea for a column came to mind, and the book played a role in the story. Pulling it down, I blew dust from the top and flipped it open. A photograph fell from between the pages.

Stepping back, I pulled it from under the paper shredder where it had tried to hide when it fell. A corner view told me it was an old picture, but I didn't need to see the photo to know that it had been hiding there for many years.

Sliding it out, I flipped it over and smiled. It was a picture of Jilda taken around 1971 which was before we married. Our friend Tommy Wilson, who later taught me about things photography, had taken the picture.

The camera has always been kind to her.  She has a knack for posing in a way that looks effortless – natural. It's called being photogenic. I don't have that knack. I often look as if I'm in pain or about to pass gas. Perhaps that was a little too much information, but if you look back at pictures of me, you'll agree.

I submitted my column for Sunday's paper but I didn't mention the photograph. I think I'll save that idea for another time.

I hope you all have a remarkable Friday and enjoy the LAST weekend in January.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A day to remember

I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately. As we sat sipping coffee and reading the Sunday paper, I flipped through the Lifestyle section and came upon the local musicians playing in town this week. Pulling out my iPad, I looked up the names that appeared in the paper. One of the groups had a slide guitar player.

Turning to Jilda, I said, "I'd really like to learn how to play slide guitar." Jilda is an innovator, a networker, and a connector. "Why don't we call Max." Max is our friend from Muscle Shoals, Alabama who is a slide player extraordinaire. 

She sent him a message, and he said he was free on Wednesday morning – today. We headed out early and drove up to the Shoals to his home.

I knew within minutes that this was a good move. Max has played mucic with some of the best musicians on the planet. He is a great player, knowledgeable, and easy going. The hands-on session helped me understand how to make a guitar weep. Now it will take a lot of practice before I can make it sound like that.

After the lesson, Jilda and I took him to lunch. We'd just ordered when Jerry Phillips walked in. He's the son of the legendary Sam Phillips who did the first recordings of Elvis. Sam owned Sun Record Company and Studios which is considered the birthplace of Rock and Roll.

Max is friends with Jerry, so he waved him over to join us for lunch. We spent a delightful hour talking about musician friends, the music business, and good places to eat.

It was a day I will remember for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I rarely find myself in the houseware section of any store and I'd rather remove a splinter from my foot with a chainsaw than shop for window treatments. But a few weeks before Christmas, we ran into a store looking for a last-minute gift.

Jilda walked with a purpose, I ambled along behind her checking my email on my phone. When I looked up, she was in the houseware section. 

She moved off to another aisle as I looked absent-mindedly at the offerings on the shelves.  Midway on one shelf was a collecting of things that were marked down to a fraction of their original price. A card of led lights on a thin wire caught my eye. I was thinking they'd look good on one of our wreaths or maybe around one of the Christmas features on the mantle. When I showed it to Jilda, she said I have a great idea!

At home, she went to the TV room which doubles as our storage room. Pulling an empty Mason Jar from a shelf, she said "This is what we need.

She took the tangle of tiny led lights, wadded them up and put them into the Mason Jar. They are powered by a couple of AA batteries and when she'd finished, she took it into my bathroom and put it on the sink basin.

Now each night when we go to bed, our bathroom glows softly from what looks like a Mason Jar full of lightening bugs. I love a great imagination.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Offbeat January Holidays ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I have “middle of the month blues.” The condition is worse in January because I’m coming down from all the holiday hurrah. I’ve celebrated my birthday, which is two weeks after New Year’s Day, and it is winter to boot.

The bad part is that newspaper deadlines don’t observe holidays, and they could care less about writer’s block. They keep coming as regularly as the light bill. When ideas are thin I rely on the quirky holiday calendar for inspirations.

The first holiday that caught my eye was National Skeptic Day, but I doubt that anyone celebrates that — sorry, I couldn’t resist.

A holiday that does get a lot of traction is Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day. All those resolutions to exercise more and stop slamming down $5 Grande Mochas with extra chocolate and whip cream, lose their luster after the New Year’s hangover subsides.

Speaking of hangovers, whoever came up with the National Measure Your Feet Day on Jan. 23 must have celebrated long and hard after the confetti settled on New Year’s Eve.

One holiday coming up this week that I do embrace is National Handwriting Day. I think it is more important than it sounds.

Most people write by tapping keys on a computer. Writing on a keyboard has its advantages. But there’s something to be said for watching the words come to life behind a nice fountain pen.

Jilda bought me a sleek pen from Levenger, which is an online supplier of fine office supplies. I use the fountain pen to write in my daily journal and my day planner.

I get a kind of subliminal pleasure from forming words by hand. The smell of ink and paper, along with the physical act of writing, seems to engage the right side of my brain.

It brings me into the “Now.” I found a word for it online: Kinesthesia happens when the brain gets feedback from muscles and ligaments about how the body is moving.

There is an ongoing debate to omit cursive writing in grammar schools, but for me, it’s a valuable skill that helps my thinking.

Other quirky holidays in January include National Kazoo Day, Punch the Clock Day and National Inane Answering Message Day. I’ve done an inane message or two on our answering machine. One of the call pleasers was:

This is Rick and Jilda’s house, and we are indisposed

So leave your name and number, and a message I suppose

We’d really like to talk to you, so wiggle that old tongue

But hang up and leave no message, and we’ll rip out both your lungs.

Our hanger-uppers dropped dramatically when that message played to callers. I took it off when one of my humorless bosses at the phone company called me at home one Saturday.

One holiday that’s on my calendar is January 26. That day is Spouse’s Day. It’s not about cards and candy, but a chance to give your spouse a hug and tell them how much you love them and what they mean to you.

Life is short. I hope you find something to celebrate every day.
Spouse's Day 2008

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday report

Storms moved in just after midnight. I could hear it stomping closer as it moved in from the south. Soon our collie Caillou, who has his own bed at the foot of ours was trying to join us. 
I pulled my hand from under the cover and reached down to try and calm him. I could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

He stood beside the bed while the storm passed. There were times in the past when he woke me from a dead sleep that I scolded him for trying to get on the bed. It broke his heart. When I woke up and went to check on him, I found that he'd gone into the shower stall in my bathroom and lying there shaking when I found him. 

Most of the time our pets are a joy to us. They're always thrilled to see us and ready to walk when they see us putting on our shoes. But, pets look to us when they are frightened or need reassurance. 

It took about an hour for the storm to pass, but after about 30 minutes, Caillou curled up on the throw rug beside my bed and fell asleep.

This afternoon, there was a short pause between showers, so we all went for a walk. I felt good outside. I had cabin fever, and nothing cures it faster than a stroll with the dogs.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Is there anything that has more earthy beauty than a produce stand? Squash are almost the color of freshly-churned butter. Cucumbers are a soft shade of jade. Cabbage with ivory veins ribbed around the leaves seems to spread out like an embrace.

Part of the experience of produce stands is holding fresh vegetables up close to my face and smelling its essence. The experience is different when buying produce from big-box stores. I get a sense that some of the veggies travel long distances in refrigerated trucks and spend time in warehouses before they make it to the shelves. They often lose some of the color and aromas. Our produce stand is only open four days a week so there are times when we need lettuce or bell peppers that we buy from the larger stores, but if given a choice, I opt for the local produce stand. Our produce guy knows what to pick up and which to pass up. 

In a few more months, we'll be picking fresh produce from our garden. Lettuce from raised beds in the backyard, and pole beans from the fence. It's the main reason we live so far from the city.

I'm not sure there is anything more beautiful that a backyard vine hanging full of tomatoes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Same time last year

This week last year I was on my way to New Orleans for a conference. I love New Orleans. The food there is incredible. Back in 1980 after Hurricane Fredrick, I worked in Mobile for almost a year helping restore temporary telephone service and later when everyone was back in service, I stayed on to help replace the infrastructure. Jilda joined me and we lived at the Howard Johnson. Our address that year was HoJo, Gov. Blvd. Mobile, Al. room 232. 

The work that summer was grueling. Hanging wire, and digging trenches as the mercury hovered near 100 degrees with humidity so high that it made the air feel like Karo Syrup was brutal. At first, we worked as much overtime as we wanted, but the infrastructure work wasn't critical in nature, so our overtime work declined.  This meant that the crew was off every weekend. 

You can only go to the beach so much and then it becomes tiresome. So we branched out. We'd go to Biloxi, Mississippi, and other places within driving distance. But about every third week, we'd head down to New Orleans.

We had an opportunity to explore the city. The sites, aromas, and the music. I fell in love with the place

When I was there last year, Jilda couldn't get off work, so I went alone. That wasn't as much fun, but the conference left little time for leisure. But I did get a chance to enjoy some seafood.

 I hope you all have a remarkable weekend. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Visual people

The first time I stepped into this building was in 1983. I was beginning a new job after being surplused from my old one with MaBell.

I'd worked outside hanging miles of wire through the rural landscape of Central Alabama to connect phones for farmers, carpenters, and steelworkers. 

I enjoyed the work but at times it could be brutal. None of the service trucks were air conditioned then, so in August my van was like a furnace by lunchtime. 

It did have a heater but servicemen spend a great deal of time out in the elements where a heater does you little good.

I remember hanging on the south side of a telephone pole 30 feet off the ground with snow and ice blowing in my face. It was my last job before Christmas vacation and the people REALLY wanted their phone before the holidays. 

So I hung there, with the wind whistling in my ears. My fingers were frozen around the headset I used to call the assignment office. They were late coming back from their lunch Christmas party. I needed the cable pairs to make the connection for the phone. Cable pairs are the tiny twisted wires that connect a telephone to the world. 

As I hung there for what seemed like hours, I said to myself, "There's got to be a better way to make a living." The Universe must have heard me because when I came back from my Christmas vacation, my supervisor told me of cutbacks...and that I needed to find another job within the phone company or I'd lost my job.

I found a job as a computer attendant in the building above, and I worked there until March of 2010 when I was offered a voluntarily/involuntary separation. I could take the money and run, or stick around and take my chances. I ran.

The day I walked out of the building after 27 years there were geese on the top edge of the building. They honked as I walked to my truck. Some people, when the leave a job after working that many years, go back and visit. Not me. I never set foot in that building again.

This picture brought a flood of memory. We are a visual people.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow news day

It's been a slow news day here. I'm normally off on Wednesday, but the holiday on Monday made it a short week at work. Jilda is still recovering from the flu so I worked from home in case she needed to go back to the doc.

I'm not sure why, but I seem to get more done when working from my home office. There are fewer distractions, and it seems I can focus better.

The requirements for my job changed this year, so I'm having to revamp the approach to my work. Change is not a bad thing. It's easy to fall into a rut when you do the same thing for too long.

I wish I had something more profound to say. Maybe today would have been a good time to start Wordless Wednesday posts.

Grass Art

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time near the water

Thanks for all the kind comments from last nights post. It was a beautiful weekend. We saw two sunsets, two sunrises, and a waning moon that painted a blue-silver swath on the surf.

There were some beautiful shells on the beach. Most were small, but I find myself picking up the perfectly formed ones that survive the pounding surf. I wonder what story they would tell if they could talk? 

We spent one New Years at Blue Mountain Beach, Florida in the early 90's. Our friends had bought a beach house in the fall and we helped them move from Atlanta with my truck and some U-Haul trailers. A few months later, they invited us down to spend their first New Year's with them in their new home.

We talked into the night on New Year's Eve, sipped champaign, and ate the best seafood gumbo I've ever tasted. Our friend Ron was a gourmet chef. 

A storm moved into the Gulf and forks of lightning stabbed at anything tall enough to dare it. A warm front did battle with a cold front infringing on its territory. Rain pounded the metal roof. We turned the music up loud.

The next morning, we rose early in spite of late night toasting. Apparently, the warm front won, because it was almost warm enough to swim.

We hadn't been on the beach five minutes when I found a perfect coffee bean trivia. Jilda spotted a conch shell that looked like one you'd see on a gift shop shelf. We found Gulf oyster drills, Scotch bonnets, and a Pectin maximus. (Not sure about the capitalization.)

We have baskets of beautiful shells on our shelves and every time I look at them I think of that New Year's weekend, and our friends.

I hope you all get a chance to spend some time near the water.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Birthday at the beach ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My birthday is this week. I celebrate 66 years on the planet.

Through the years, the gifts from my lovely spouse Jilda have evolved. During the early years when my hair was thick and my waistline was thin, she gave me records, books, and snazzy clothes.

This year, I got sweatpants with an elastic waistband and an In-Tone Rebounder exercise machine. The refrain from an old Sheb Wooley song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore,” flitted through my head.

On the upside, we reserved a condo at Orange Beach for the weekend, and I’ll have an opportunity to spend some time by the water. It’s a great getaway in January because the kids are usually back in school and we have the beach to ourselves.

We rise early, sip coffee while waking up and then walk the shoreline. We normally spend this time in silence. There is no better place for contemplative strolls.

My thoughts go deeper as I fall into rhythm with the ebb and flow of the waves. The concept of time seems out of place there. No matter how old my birthday bones feel, my spirit soars making me feel younger — ageless.

The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean are like no other place on earth. When the sea is calm, the surf sounds like a whisper. But after storms, it sounds more like thunder, and you can feel the vibrations deep inside.

The colors at the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Panhandle of Florida are like no other beaches I’ve ever visited. The sand is so white it looks as if you could use it to sweeten tea.

It’s hard to put a label on the color of the water when the weather is fair. It’s not blue, and it’s not turquoise, but a fusion of many shades from that end of the spectrum. I’ve always wanted a 1967 Chevy Chevelle SS the color of the Gulf in January.

Another reason for loving the beach is fresh seafood. I know I say almost every food is my favorite, but seafood is very close to the top of the list.

Usually, when we go to the beach, we’ll have an oyster Po’ Boy sandwich at least one day for lunch along with a cup of seafood gumbo. Then at night, we’ll hit one of the restaurants where the locals go.

These places are often under the tourist’s radar. Last year when we asked a hotel concierge about a good place for seafood, he told us about a high-dollar place that gets all the press. We’d read about the place, but we were hoping for some out-of-the-way place. An older woman who worked in housekeeping overheard our question and stepped over as we walked away from the front desk. She told us about a small restaurant nearby where her family went for seafood. It was perfect!

I’m excited about my birthday getaway and for an opportunity to reflect on all the blessings in my life. But there is an old saying that resonates with me as I celebrate my 66th year — “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my knees.”

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Birthday boy

We spent the last two days at Gulf Shores on the Alabama Coast. As Jilda and I stopped at a red light, a blinking bank sign that reports the time and temperature. I glanced over and it as 3:25 and the temp blinked 81 degrees. It was Friday the 13 of January. 

Last year when we were here, it was much colder. When we walked on the beach I had to wear my L.L. Bean windbreaker. This year, I probably could have gone swimming at sunset. It was a low-key trip. We drove around and looked at beach properties. "This one has a good view, but I don't like the floorplan," said Jilda. "But this one has a great layout and faces the Gulf, and out the back, there's a view of the bay."  "O.K., it's settled. When we hit the lottery, we'll buy this one" I said. It's a game we play each year.

Other than house hunting, we didn't have a lot on the agenda. We walked on the beach and got in our steps while listening to the pounding surf and squawking pelicans. Walking on sand is a good workout plus, as Jilda says, "The beach is a natural luffa." We practiced for a few hours on our upcoming performance working out some of the rough spots. We both are reading good books by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I'm reading A Rural Life and she's reading his book entitled, A Few Lines About Writing. Both came highly recommended and after reading about half of mine, I knew buying them was a good choice.

Klinkenbork wrote opinion essays for The New York Times about life in the country. His prose is simply beautiful. I'm thankful our friend Christine Olhman recommended him.
Of course, we ate seafood for dinner last night with key lime pie for dessert. The birthday boy was happy. 

Jilda caught some kind of crud late last week and it hit her hard yesterday so we decided to head out early this morning so that she could contact her doctor if needed. 

As the coffee brewed this morning, I stepped out onto the balcony. Off to the east, the sun was peeking out of the Gulf. I felt honored that it was there to greet me on my 66th birthday. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017


I've loved boats all my life. When I was a child, I helped my granddaddy Pap build flat bottom skiffs under a black cherry tree in the corner of his yard. Well, helped him build might be a bit of bluster. I handed him a hammer and fetched nails when he ran low. Mostly I sat on a sawhorse and watched.

When I started to high school, I helped my dad built a small fishing cabin on the Black Warrior River. And soon after that, he bought a 14-foot V-bottom fishing boat. I was driving that boat long before I was old enough to drive a car, though I started driving early too.

I'm thinking a future column might be on the topic of boats. The idea came to mind today as I flipped through some old pictures trying to find something for tonight's blog.

I came across a photo I took a few years ago when we spent our anniversary in Fairhope, Alabama. Jilda and I walked down to the public pier which juts into Mobile Bay and I saw boats berthed on a wharf adjacent to the pier.

We'll see if the column develops. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Forks

The newspaper publisher called me recently and asked if I'd do a feature for the magazine on "The Forks." I've written about this place in the past. It's not far from where I live in Empire.

He wants a thousand words on why the place is special. This will be an easy one to write because I'm there almost daily. The small town of Sipsey has a community center, but that's not where they gather. They go to the Forks.

There is a crew of retired folks (both men and women) that come there every day. There are picnic tables at the edge of the parking lot but down by the water is where people gather. They bring lawn chairs and cooler. Some bring fishing equipment. A few weeks ago when I stopped by, the old guys were flying kites. I shaded my eyes against the evening sun and looked at the tiny dancing specks tethered to kite-cord. The guys were having a large time.

They talk to every fisherman who launches a boat, giving advice as needed. "Watch for submerged logs down by the bend." Or, "They're hitting shiners, and shad."

James Bramlett, the man who holds the world record for striped bass (70 pounds) stops by every few days to shoot the bull.

I contacted my 80+-year-old friend Leo to set up an interview and I'll get with him as soon as the weather moderates. I can't wait

Thursday, January 12, 2017


I was slothful over the holidays, barely picking up my guitar. Normally, I play a little every day, but after my oral surgery I guess I felt that with tender gums, I had a "Do Not Practice, Do Not Feel Guilty Card." But I didn't. When I didn't practice, I felt guilty.

After the first of the year when I picked up the guitar, my hand felt weak and my fingers couldn't find the notes. I shook my head and plowed on toward the refrain. By the time I'd played 30 minutes, the tips of my fingers throbbed. It's a temporary condition remedied by playing until they are numb. After a few hours of torture, the callouses harden which makes playing chords painless.

It's easy to let things go. Inertia is a formidable force. It sets in like rust on an old plough. One day it's shiny from use, and the next time you use the implement, the surface is pitted with rust. An old rusty plough can be beautiful in photographs, but over time, rust will consume it. Fortunately, once it's pressed back into service, the earth shines the surface like a polishing cloth.

Inertia is not our friend. Rest is good from time to time, but it's not wise to rest too much. Fortunately, after a few hours of practice, my fingers are tender but nimble again.

We're performing at a local coffee house at the end of the month and it will be good to get back in the saddle. And that's all I'm going to say about that, as Forrest Gump might say.

Our old garden disc

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Walking was just the ticket

The skies today we drab and gray. The weatherman said it would warm up, but I think he may be hitting the sauce again because I wore a sweatshirt most of the day.

Later this afternoon, the clouds moved out long enough for us to get some steps in. I'd been writing columns all day so a nice walk sounded good. The dogs were happy and so was our great nephew Jordan who spent a few hours with us while his nana went to the doctor.

Tonight I'm braindead so I'll make this post short. I had to look back through some old photos to find one that would suit. This is Caillou the Wonder Collie looking off of meditation rock which is on the land down behind the barn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


My college football team won a National Championship last year. They had one loss earlier in 2015 but hadn't lost a game since. They beat Clemson last year 45 to 40. It was a barn burner and at the end of that game, I felt as if I'd played three-quarters.

There were questions this year. Many of the stars on both sides of the line went pro. The Crimson Tide didn't start from scratch, but we had freshmen in many key positions including quarterback. There were many close calls, but our team survived the regular season and a playoff game on New Year's Eve against Washington.

The win set up a rematch with Clemson. The quarterback for the Tigers was seasoned and when interviewed, was articulate and apparently very smart.

Our quarterback, on the other hand, was playing quarterback for a high school team last year. He is a remarkable kid and he will do well for us in the next few years.

Our team played their hearts out, but the lost the game in the final seconds of the game last night.

I had a gut feeling it would turn out this way. That's because yesterday morning as I was hanging our Alabama Crimson Tide flag for game day, I dropped the flag. As I looked at it there on the ground, I said to myself "OH NO." I fought the urge to call Nick Saben and tell him that I'd blown it. I'd dropped the flag and that he should reschedule the game for another day.

At any rate, my team lost and I can't help feeling that it was my fault :(

Monday, January 09, 2017

Embracing winter ~ My column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: I wrote this column last Wednesday before the Snowmaggeden event.

I know I say this with every change of season, but it’s beautiful this time of year. After the drought last summer and fall, the trees looked tired. We had some color but not like years past. But then the rain came. It was refreshing not only for the trees but also for my spirit. It gave the earth a drink before turning in for winter.

Jilda loves winter, too. The moment the weatherman said we could have a little of the white stuff this coming weekend, she put up our “Let it Snow” flag on the arbor. I think it’s because she spent time as a child in Chicago. She talks fondly of times when it snowed booty-deep.

I think our great nephew Jordan took after her because he loves the snow too. He’s already
Snow Pie from a few years ago
taking orders for snow pies. I learned firsthand a few years ago about his snow pies. They are gnarly mixes of snow, grass, and small sticks. I can tell you that one of these babies upside the head was enough to do me.

We have stores of Carnation Cream, vanilla flavor, and sugar. All Jilda needs to complete the recipe for winter ice cream is snow.

I like snow now more than I did when I had to work in Birmingham. Snow is fine if you don’t have to drive in it. Drivers in the south haven’t mastered the use of turn signals, much less driving in snow.

After spending time in Panama, I grew tired of the oppressive heat year around. I realized that each season has things to offer and they are beautiful in their way.

Yesterday, after arriving home later than usual, I slipped on my sweatpants and walking shoes to get in some steps before dark. The dogs almost knocked me down when I opened the garden door. They love the cooler weather, and I admit that I do too.

At the end of my walk, I paused and leaned on the back fence for a few minutes surveying the sky. Through the trees, the horizon looked like it was ablaze. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a few frames, but pictures never do justice to the beauty of a moment.

Once back inside, I flipped through the daily mail. We received some bills, junk mail, and three seed catalogs. Setting the bills aside, I brewed a cup of green tea and sat on the sofa with the catalogs.

The pictures of tomatoes, squash, blueberries and apples in these catalogs are like visual crack to me. When I got to the section on flowers, I held the page close to my nose and sniffed it. The first company that invents a way to let you smell the bouquets will make a fortune.

Seed catalogs are like the old Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wishbooks we used to get when I was a kid. They give us a hint of good things to come. After a few months of sweaters and overcoats, the late winter sun will start warming the earth. That’s when the seeds and plants ordered in January will begin arriving. Waiting until after the last chance of frost is a test of willpower. Time has taught me to give every season their time.

Happy winter.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The trick to happiness

The weatherman says it there's a good chance it will rain while we're at the beach next week. I get a feeling he just said that to spite me, but here's the thing: I don't give a toot. I love walking in the rain on the beach.

We don't go to the beach these days to swim. We go to be near the sound of the pounding surf. The salty mist blowing off the gulf is like a medicinal ocean potion for the soul. Being near the water makes me feel taller.

Some of the great memories from my young adult life happened on the beaches of Alabama and Florida.

We had a chance to live there soon after Jilda and I were married. I landed a job in construction and I even worked a half day, but I felt deep down that it was not a good move at that point in our lives.  

I sometimes wonder how our lives would have turned out had I kept that job and our lives played out near the ocean. I fear it would not have remained special to us had we been there every day.

This place that we now call home would have belonged to someone else, and we would not have watched our nieces and nephews grow up. And we would not have been a big part of their lives. 

I don't waste a lot of time wondering "What if." There is little to be gained from wondering if life would have been better had I made one decision rather than another.  

The trick to happiness I think is to thankful for the blessings you receive each day.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


I'm surprised I still have contact with the outside world tonight. It was touch and go. Last night I walked onto the deck to check the weather and a stiff wind out of the north rustled the pines. That's when the snow began falling.

After about the fourth flake, I realized I probably should have bought a few dozen more loaves of bread and gallons of milk.

It was a sleepless night, tossing and turning and stepping to the window every few minutes to see if I could still see outside.

This morning, I bundled up in my longhandles, sweat suit, toboggan, and gloves before heading outside. It only took a moment to realized the full extent of the weather emergency. I tried to decide whether or not to call EMS or the Governor's hotline to report the situation in Empire.

In the end, after a survey of the property, I realized that there was a good chance we would survive.

Thank goodness I was able to snap a picture to document the snow storm for historical purposes.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Maybe snow

It's been cold today. Jilda whipped up an egg and bacon sandwich for breakfast. Sitting at the kitchen table eating, sleet started ticking on the roof. The weatherman said it would be tonight before precip moved in, but there it was at 9 a.m. Just enough fell to make walking on the deck treacherous.

Wisely, the local schools canceled classes today so Jordan spent time with us. He and Jilda were disappointed that the snow didn't move on in, but we still had fun anyhow.

There are bands of the white stuff off to the west, but we're right on the boundary so it's hard to say if we'll get any or not. We'll know by morning.

Y'all have a great weekend.
This photo is a rerun of one I took a few years ago.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Thursday things

The skies were smoke-gray today. Low hanging clouds ambled across the sky and wind out of the north stood goosebumps on my arms when I got out of the truck at work. I was glad Jilda insisted I put on a wool scarf. I wouldn't wear a scarf when I was younger because...well I don't recall why I wouldn't wear them.  The older I get, I think they are a great addition to my wardrobe.

I had a couple of coaching sessions at the campus in the county seat and afterward I headed back to my office.  All last year, the office next to me was vacant which gave me a great place to store my work supplies, but I got a note from the campus dean last night telling me that a new instructor needed the space.  

My office, which is fairly small, is now a little cramped. I'll wind up storing some of the things at home. I really like my space at work to have room to breathe.

I shot several pictures today, but the light made everything flat and uninteresting. So tonight, I flipped back through Google Photos at pictures I took in January 2015. I realized I was in San Diego, California in January 2015. 

There were several pictures to choose from, but I decided on one that I took the first evening there from the balcony of my hotel. 

That was a great trip and I hoped to get a chance to go again and take Jilda, but this year's conference is in Cleveland.  I pinged my blog buddy Yaya to see if she lived anywhere near Cleveland and as it turns out, she's not that far away. I really hope we can work out our schedules out where we can have lunch with her.  I'll write more about this a little later on. 

The weatherman says we could have snow tomorrow. We'll see. Y'all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Tending blueberries

My lovely spouse incorporates blueberries into our menu often. We have blueberry protein shakes, blueberry waffles, and blueberry muffins. I toss fresh blueberries into my cereal in summer, and the often end up in fruit salads and other dishes.

We'd both have to get additional part-time jobs to buy these blueberries if we didn't grow them in our garden.

We've had them for some time, but I didn't REALLY know how to care for them until I attended a Master Gardener's class held by the county extension agent a few years ago. 

Since then, our blueberries have been off the charts.

Today, I bought a bale of peat moss and several bags of pine bark mulch to spread around the existing plants.

There were several offsprigs (is that a word?) that I dug up and planted a new row. I'd love to grow more blueberries than we can eat so that we could sell some and expand our crop.  

This evening Jilda is making homemade chicken soup. My back and bones are weary, but it's a good kind of weary. I hope you all have had a productive day.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New point of view

I went back to work today for the first time in over two weeks. I was afraid I'd have to call for directions down there, but I made it fine.

I'd worried about my plant in the window, but it was fine. I pampered and watered it as soon as I got there this morning and it perked up. I think it missed me.

I had to make up some time I'd missed just before leaving for Christmas so I was on campus late getting back home this evening.

Arriving home, I changed into my sweatpants and hit the walking path. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but there was still enough light to get my steps in. When I got back to the yard, I looked into the trees. The sky looked as if there was a fire in the distance. I snapped a picture through the trees.

I'm looking forward to getting away for a few days. That usually gives me a different perspective on life...a new point of view. I need that from time to time.

Monday, January 02, 2017

On guard

The college observed the New Year's holiday today but I had some training I needed to do. Rather than try and do the training during office hours, I decided to do it from the comfort of my couch today. 

It was a good day for it because rain moved in just after midnight and waves showers washed over Empire all night long. Today, it warmed up and we had one soaking shower after the other all day long. The rhythm of the rain sounded like music on the metal roof.

Ol' Hook normally spends most of his time outside protecting the masses from killer squirrels and chipmunks but he's not fan of the rain so he hunkered down by the garden door and stood watch from there.

Our other two dogs get hysterical when thunder rolls, but Ol' Hook who is deaf, doesn't get what all the excitement's about.

A few more days like today and our water tables should be replenished. I glanced at Facebook to which a few folks happy birthday, and I saw some entries where people were whining about the rain. 

After four months of drought, you will never hear me complain about the rain.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year's Day

Morning time during the holidays, you will find Jilda and I sipping our coffee and listening to holiday music by the light of our Christmas tree. It's a ritual we enjoy.

Normally, the tree is up about three weeks before Christmas but this year with my surgery in December, it threw our schedule off. This meant the tree went up late. 

We learned that putting the tree up closer to Christmas, we don't grow tired of the decorations before the big day.

But as both our grandmothers would have told you had you been within earshot – "Leaving the tree up after New Years is BAD LUCK." And who needs that? So we always take the tree down on New Year's day.

After breakfast this morning, we bundled up and walked the dogs. It wasn't that cold, but the wind was blowing a fine mist in our faces which made it feel much cooler than it was.

On the last lap, I got ahead of Jilda and came in through the front door. When she came through the back yard, she saw a deer bound through the field and into the woods. They keep a low profile during hunting season, so we don't often seem them during the daylight hours. I'm not sure if something spooked this one or what. I wish I had seen him.

Once back from the walk, we got down to business and with teamwork, we managed to have the decorations down and boxed up in a few hours.

This afternoon, when we sat down to rest a few moments, we noticed the great room looked much bigger.

We don't really do resolutions, but we both do goals. I finalized mine and Jilda did hers. As expected, several things appeared on both our lists.

This evening we did our final gathering for this holiday season. We got a chance to see my siblings and the children of my brother Neil which we adore. I really wish we saw them more often, but they are grown now with families of their own. 

I hope this New Year's Day has been a good one for you as well. 

This picture is from last December.

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