Friday, March 31, 2017

New girlfriend

Our niece Samantha called early this morning in a panic. She had an early appointment to take her dog Lady in to see the vet, but she had to be at work earlier than she'd planned. We live about 20 minutes from civilization so taking the dog back home would make her late. She needed me to follow her to the vet's office and bring Lady home after the checkup. Friday is an off day for me so I told her I'd go.

After the visit, Sam paid the tab and headed to work. Lady was a good girl during the visit, so I decided to give her a treat. 

Instead of heading directly home, I ran through the drive-thru window at Jack's which is a local fast-food restaurant that does breakfast well.  I got me a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and Lady a sausage biscuit. I placed the bag between us as I paid for the food. Lady smelled the bag and was very interested in the contents. 

I pulled into an empty parking space and sorted out the food. When I put the biscuit down in front of her she was SOOOO happy. I snapped a selfie just before we headed home.

I think she's now my new girlfriend.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday weather report

Forecasters predicted a slight risk for violent weather this afternoon so I headed out from work a little early. Jilda heads to work at two on Thursday so I wanted to get home to be with the pups in case there was stormy weather.

Our dogs prove Bob Dylan was right when he sang, "It don't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."  Our critters let us know bad weather approaches.

When Jilda left, I walked to the deck to get an analog weather forecast. The clouds weren't dark, but the trees swayed in the wind like hula dancers. All three dogs were underfoot.

As it turns out, the wind blew hard but the storms moved off to the east.  but distant thunder was enough to have Taz the wonder dog reaching up to get into my lap.

When she looks at me with that little otter face, I cannot refuse her. Ol' Hook looks at her, then at Caillou, before looking at me. He's deaf and totally confused as to why everyone is so excited. All he wants to do is play fetch with a tree limb about the size of the business end of a Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat.  

Before settling down on the steps of the back deck for a while, I snapped a picture of Taz. 

Hope you all have a great Friday and weekend.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bush hogging beast

I've been fighting privets and mimosas for years. Each summer I spend entire weekends cutting small
sections and dragging them to the burn pile.

It seemed that when I got to the end of one area, they had sprouted back up where I started. I said things the could likely have me in the hot seat on judgment day.

Jilda and I decided to hire a bush hogging service. He came out about a month ago and walked the property with me. He said it would take about four hours to cut down the underbrush and mulch it. When I looked around, I had my doubts but decided to leave it to the professionals.

He showed up at 1:30 this afternoon, and at 5;30 he was pulling his bush cutting tractor back onto his truck.

The place looks fantastic. I was too tired to shoot pictures of the finished project, but I'll do that tomorrow.

Tonight I'm weary, but I'm happy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Be here now

On Monday it was warm enough to lunch outside in the courtyard at work. The sun had warmed the cobblestone nicely and I had the picnic tables to myself.

In my lunchbox was a carton of homemade chicken soup that Jilda made the night before. I was hoping she'd send some to work with me and she didn't disappoint.

Sitting alone there, I had a chance to not only look around but to see.  Sometimes it's easy to miss things.  For example, this amber eye was on the sun-bleached picnic table hidden under my glass of tea. When I took a sip, I saw the wood eye observing. 

It seemed to be saying, "Slow down. Listen. Look. Smell the earth. Be here now."

After snapping a picture, I thought about that concept. Be here now.  Jilda teaches this in her yoga classes. It's harder than it sounds. But when you get it right, it's worth it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lost art ~ My column from Sunday's paper

There are memories from my childhood that faded with time, but some are as fresh as cut flowers. One such memory is of my great grandmother working in her tiny kitchen.

During the summer, she canned fresh vegetables she’d picked that morning from her garden. The lines of Mason Jars filled with squash, tomatoes, peppers and pickles looked like rainbows on her pantry shelves.

She was meticulous in her approach to her work. When I asked her where she learned how to can food, she said, “There’s an art to it that I learned from my mother.”

Another memory is of my grandpa working in his blacksmith shop behind his house in Sloss Hollow. The ping, ping, ping of his hammer against the hot metal of horseshoes sounded like a broken bell. Again, when I asked how he learned to be a blacksmith, he said he learned it from an old friend.

A few years ago, we decided to restore some old chairs that we inherited from Jilda’s family. They were cane-bottom chairs, with bottoms long past their expiration date. We asked friends where we could have our antique chairs repaired. A friend told us about an older gentleman who lived on a back road between Morris and Pinson.

Loading the chairs in my truck, I wound my way to his house on two-lane roads. He greeted me in his front yard. We agreed on a price, and I left the chairs in his care. A few days later, he called to say the chairs were ready. When I arrived, he had them sitting out next to his driveway. They looked as good as new except they now had a story behind them. His workmanship was amazing. We stood in the warm morning sun and talked for a while about the art of canning.

When these craftsmen are gone, we will have lost something valuable.

I always thought there was a need for a folk school that taught these skills. A school that helped to keep folk art alive.

Several years ago, I heard about the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell. But a busy schedule kept me from pursuing the things they had to offer.

This past weekend, Jilda and I had an opportunity to attend the Alabama Folk School Songwriting Workshop. When we researched the presenters, we realized they were the “real thing.” Tom Kimmel and Sally Barris both are successful songwriters. They write the kind of songs we strive to write.

The rustic lodge where we stayed stood on the edge of a hollow overlooking a small creek. There were groups attending workshops on water conservation and blacksmithing, but these groups were in other lodges around the property.

Settling in, we found the area peaceful. Carrying our bags, I heard the soothing sound of an acoustic guitar somewhere in the distance. I knew we would have a good experience here.

One young woman looked around at the circle of songwriters and said, “This place feels like home.” She wasn’t just talking about the buildings but the people and the things we were learning. We all nodded in agreement.

Learning new things can be life changing. The Alabama Folk School is a good place to start. Check out the calendar of upcoming events at You may learn something new that will help keep folk art alive.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Getting all philosophical and what not

I fretted that the cold snap this past week would nip our Carolina Jasmine that canopies our arbor. The 80-degree temps earlier last week temped the plant to put on fat buds. I know, some people fret about world peace and true happiness, but I fret about our plants.

But today when Jilda stepped out to feed the birds, I heard her say, the jasmine is blooming. That made me truly happy. So in a sense, I was fretting about true happiness...but I digress.

At lunch today, our great niece and nephew invited us to lunch with them. They just moved into a new home they built. It was a beautiful place. Huge kitchen and bathrooms, with closets that were big enough to hold kindergarten classes. Both of these kids work really hard. Jonathan spends more time in Europe and the Middle East than he spends at home. She does medical research. Both are incredible kids. My fellow baby boomers tend to crack on the younger generation, but what they/we don't understand is that they grew up in a different time.  Some of the young folks are slackers, but there were a lot of slackers in our generation too. 

I know you didn't expect this post to address generational topics as well as world peace and true happiness, but hey – I've learned that when you are in the blogosphere, there's no telling what you might encounter.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wild Honeysuckles

The hollow beside our house and barn are filled with wild honeysuckles. They are related to the azaleas if I'm not mistaken. The bushes closest to meditation rock down behind the barn bloom first. The morning sun warms rocks as big as Volkswagens, and the bushes closest to that warmth thrive.

We've tried a number of times to transplant the bushes from the hollow into our yard. A few years ago, we decided to give it one more try.

Apparently, we found the right place or perhaps we were holding our mouths right when we planted it, but this one lived.

Jilda saw the first blossom before I did and snapped a picture for her blog. I waited a few day and shot this picture yesterday.

Mother Nature knows her stuff.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cane bottom chairs

We have several cane-bottom chairs. One of them is a chair that Jilda's grandmother Mamie gave Jilda and me when we married. It was old when she gave it to us. Now it has to be a least a hundred years old. 

The cane in the bottom weakened from age, and some of the strands began to break. Rather than keep it here, we stored it in the old house down at the barn.

We have three others that her mother gave us. A few years ago, we decided to restore them all. We started with two of them.  An elderly gentleman who re-canes chairs told us he could do that work. We decided to give him a try. He worked slow, but the end result was beyond expectation. The two chairs he repaired were beautiful.

Attending the folk school last week, reminded us that we still had two chairs that needed repair. When I called Mr. Lofton, he said he moved even slower these days, but if we weren't in a hurry, he'd be happy to re-cane our chairs. We took them this morning.

We stood in his yard and talked for a long while. He said that people asked him all the time why he didn't retire and "stop fooling with those old chairs?" His response was, I love doing that work. I'm glad he does and I can't wait to get Mamie's chair back in our house.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy Birthday Jilda

Jilda and I first met when she was in eighth grade. She had on an antique dress and playing the pump organ at a history fair. She must have been 13 years old. She had long blonde hair and blue eyes the color of the 1956 Thunderbird that I loved. We didn't chat much, but I remembered eyes.

My senior year in high school, I dated one of Jilda's best friends. Just before my big day, she broke it off with me, leaving me dateless on graduation.

I asked her if she would consider going to graduation with me. Actually, I think something suave and debonaire like, "You wuddn wanna go to graduation wid me wud you? She said yes, and it started there.

I was drafted in 1971, during Vietnam. We ended up parting while I was away. But not long after I returned in 1973, we got back together. A year later, in 1974 we married on the front porch of a house trailer in Brewton, Alabama. The preacher who lived in the trailer was once the minister at the church where Jilda and her folks attended.

That was May 5, 1974. The day was warm. I had a Canon camera that cost more than the car we drove. It was a fully manual film camera. The preacher's wife shot a ton of pictures during the ceremony, none of which were in focus. To say our ceremony was a blur is an understatement.

Today, Jilda celebrates her 65 birthday. I've helped her celebrate almost fifty of them. It's been an amazing journey. 

I am so thankful her friend dropped me on the eve of my graduation. 

Happy Birthday to Jilda.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring cleaning phase I

It was cooler here today. The morning began with an overcast sky, and I wondered if it would rain.  But it didn't.

Jilda drove to work, but the regular attendees were no-shows, so she headed home. 
We decided to approach spring chores differently this year. In the past, we chose a day, worked until we were frazzled, and then crashed. Tender knees and sore shoulders have taught us to pace ourselves. So that's what we did today. 

We made a list of all that we need to do and then divided it into chunks. The first piece we worked on today.

It's actually much easier using this approach because we weren't dragging at the end of the day. In fact, I decided to do a little prep work in the yard. 

Firing up the old lawn mower, I cut the backyard. After that, I decided to till up our small garden patch by the fence.  Ol' Hook went out with me to the garden and chased butterflies.

The mower and tiller cranked as expected, so I made short work of the last two chores of the day.

Color me spring-happy. I hope your day has been productive too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy spring

I checked out a state car from the carpool today and headed west to Fayette. It's spring break at the college, but the staff still works. That's OK with me because if I don't work, I don't get paid. 

My partner is still new to the job, and he needed some coaching on how to enter data. He would have driven to my office, but it was such a lovely day, I decided to take one for the home team :)

Punching the Audible icon on my phone, I listened to the last few chapters of the Bruce Springsteen autobiography as I drove. The vehicle had all the fancy stuff. At one point, when I looked at the dash, the thermometer read 87 degrees. The first days of spring and it was warm enough to swim.

It's amazing what a little warm weather does to plants. At one point on a winding country road, I came upon a scene that caught my eye. The mirror showed no one was in sight either behind or ahead of me, so I pulled to the side of the road. Leaving the car idling, I got out and stepped over to a pasture fence and snapped a few pictures. I'm not sure what kind of grass has yellow flowers, but I plan to do research and plant that grass in my fields.

We had a few days of chilly weather this winter, but I didn't need a coat.

Happy spring.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Are there any UFOs still out there? ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Click HERE to see source for picture

I wonder what happened to UFOs? When I was younger, people around the world reported seeing them in the sky. Those living in Alabama and Mississippi trailer parks had a front row seat. Maybe the crafts used magnets for propulsion and metal structures attracted them. Or maybe it was the smell of fried chicken that enticed them to the south, but UFOs were more common here. Jilda and I lived in a trailer park for almost ten years, but we never saw any UFOs.
I worked for The Community News in the early 1970s. One evening I got a call from a reader that lived in the Red Star Hill community below Dora. “We can see UFOs down here.” Ever the newsman, Jilda and I hopped in my trusty, rusty Plymouth Valiant and headed down to Red Star Hill.
We arrived as dusk faded into the darkness of a moonless night. There were about 20 people standing around swatting mosquitoes off their arms and looking into the sky.
After greeting us, Mrs. Combs pointed to the east and said, “They would hover there for a few minutes and an instant later they’d be over there.” She pointed to the south. “They had flashing lights that changed colors, and moving faster than any airplane I’ve ever seen.” Several neighbors nodded in agreement. I had no doubt they saw something in the sky.
We stood outside with eyes glued to the sky for a long while. A photograph of an unidentified flying
object would be big news. I saw a couple shooting stars, but no UFO.
When the munching mosquitos became unbearable, Mrs. Combs invited us inside for a glass of ice tea. Jilda and I both knew Mrs. Combs for most of our lives. We sat on her sofa and talked about UFOs and the possibility of intelligent life “out there.”
Fast forward to the present. Astronomers announced in February that they’d found seven inhabitable planets. That means they could potentially support life. One scientist said, “…They are all about the same size as earth. And they’re at the right distance from their star so that they could have a kind of climate that, you know, you might enjoy in Washington D.C.” The planets are in the TRAPPIST-1 system which is 39 light years away. Since we haven’t developed a Star Trek hyper drive yet, it might be a minute before we can travel there. But who knows?
I think the work has already begun. I read recently where the billionaire businessman Elon Musk is working on a project to send a manned spacecraft to the moon in 2018. His goal is to make space travel available to regular citizens with pockets deep enough to pay for a ticket. I think I’ll wait until they work out the kinks before buying a ticket. But taking a honeymoon cruise around the moon would be exciting. It’s fun to think about. It might only be a matter of time before Wal-Mart opens a location on Lunar Avenue.
If a UFO came to our planet today, there’s a chance we’d be out of luck. Once they saw all the insane things going on, they might assume there is no intelligent life here and move on to other parts of the Universe.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Better art

There is something soul-affirming when you are surrounded by a group of kindred spirits. I'm talking about people pursuing an art or craft for the pure purpose of perfecting your that you can do something you love even better.

Our instructors for the weekend were Sally Barris and Tom Kimmel. They both have songs recorded by artists you've heard on the radio, and some of their songs were used in movies.

They gave freely of they knowledge, skills, and experience in a difficult field.  Making money writing songs has always been difficult, but the way the world now consumes music is changing. People are moving away from commercial radio and listening more to streaming services where they can make everything on their playlist a song they love.

That sounds good, but streaming services pay a fraction of what radios pay in royalties. That means less money for the creators of music. But as I've often said, "If you're getting into songwriting for the money, you're getting into the wrong business." 

Most of the people attending the workshops this weekend didn't come to learn how to earn money writing songs, but to learn how to create better art.

Stone and Iron Sculpture in the front of the chapel at Camp McDowell

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Magical Saturday

We had not WIFI at the Alabama Folk School so here is the post from last night.

Jilda and I were invited to attend a workshop at the Alabama Folk School this weekend. The events included a Songwriter workshop and a beginning Blacksmith workshop.  Rooms were included at a beautiful rustic lodge. Had it been a little cooler, we would have built a fire in the fireplace.

Today (Saturday) after a day of seminars on how to improve your song structure, the group of 11 songwriters along with two instructors, collaborated on a song. Together we wrote the chorus and one verse so that everyone would know the structure and melody. Then we all split up into groups to write individual verses.

Normally, Jilda and I co-write with others, but the instructor thought it would be a good idea for us to work with other people.  Neither of the two people in my group had ever co-written before. It's an interesting exercise that requires a few ground rules, some trust, and an open mind. It was fun, and the instructor recorded the music, and each team sang their verse. 

The end result may be a little wonky, but the exercise was a good one for teambuilding.

I'm not sure if I can send this out tonight because I can't seem to get a WiFi signal. If not, I'll send it out when I get home.

I hope your Saturday has been as interesting.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Learning new things

Jilda and I have an opportunity to attend a songwriter workshop at the Alabama Folk School. The event comes up in a few weeks and we asked ourselves if we thought a workshop would be helpful. We’ve been writing songs for over 40 years. The thing is, the more we learn, the more we realize I don’t know squat.

Our songwriter friend Andfew
I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography right now. I've always loved his music. Bruce takes a deep dive on the various projects he’s done through the years – what was going on in his life, what he was thinking, and why he wrote the songs the way he did. After each segment in which he discusses particular songs, I stopped the book, went to Spotify and listened to his song. Listening to music in this way is giving me a deep appreciation for his songwriting approach.

Jilda and I both hope the upcoming workshop is a good one. There is nothing more rewarding than learning things that can help you do your work better.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Morning light

The light this morning at sunrise was nothing less than remarkable. The sun painted the high-level clouds and made them look like wisps of cotton candy strewn across the sky. When I went to the kitchen to refill our coffee cups, I noticed the crowns of the trees in the garden and further down the field close to the barn were golden.

I was doubtful whether the camera in my phone could capture the color, but it did a pretty good job.

My contacts, for the last several days, have been almost unbearable. I'd ordered new ones over two weeks ago but they were delayed until today.

After work, I drove into Birmingham to fetch them. Most of the roads into the city are under construction. Normally, a trip to Hoover, which is south of Birmingham, takes a little less than an hour, but with traffic delays, it can take twice that long.

I decided to go the back way and dodge the construction. It took a little longer, but the traffic flowed.

This evening I feel as though I've been "Rode hard, spurred deep, and put up wet," as the old saying goes.

I hope today has been a good one for you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rooster ruckus

The last few months, every morning is a crowing fest. Somehow we wound up with three roosters. This wasn't a problem when they were younger because their boy junk hadn't developed enough to understand where they fit in. We have Zeus, an old rooster we've had for years and he kept everything in line. But as the young roosters matured, things got combative. Each bird trying to stake out territory. They ALL wanted to service the hens.  

A few days ago there was a rooster ruckus in the backyard and when I went out there, feathers were flying.

I made a decision to rid myself of at least one of the boys. We decided the youngest one was the one we'd give away if we could find him a home.

I put a picture on Facebook and several people expressed an interest, but no one had a pen and chickens are a commitment.

Today, when I went to the feed store to pick up some scratch feed, I asked the proprietor if he knew of someone who needed a rooster.

A guy in line buying scratch feed asked, "What kind of rooster." I had no idea what kind, so I told him he was a white rooster.

I remembered that I had taken a picture of the young bird and I flipped to the picture and showed the guy. He immediately said he'd love to have it. He went on to say that he had four hens and he was about to go to a local trade day and buy one. I told him I'd give him this one. The deal was done.

This afternoon, I loaded up the young rooster and met his new owner near the river. The guy said he had to get the rooster home and turn on the heat in the chicken roost. Sounds like my young feathered friend hit the lottery with his new home.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Time change - not a fan

While reading my blog buddy Jack's post this evening, he mentioned the time change. It reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in years. I worked in an AT&T data center with hundreds of computers that did everything from keeping tabs on phone bills, salaries, and yellow pages sales, to tracking how much gas the fleet burned daily.

In those days, the computers didn't change the time programmatically as the do now. Each computer had to be shut down so that the time could be adjusted manually. These computers ran constantly. Commerce never sleeps. The only time they were down was if a part failed or the time changed.

Often when we shut them down to adjust the time, they wouldn't come back up. Time change weekends were brutal. For those working inside those frosty walls (computer data centers are COLD), time change weekends were not fun.

Slow rewind to the lives led by our grandparents. They probably didn't fret about time changes. They went to bed when it got dark and they got up when it got light. I never once heard them complain.

The picture below is of Mamie and Johnny – Jilda's grandparents on her dad's side of the family. I'm not sure he ever owned a watch, though I can't verify that. They also never drove a car or ever owned one.

When it came time for groceries, they walked a couple miles down the road to the local country store and bought what they needed and walked back home.

Sometimes they walked the five miles to Sumiton, which was the nearest "Big City." Sumiton had a post office, pool hall, and a po-lice. They also had a dry goods store and a drug store.

When I look at the picture below, I don't get a sense that they were unhappy people. Time for them was buzzing mosquitoes and swooping bats in the evenings, and a rooster alarm clock. 

What about you? Do you like this time change or do you get your panties in a wad like me?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Why I blog ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The seeds of this column came from my Life 101 blog entry on March 7, 2017. 

The sky was ash gray when I left for work this morning. On the way to my office, I flipped on my wipers. There was just a smattering of rain at first. The lack of moisture made my new blades squawk against the windshield. But that soon changed. By the time I pulled into the parking space about 7:30, the blades were sweeping gallons of water off the glass.

Standing at my office window, I twisted the clear acrylic rod hanging from the top of the window. Opening the blinds a little more gave me a better view of the courtyard from my

A student scurried from the admin building under an umbrella. A gust of wind whipped out of the south. I thought it might be a Mary Poppins moment, but she leaned into the wind ran for the cover of the portico. It rained all day.

There was no chance for a good photograph for the blog I write each night, so as I often do, I went to the archives.

I came across a picture of me in front of an Orvis store. Orvis is a high-end store that sells fly fishing gear and apparel, among other things. I had a big goofy smile on my face, and I was wearing a new hat.  For the life of me, I could not remember where we were when Jilda took the photo. When I looked at the metadata (an electronic timestamp), the date read October 22, 2011. Still no idea.

On a whim, I looked back through my blog posts from October 2011. I saw that we were in Apex, North Carolina on that date. I remembered that we’d driven there so that Jilda could attend a yoga training. Yoga Warrior training helps yoga instructors understand how to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition sometimes occurs after traumatic life events like war, disasters, or extreme emotional episodes. 

After classes one day, we drove around exploring. When I saw the Orvis store, we had to go in. Inside, I sipped hot apple cider as I browsed box after box of exotic flies with names like Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Muddler Minnows, and Zebra Midges. I had to fight the impulse to give them my American Express Card in exchange for everything in the fly fishing session. As I read back through my blog post and journal from that day, I could almost smell the rustic cedar beams.

People often ask me if I get paid to blog every day. I tell them I that I write each day because it helps me on my path to becoming a better writer. The questioner usually shakes their head as if I had an incurable disease.

But another benefit of writing each day is that it provides a historical record. Life is often mundane at times, and it goes by fast. We don't always do things that will make the world a better place. Sometimes we do things as simple as shop for fishing flies or buy a new hat. But these are the small threads that make up this wacky tapestry of our lives. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wrong turn

Yesterday driving thought Eastern Mississippi on the way home, we came to a T intersection where you go right or left. We've been at this intersection many times, but I remember the first time we were here.

We'd taken an unfamiliar road.  As we sat at the intersection, I looked left and right searching for clues that would tell me which way to go. A road sign that said take a  left to go to Rick and Jilda's house would have been encouraging. But there were no signs. It's a lonely place, so we sat there debating. The road atlas was in the trunk, and I could have put the car in park, flipped the trunk lid and fetched the map, but as a man, that's almost like cheating. Jilda suggested we go to the right, so I took a left.

A few miles down the road, we came to a beautiful old Methodist Church in Giger, Alabama. From the parking lot of that church, I could have thrown a rock to Mississippi.  Stepping out of the car, I snapped some pictures.

The church felt like a sacred place. Standing in front, I could hear a crow cawing off in the distance. Even thought the church was on a state highway, I couldn't hear the sound of whining tires on asphalt from either direction.

I fetched the atlas from the trunk, and as I took pictures, Jilda sat on the hood trying to figure out where we were, and which way to go to get home. 

"We should have gone the other way." "Hmmm." I said,  "Why didn't you say so." She was not amused. 

A few hours we pulled into our driveway. The thing about taking the wrong turn is that it's rarely terminal. Most of the time you go in the wrong direction for a while, but at some point you realize it, do a course correction, and find your way home. My philosophy is, "We're on a sphere. We could keep driving in the same direction, and one day we'd wind up back to where we are."

The thing about taking a wrong turn is that you can always turn around and backtrack. But sometimes you see things you would never have seen. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A change in the weater

The difference in foliage is remarkable few hours south, and west of here. As part of Jilda's birthday gift, we went out of town yesterday. While the weather here has been stunning, it was even stunninger (is that a word?) in Mississippi.

You could spot a difference even in South Alabama. While the tips of the highest branches in the oak and hickory sport a hint of green at the tips here, further south, the leaves have vaulted out. The redbuds are in full bloom along with another tree with red flowers that I can not name.

Driving through one small Mississippi town, the sides of the road were weeping with wisteria blossoms. I rolled down the window to see if I could catch a hint of the scent. The only way I can describe how the wisteria blossoms smell is a smell from my childhood. The big purple bubblegum the size of a golfball. Chewing that gum gave your teeth and jaws a workout. And it left your mouth and teeth a vivid purple. Wisteria smells like that bubblegum.

We passed one beautiful old southern home situated on the corner lot of small Mississippi town. The landscape of the yard was stunning without looking as if the owner had a crew of landscape architects. The front yard had several dogwoods in full bloom along with red azaleas. It was beautiful.

A car behind me and narrow streets kept me from pulling to the side to snap a picture. So I took a mental picture.

This morning when we headed out, the temps had dropped like a stone. By the time we hit the highway the rainfall began.

A friend in Nashville which is a few hours in the other direction posted a video on Instagram of snow falling in hear yard. The weatherman says flurries could fall here tomorrow.

We'll see what effect a cold snap has on the green stuff.

Friday, March 10, 2017

We suffer

Storms stomped through last night. Caillou, the wonder collie, has ears like a bat. Long before we heard the thunder rolling in the distance, he came into our bedroom from his bed in our office. He tried jumping onto the bed between Jilda and me. 

I pushed him down before he launched upward and spoke to him in gentle hushed tones.

As the storm slammed ever closer, I knew he would be inconsolable. I slipped out of bed with Caillou making every step with me. In our doggie medicine cabinet, I found the Benedryl. Measuring a small amount into the medicine syringe (no needle), I squirted the drug into his mouth.

It takes a while for it to take effect, so I took my pillow to the great room. Lying down on the couch, I coaxed him beside me on the floor. It took a lot of petting and hushed tones of praise to get him settled down.

The storm moved through, and when the thunder subsided, he went to sleep.

When we got up this morning for coffee, he hadn't moved from the spot where I left him. 

When we poured our coffee and sat down on the couch, he opened his eyes. I'm sure his head felt like a sponge from the medication. He was happy to see the morning sun peeping through the glass of the front window. 

This evening as we finished our walk, I heard a jet whispering across the sky dragging a string of cotton yarn behind it. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture. I had to squat with protesting knees to get the plane and the sunset in the frame. It hurt. But we all suffer for our art :)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Spring can't be far away

Each year when the weather warms, the college holds lunchtime events in the courtyard outside my office window.

They set up large speakers under the portico just a few feet from my desk. The music is usually songs I've never heard. While the speakers are pointed away from me and toward the courtyard, the volume is such that it's very hard to ignore. In fact, I let a few calls go to voice mail rather than scream into the mouthpiece, I CAN'T TALK JUST NOW THE STUDENTS ARE DANCING OUTSIDE MY WINDOW.

I tried to focus for a while, but then I snapped my laptop closed, grabbed a bottle of Gatorade from my cooler and stepped into the sunny courtyard to join the festivities.

I love this time of year. I'm sure the instructors have a hard time reaching their students when the days are this beautiful.

A table near the gazebo had chicken wings and other finger food. I fixed a plate and sat for a while
in the sun. There's nothing like the sound of laughter echoing off of cobblestone.

When lunch hour ended, everyone slowly drifted back inside to desks, lectures, and other bookish things.

This evening when I got home, I took the dogs for a speedwalk to finish off the number steps I needed to reach my daily goal.  Afterward, I sat on the stone bench in the backyard and sipped on a bottle of water. A few feet from my feet, I saw these tiny beauties poking up through the pine straw.

Spring can't be far away.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tote that barge, Lift that comma

The rain moved out sometime after midnight. Jilda teaches an early-morning class on Wednesday, so we were up at 5 a.m. 

I punched the brew button on the coffeemaker as she got her yoga britches on. Shortly after she sat down to sip the steaming mug of coffee we noticed a bank of fog move in. Maybe it was there earlier and obscured by darkness, but it looked as thick as soup.

Apparently, it looked worse than it was because she easily made it into work. By the time she returned, the sun was out.

We munched a bowl of granola before heading out for our morning walk. Outside the garden gate, I stepped over to check on the blueberry progress. I'm happy to report that all bushes are loaded with blossoms. This means we should have another bumper crop.

We still have bags of frozen blueberries from last year. The husband of one of our friends is undergoing chemo for throat cancer and he'll be on a liquid diet for weeks. Jilda sent her a note and suggested doing blueberry smoothies for breakfast. The woman thought that was a great idea. We took her a gallon bag of blueberries to get started.

Today has been a gift. Both Jilda and I have spent a great deal of time on writing chores. She had a column due, and I had three due today. Tote that barge, lift that comma.

We finished up and I'm surprised I had anything left for tonight's blog. 

I hope you all have had a remarkable day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


The sky was ash gray when I left for work this morning. On the way down, I had to flip on my wipers. There was not much rain at first and my new blades squawked because there was more dry space than wet to be wiped, but that soon changed. By the time I pulled into the parking space about 7:30, the blades were sweeping gallons of water off the windshield.

Standing at my office window, I twisted the clear acrylic rod hanging from the top of the window to open the blinds a little more so that I could get a better view of the courtyard from my desk.

A student scurried from the admin building under an umbrella. A gust of wind whipped out of the south and I thought it might be a Mary Poppins moment but she ran for the cover of the portico. It rained all day.

There was no chance for a good photograph, so as I often do, I went to the archives.

I came across this picture of me in front of an Orvis store, but for the life of me, I could not remember where it was taken. When I looked at the metadata, it said the picture was taken October 22, 2011. Still no idea.

On a whim, I looked back through my blog posts from October 2011 and I saw it was taken in Apex, North Carolina. I'd driven Jilda up there for Yoga Warrior training. That was a specialized session that taught her how to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in soldiers returning from Afghanistan. 

After classes one day, we drove around exploring. When I saw the Orvis store, we had to go in. They have all kinds of fishing stuff. I bought several flies, some tippet, and a hat.

Having a historical reference is another great reason to blog every day.  Life is often mundane at times and it goes by fast. We don't always do things that will make the world a better place, sometimes we do something as simple as buying a new hat. But even this is one of the small threads that make up this wacky tapestry of our lives.

Monday, March 06, 2017

On the road again

The road felt like my office this past week. Wednesday, the weather radar showed rain moving in from the south, so I tossed a tent-sized umbrella behind the seat before heading out. Meetings took me to the northern and western parts of Alabama. Some people dread the driving, but not me. I think I inherited a restless gene from my dad’s side of the family.
After the meetings, the rain had moved off to the east. The sun-heated cab of my truck caused me to shed my jacket and roll up my sleeves. Instead of flipping on the AC, I cranked down the window on the driver’s side. It was one of those days when it seemed like I had the Interstate to myself. Sticking a hand out the window, it darted up and down like a fleshy kite each time I changed the angle of my fingers. As I got lost in the sensation of the rushing wind against my skin, my mind began to wander back in time.
When I was still in grammar school, dad sometimes drove our family to the edge of Walker
County on Sunday. Piling into our old car, we would amble along the backroads through Sipsey and Piney Woods. The destination was the construction site where workers were building Lewis-Smith Dam. There was a place high on a hill that overlooked the area. People drove from all around to see the work in progress. From our lofty vantage point, the bulldozers and large trucks looked like toys. It didn’t take a great deal to entertain us in those days.
Thinking back, we didn’t have a lot of disposable income then, and gas was cheap. It didn’t cost much to take a fun ride. It was something our family enjoyed.
My dad also spent time driving alone. I’m sure there were days when he felt the walls closing in around him. His only respite was the time spent behind the wheel of his car. I asked him once why he drove around alone. He said, “Sometimes you just need to ride.” I didn’t understand then, but I do now.
While collecting my families’ oral history several years ago, my grandmother told me a story about my grandfather Pap. He loved riding around too, but they didn’t have a car back then. She said one summer, he hopped a train and headed north with no destination in mind. She had young kids at home and wasn’t sure when he’d be back, or IF he’d come back.
After a few days, Elmer, a boy that lived with my grandparents, decided to go looking for Pap. He walked to the depot in Dora, hopped on an empty boxcar, and headed out.
A day or so later, he jumped out of the boxcar somewhere in Kentucky in a hobo friendly freight yard. He wanted to find something to eat and try to figure out where to look for Pap. Just outside the freight yard was a trestle that spanned a creek. The hobos used the creek to bathe while waiting for their train to roll out. When Elmer headed down to the creek, he saw Pap standing “nakid’ as a jaybird” atop the trestle over the water. Cranked up on moonshine whiskey, Pap was fearless. Elmer watched as Pap jumped off the trestle into the creek. He fished Pap from the water, and the next morning they swayed back home on a southbound train.
It felt good being out on the road yesterday. The memory of these stories brought a smile to my face and made my ride home even more enjoyable.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The slow process begins

I worked on taxes again today. It's a slow process collecting all the data in one place. I do a good job of preserving what we need, but putting it all together is grueling work. If I were a little more organized throughout the year, it would be easier. Each January I'm full of good intentions, but by mid-year, I tend to slack off and simply stuff things in folders in my file cabinet.

The following year, my self-esteem takes a beating during tax season and swearing to myself that I will do better the coming year...and so forth.

Today I did most of the easy stuff. I plugged in all the household expenses, land tax, car tags, and our charitable giving along with the receipts in my organized tax folder.

If I don't jab a sharpened pencil through my temple first, I should be through with our taxes by the end of this week.

At 3:30 p.m. I knocked off because I heard the dogs barking in the back yard. Our friend Fred was coming over for dinner and that seemed like a perfect excuse to quit for the day.

Jilda made spaghetti and a sour cream crumb cake that was absolutely out of this world. It was a delightful way to end the day.

The day was overcast so I looked back at last March and found a picture I took of an ornamental cherry tree in the courtyard outside my office window.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

They must know something

It was down in the 20s (F) last night, but once the sun crested over the hollow, it chased the frost away.

The temps rose rapidly throughout the morning and by the time we'd finished our coffee and our morning chores,  our walk was quite pleasant. I wore sweatpants and a short sleeve shirt, but Jilda wore her jacket.

The day had warmed enough that the blueberry blossoms were covered in bees. The worked as if there wasn't a moment to lose. Now that is what I call purpose.

After the walk, I pulled our wrought iron chairs from the table and dragged it to the edge of the deck so that I could sit and feel the warm sun on my face. I saw something flit across the edge of my peripheral range of my left eye. Snapping my face in that direction, I could see nothing. I stood and walked to the edge of the deck and there on the ground trying to eat some of the scraps we'd tossed out to the chickens was a butterfly. I don't recall ever seeing one this early in the year.

Stealthily stepping down from the deck, I crept closer to the small butterfly. It had the markings of a swallowtail butterfly, but it was white and black. It was the first one I'd ever seen like it.

Before the day ended, we saw other butterflies down in the garden. Maybe they know something we don't about the changing of the seasons.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Cowboy Jordan

The phone rang just after we sat down to drink our coffee. It was a fashion emergency from our niece next door. This week has been Dr. Suess week at the grammar school where my great nephew Jordan goes, and today was cowboy day. He needed a hat. He had the plaid shirt, the shoes, and the cowboy look, but he needed a hat.

Not to worry Jilda told them Uncle Rick has several to choose from. I knew which hat he wanted. It's my straw cowboy hat that I wear when I cut grass.

Every time he comes over and I have it on, it winds up on his head. He loves that hat. It's too big for him, but when he puts it on, he "owns" it so it works.

This afternoon, his mom asked us if we could pick him up from school. I needed help picking out veggies at the local produce stand, and Jordan is a young veggie savant. He can pick good produce. I'm not sure how he does it, but he's never steered us wrong.

Today has been delightful here at the Watsons. I trust you all have had good ones too.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Stressful day

As I facilitated a workshop today, my phone buzzed in my pocket. Jilda never calls or texts while I'm working unless it's a 911 situation.

When I got a moment, I pulled the phone from my pocket and glanced at the text. It was from the college Alert system. The campus in Sumiton where my office is located was on lockdown because of an "adjacent threat." It was kind of an ambiguous message, but I knew there was a threat of something serious.

After finishing the workshop, I called the college switchboard and they couldn't add much so I called the cell phone of the administrative assistant to the college director.  All she said was that there was a threat made against a student at the middle school which is in close proximity to the college. The local police implemented the lockdown protocol to all the nearby schools until the situation could be neutralized.

After a few hours, they did a controlled release of the children at the nearby elementary schools which is where my great nephews Jordan and Anthony attend. When I called my sister-in-law at the middle school, she said she could not leave her office but that Jordan was taken to a local restaurant until his mother could pick him up.

I drove the state car much faster than I should have but I made a beeline to the restaurant to make sure he was OK.

When I arrived, Jordan and Anthony were both there with Anthony's parents. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Taking a seat at the table, the kids were fine. They weren't sure what was happening, but they were getting a free meal out of the deal and they were excited.

Anthony's parents didn't know anything about what was going down either. I couldn't return the car to campus until the lockdown ended, so I pulled up a chair to pass the time.

Both the kids were playing games on their iPads while they waited for their dinner.  I have this thing I do with both of them when they are playing games on their devices. I ask if I can help and I reach over and randomly tap the screen, which usually throws them into a panic. It's an uncle job that I do
Jordan and Anthony taken last summer.

After a few times, I reached over and "tried to help" but I knocked over my glass of ice water into little Anthony's lap. It startled him and freaked me out. I thought he would be upset, but he was fine.

As I helped the waiter clean up the mess I'd made, I got the text that the lockdown was over and I decided I needed to leave them in peace.

As Anthony hugged me goodbye, he motioned with his finger for me to lean over so he could tell me something. "Please don't help me anymore when I'm playing my game." I told him that was a fair request and that I would not do it anymore.

I got a late update saying it appears the lockdown was caused by a hoax. I'm glad that no children (or anyone else) were hurt, but it pisses me off that someone would think it was a good idea to scare the daylights out of a community.

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