Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years Eve

After we built our house in the early 1980s we had a open house during the holidays each year. Our house is small, but when we held our open house it contained wall-to-wall love.

Today was dreary and cold and the lighting was not that good. Tonight when I started looking back through my archives, I came across this picture that was from 1985 (I think.)

Before dusk on that Sunday, I ushered everyone outside, set my camera up on a tripod, and snapped some pictures for posterity. I've looked at this photograph at least a thousand times.

Three of the people are no longer with us. Another one is fighting cancer. But on this day in December, we all thought we'd live forever.

One of the things I've been doing this week is reading over my blog entries, journal entries, and looking through my photographs. Taking stock of my life. There are bad things that happen to everyone. But there are also joyful things.

On this New Years Eve, it is my wish that the good things in our lives outweigh the bad.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Someday is not an option

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Soon we'll be writing the wrong dates on our checks. It's hard to believe another year has passed.

We had friends over tonight. Jilda made lasagna. It's one of my favorite dishes but she rarely makes it because the recipe she has makes a pan the size of a washtub. She could feed a third world country with the batch she makes. She also ordered Junior's Cheesecakes from Brooklin, New York. These come in cupcake sizes. They are so good "They make you want to slap your mama" I'm not sure where this old saying came from but something has to be REALLY good to make me want to slap my mama :)

We've lost good friends this year. We, as a country, have lost musicians, poets, and other precious people.

It's become important for Jilda and me to celebrate our family and friendships. Tonight was a gift. Before each of our guests left tonight, we put follow up gatherings on our calendars.

If there's one thing that's become clear as I've gotten older is that life is short. Someday is not an option.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Envisioning vision boards

Jilda and I started working on our vision boards for the coming year. Last year we were in a funk at the end of the year and wound up not doing our boards. And it seems like both of us spent a lot of time spinning our wheels. I'm not sure if no boards and spinning wheels are related, but I think they are.

One article in Psychology Today says that vision boards are a waste of time, but I feel like any time you can begin to visualize the things you want is time well spent.  I don't care what the "professionals" say.

Below is a Wordify picture of me with some of the power words I'm thinking about using this year. More to follow.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas bonus

A few weeks ago my friend Brian called. He and his wife were taking a road trip after Christmas and wanted to stop by and see us. I told him we'd love to see him and his lovely bride. I'd never met his wife Linda and he'd never met Jilda.

We worked together for years at MaBell. He lives in Miami but we traveled extensively together doing the work we did. We did a Root Cause Analysis training in Colorado Springs. We flew into Atlanta several times for meetings and training there. I'm pretty sure he went with me to Plano, Texas once but my memory is a bit fuzzy on that.

There were four members of our team and we were responsible for AT&T hardware maintenance across the continental US. If an important computer broke down in Boston and created an outage to our customers, one of us were on the phone managing the outage. We coordinated technicians, parts shipments, outage calls with upper management, and rood cause analysis afterward. It was an interesting time in my career.

But I digress. Brian called a few days ago to say they were on their way. They stopped along the way to visit with family. Yesterday evening they drove into Birmingham and got a hotel for the evening.

They came to Empire today before lunch. We sat at talked for a long time and then headed to town for lunch.

After eating at the Black Rock Bistro, one of our favorite places here, we gave them the nickel tour of our area.

It was fun catching up. They left out this afternoon heading to Nashville which is about 3 hours north of here.

When I walked away from the phone company I never missed the work. But I've stayed in touch with the friends I made while working there.  It was delightful seeing Brian and meeting his wife. Seeing them was a Christmas bonus.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bare December trees

Most of nature's fireworks are gone now. The trees and shrubs will be napping for the next few months. Now comes the task of keeping mountains of leaves from piling up on the deck and front walk. 

Earlier in the year, I bought a battery powered leaf blower. It's the handiest tool in the shed during the winter. It makes short work of blowing the leaves into piles which make it easier to move them to the garden for composting.

The weatherman predicted snow/ice last night. Fortunately, the "ice line" was about 10 miles north of us. 

It was still cloudy with a cold wind out of the north when we walked this morning. The oak and hickory in the barnyard are almost bare now. 

I'd forgotten my phone, but when I looked through the archives, I'd shot a picture last year at this time. I decided to use it for illustrative purposes.

One of the guys that worked with me at the phone company is coming over tomorrow. He lives in Miami now and when he sent me a text a few minutes ago saying he was at the hotel in Birmingham, he said, "It's frozen tundra in Bham." I told him to wear long handles but I think he thought I was kidding. 

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Never a waste of time

This has been a sunset week. Yesterday, the sky was remarkable. I had a chance to have a front-row seat.

We had some leftover cornbread that was close to the consistency of slate rock, I stepped down to give Speckles an evening treat. She's the only chicken that survived a summer of slaughter by hawks and raccoons.

When I opened her dwelling and crumbled the bread by her feeder, she was delighted. She was grateful – I could tell from her clucking.

I stood and watched her peck for a while. When I noticed the sky, stepped over to the back gate. Each passing moment was a watercolor painting in progress. And the colors deepened as the sun drifted further beyond the horizon.

The shades of pinks reminded me of cotton candy that I had at the county fair when I was too young to drive.  I closed my eyes as I stood there, but I couldn't smell them no matter how hard I tried.

Clouds never bore me. I look for shapes and faces. Sometimes they jump out at me and sometimes they don't.

As I stood there watching the kaleidoscope of clouds, I thought about the coming year. What does it hold in store? How can I contribute? Where should I focus my attention? And what not.

I didn't find many answers in the clouds, but I would never say it was a waste of time looking.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Let us all be healthy ~ my Christmas Column from Sunday's paper

Last Monday when we arrived for our weekly yoga class, the parking lot of the community center was full. When we went inside, we learned that one of the local merchants had rented the center for the evening for their annual Christmas party.
The business owner saw me come in. He stepped over and asked if I was there to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas. Smiling, I told him I was there for yoga. He said, you need to see Santa; he’s the real deal.
When I stepped into the main room, Santa walked over, shook my hand, and asked if I’d been a good
boy. Assuring him that I had been good, he said, “You answered too quickly. That’s usually a sign that you’ve been naughty.” We had a good laugh together. As I walked out, he called after me, “Be sure and let me know what you want for Christmas.”
I’ve thought about that question since then.
The Christmas question was foremost on my mind when I was a kid. Our Sears Wish Book was dog-eared by September with all the possible presents for my list. I knew that Santa had to provide for all the kids, and I didn’t want to take advantage of his generosity. I weighed every choice. If I were to ask Santa for a bicycle, should I also ask for a horn and handlebar streamers or was that asking too much? Being greedy was a one-way express ticket to the naughty list. I wrestled with finalizing “The List” for months.
These days, most of our Christmas presents go to our nieces, nephews, and their children. Jilda is masterful at picking out the right gift for each of them. She knows their sizes and favorite colors. She knows what kind of books they read, and for the little ones, what toys they might enjoy. Her record of pleasing young’uns is impressive.
We buy each other a few gifts to unwrap on Christmas Eve, but not that many. Having no children of our own, we pretty much buy the things we want throughout the year. Our Christmas shopping is almost complete. We’ll pick up a few last-minute items before “the wrapping” begins.
An appointment had me heading to West Alabama. Rain moved in overnight so I left early enough that I could take my time on the road. Stopping at the office, I picked up some supplies before making one more stop at Jacks to pick up breakfast. Instead of dropping food on the front of my shirt, I decided to park for a few minutes and eat. The cemetery where my folks are buried is peaceful and it was just ahead. Clicking on my turn signal, I pulled in.
Their graves are close to the road that winds through the grounds, so I crunched up to the edge on the gravel and switched off the ignition.
The rain had stopped, but a shroud of fog hung over the graves in the low-lying areas. Jilda and I put flowers on my parent’s plots a few weeks ago, and they still looked good.
Leaning against the hood of the truck, I asked my folks what they wanted for Christmas. I knew what both of them would have said had they been here with me today. My dad would have opted for a nip of nog spiked with the good stuff. And, of course, my mom would have asked that we all be healthy and spend Christmas together.
When I was younger, most of the things on my Christmas list were material things. But today, as I stood near the graves of my mom and dad, I can’t think of a better gift than for us all to be healthy. And to be together for Christmas. Of course, a nip of nog with the good stuff would be nice, but that might put me on Santa’s naughty list.
Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve

Jordan's mom Samantha and her mom cooked Christmas Eve breakfast this morning. We walked over at 7:30 and helped get things set up for the arrival of the rest of the family. But they'd already done the heavy lifting and shooed us to the living room to wait for the others.

Not long afterward, the house was buzzing...until my nephew said the blessing, and then all you could hear was the clatter of plates and the clicking of spoons on porcelain plates. 

After that came the swapping of the gifts.  We got Jordan a microscope that we'll give him tomorrow morning at our house, but we bought him a book so that he'd have a gift from us this morning. 

Last week when we did last minute gift buying, we got the bulk of the gifts at Books-a-Million. We quickly found all the gifts except the one for Jordan. At nine years old, he's already read more book that I had during high school.

Just as we were about to give up, Jilda spotted The Wizard's Cookbook on a table in the middle of the aisle. After standing there and flipping through the pages, we knew we had the right gift for him. He loves to help in the kitchen and he's learning how to cook. 

When he saw the book this morning, he was captivated. He's reading the first Harry Potter book and he saw recipes in the Wizard's book taken from some of the things in the HP book. 

We were delighted that we found something that he would enjoy.

After the gifting, we headed home to make ready for the Christmas Cooking baking event at our house. The kids are growing so fast, but they still love coming over to do the cookie thang.

This evening Jilda baked a chicken and made her world-famous dressing along with butter beans, and turnip greens. I'm still stuffed.

We've had a great Christmas Eve. We feel blessed. I hope it's been a good one for you too.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Cookies

Jilda was in the kitchen most of the day today. She made up a barrel of cookie dough. We do Christmas Eve morning at her brother's house next door. He has three kids and 7 grandkids. The place is buzzing at 8 a.m.

Afterward, all the kids walk over to our house to bake Christmas Cookies. The kids decorate, and cookies and eat them about as fast as they come out of the oven. It's a hoot just watching. All the kids go home with candy-colored lips and tongues.

This is Jordan and Anthony. Tomorrow there will be four more joining in.

Friday, December 22, 2017

New computer

Today I'm smiling. Three years ago, I bought a new iMac. It was my second one. The first one I'd had almost 10 years. It was still working, but it had gotten SLOW.

I expected that the new iMac I bought in 2014 would solve my speed problems. As it turns out, it didn't. And when I tried to upgrade the memory to help, I learned that the memory on my computer was sautered onto the motherboard. That meant that upgrading it was not an option. I said a bad word when I learned this. Actually, I said several.

The last three years, I spent a lot of time watching the tiny Apple processing ball bounce. It seemed to be worse when I was in a hurry. Santa noted the language I used during this time on his naughty list. 

Earlier this year, I decided to start saving my mad money that I make from writing and buy a new computer. 

This time I went to the Apple store and made them sign in blood that the new computer could be upgraded if it slowed over time. And if it was slow to start with, they would make it good.

A few weeks ago I ordered the new computer and paid cash. 

It arrived today and I've spent most of the afternoon transferring my pictures, documents, and movies.  I still have a ways to go, but this computer so far is meeting my expectations. It screams.

Jilda is in the guest room wrapping. She's been there several hours. I'm taking all the incoming calls. I fetch water, snacks, and anything else she needs while keeping a distance from those snipping scissors.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve Eve.  I hope you all have a blessed holiday.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Five Photograph tips

I got a call from the local community foundation today. They saw one of my pictures that I posted earlier in the month and asked permission to use the picture for an upcoming Smithsonian Exhibit. I don't know the details, but I said, of course, they could use the photograph. It's the one I posted on December 6th.

I've been taking pictures for most of my adult life. When I worked for The Community News when I got out of the Army in 1973, one of my main duties was developing film and printing pictures. Dale Short, my mentor was a photographic prodigy. He taught me how to look at the light and how to use the camera's settings to get a good exposure. 

It took a lot of trial and error but I finally got better at making "technically" good photographs. It would have taken a professional photographer to have found fault with my f-stop and aperture settings.  But there's a difference in a "technically" good photograph and a good photograph. No "setting" will help you take a good photograph. It took me a long time to understand that taking decent pictures is more about seeing that any setting on a camera. I've said this before, but I can thank my lovely spouse for helping me to understand this.

So in the spirit of sharing, here's my top 5 list for making better photographs.

5. It better when the sun is behind the photographer's shoulders than it is for it to be behind the subject's shoulders...unless you're shooting a silhouette.

4. Less is more. It's not important to take in the WHOLE scene. Just put what's important in your picture.

3. If you're shooting a landscape, put something in the edge of the frame to give the picture depth.

2. If you're taking pictures of people, take several shots. People blink. A perfect picture will be useless if the subject has their eyes closed.

1. Focus more on your subject than on technical perfection. An imperfect picture can be an award winner if the subject shines.

Old red barn pain provides contrast to moss on a cornerstone.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Layered clouds

Today was the last day at work until after the first of the year. It was a ghost town. The students finished finals early last week.

This week it's been the staff which on my hall meant the computer folks and me. And we only had to work a half day. That's OK with me. I did a lot of end-of-year work. And for me and my coaching partner, we'll spend January tying up loose ends cleaning out our office.

Before I left at lunch, I started taking some of my books and pictures down from the walls and shelves. It was raining outside and I stood for a long time watching the rain dancing on the cobblestone courtyard.  I'll miss that view from my office window.

Once home, I fell into babysitting mode. Two of my great nephews were staying with us while their parents worked. I had a large time making up challenges for the boys. OK listen up trainees. I need three pine cones and a feather within 15 seconds. GO!!!!! You get the picture. The idea was to wear them down to a frazzle so that they didn't have the energy to give me a hard time once we went back inside. It didn't work, but it was worth a shot.

After their Nana picked them up, Jilda and I ran out for a few last-minute Christmas presents. The rain had moved off to the southeast leaving a brilliant blue sky.  Then, on the drive home, we heard a notification from the weather app on our phone. It said there was rain in the area. You couldn't tell it by looking at the sky, but the closer we got to home, the more the clouds thickened.

At one point, I pulled over to snap a picture of the layers of clouds. I was a beautiful sight.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Call them beautiful

Just as I'd written off fall color, I came across a tiny patch of color behind the barn. It caught my eye as we walked yesterday. The poplar and hickory trees are raining coco brown leaves that crunch underfoot.

I think these are tiny oaks but I could be wrong. Some time studying the foliage around here would be time well spent.

But for now, let me just call them beautiful.

NOTE: some of you ask that we post the youtube of Christmas of My Dreams.
Click here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas of my dreams

We have bookshelf speakers on our great-room mantle and a component stereo system in the corner. In the cabinet is a CD player, a cassette deck, and a record player. We have Christmas music in all three formats. Each December, we pull them out and dust them off. If you walk up to our door during daylight hours, you’ll likely hear old familiar Christmas melodies drifting from those speakers.

We have over 50 Christmas CDs. In the stack is an eclectic mix that people from almost any age would enjoy. Back in the early ‘90s, we bought a Time/Life box set of Christmas music. Our music ranges from classical to Leon Redbone’s “Christmas Island.” Playing music first thing in the morning gets our days started off on the right foot.

Some songs make me laugh. An example is Robert Earl Keene’s “Christmas from the Family.” I even like songs that make me feel sad. “Blue Christmas,” as sung by Elvis, is a good example, but “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” performed by Judy Garland, makes me feel melancholy. The Carpenter’s “Christmas” album also makes me sad. Karen died too soon. And then there’s “Silent Night.” If there is a more beautiful Christmas song, I’ve never heard it.

Several years ago, Jilda and I went to Nashville the weekend after Thanksgiving. We stayed with our songwriting buddy Tracy Reynolds and her husband, Eric. After writing a few songs, we were in the groove. We could feel it.

Jilda suggested that we write a Christmas song. We’d never tried to write one together, so the idea resonated. I toyed with some chord changes and began humming. Jilda and Tracy started making a list of things we wanted to say and things we DIDN’T want to say about Christmas. Understanding what you don’t want to say is one of the most important parts of writing a song.

The evolution of our song was slow at first until Jilda hit on the idea of “Christmas of my Dreams.” It wasn’t long after her father died, and the memory was still raw for her. We all smiled because that idea was one that captured all the things we love about Christmas.

After we scribbled the first line on paper, the rest of the song wrote itself. I don’t recall who thought of what lines. All I know is that within a few minutes, we were singing the demo into my handheld recorder. Here are the lyrics:

Outside looks like a postcard

All is silent tonight

Snowflakes big as quarters

Shine in the front porch light

The tree fills up the corner

The whole room smells of pine

We’ve just hung all the stockings

It’s hot cider time


Everyone that I’ve ever loved

Friends and family

Have come together to celebrate

The Christmas of my dreams

Tonight no one goes hungry

Nobody’s in need

Every child is smiling

The whole world is at peace


Miracles can happen

Even in this day and time

I’ll hold on with all my heart

To this dream of mine

Everyone that I’ve ever loved

Friends and family

Have come together to celebrate

The Christmas of my dreams

Christmas is an emotional holiday. Of course, there’s joy. Just look into the face of a child during December, and you will see joy personified. Excitement is in the air. We will have an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family this year. But for me, there is also sadness in knowing so many of the people I love won’t be here celebrating Christmas with us – unless, I have the Christmas of my dreams.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

It smells like Christmas

The temps have been below normal here but it warmed yesterday, and old cold rain moved in last night. up Jilda has been under the weather. She picked up the crud somewhere and with her system, bugs tend to hit her hard.

We'd planned for weeks to decorate the tree today, but it was looking doubtful for most of the day. Unlike most days where we are slammin' and jammin' early, we stayed in our PJs half the day.

After a nap, Jilda felt energized. I'd staged the Christmas tree on the front stoop so after moving a lamp and table that normally live in front of the windows, we slid the tree in place.

I put on the Christmas music and fired up the hot apple cider while Jilda went to work. Every year the decoration process is a little different. This tree is smaller than most trees we get so she used fewer decorations.

We sipped, listened, paused, and reflected during the decoration process. After a few hours, it was done. It was dusk outside, so we turned out the living room lights and sat for a long while enjoying the tree.

As I mentioned a while back when we first bought our tree, we selected a Blue Ice Cypress. I love the fresh smell of a live tree. It smells like Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2017


We've been decorating today. I've been in a fetch and go mode. Since my decorating skills are limited, I relegated to the, "Go get the green box from the shed. Now, go get the box with the wreaths. Go get the lights." You get the idea.

I ran to the hardware store for a pot for the tree and some glue to fix an antique stocking holder that was broken last year.

To get out of the way, I headed to Sumiton (a small town about 11 miles away) to get Chinese food for supper. That much I can do.

When I got home, I went into my bathroom to wash my hands for supper and there on my vanity was Santa. It was good seeing my old friend.

Tomorrow, we'll put up the tree.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mornings are magical

Yesterday morning the temps were in the upper 20s as I headed out to work. Most of the color is gone now. My side yard is now a crunchy carpet of leaves. Cranking the truck, I sat there for a while allowing the engine time to warm up before pulling out of the driveway.

A lone gray squirrel sat on my backyard fence munching an acorn. He stopped for a moment to consider me before getting back to his breakfast. The morning light highlighted the fur on his back. At some point in his lineage, an ancestor must have and an affair with a fox squirrel because the tips of the hair on his back were rusty-red. I started to step back out of the truck and snap a picture but at the click of the door, dashed away. Soon he was cursing me from the limb of the water oak.

Not far from the house are pastures. On one side of the road are small goats, and on the other are horses. 

It was fairly early in the morning. I was the only car on the road, so I pulled to the edge, slipped the gearshift into park, and left the engine idling. A horse eyed me curiously but then wasn't sure if I was friend or foe, so he turned and began walking off. The light on his back was perfect, so I snapped a few pictures before he ambled off to join his friends.

It seems to me that some mornings are magical. Do you ever get that feeling?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A berry pretty picture

Today was a long one. We had a success celebration for the people in my program and the local employers that hire them. I fretted because not many people responded that they would attend. But as it turns out, we had a good crew.

Tonight, I shot pictures for the chamber of commerce. They had their annual Christmas parade. These events are always a lot of fun.

I don't have a lot left for my writing tonight. I'll post a berry pretty picture I shot yesterday when we walked.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Is it too much to ask?

Last night was fretful. I made the mistake of looking at my phone before turning in. The candidate in the special election that we voted for was behind by thousands of votes. I was saddened. Jilda had an EARLY morning class at work today for the staff and I couldn't bring myself to tell her we were losing the election.

I tossed and turned. With closed eyes, I could read the headlines in international news. I could have written the jokes on late-night TV.

When the alarm went off this morning, Jilda headed for the shower. I punched the brew button on the coffeemaker, removed the phone from its charger, and sat down on the couch.  I tapped on the CNN news feed. My heart leapt. CNN said that AP had projected our man, Doug Jones as the winner.

I clicked on the Washington Post and the New York Times and they were saying it was an astonishing upset. Even that disturbed me, since the opposing candidate had been accused of molesting chilren...but I didn't let it dampen my enthusiasium.

I shouted out to Jilda. Even though she was in the shower she heard me.

We both scanned every newsfeed we could find. It was true. Not fake news...not some kind of joke...but the truth. At least for a while, Alabama did the right thing and elected a decent man. I know this sounds wimpy, but we hugged and wept with joy.

Is that too much to ask?  To have and honorable woman or man representing us?

 The father of one of our best friends, Carl Elliott Sr. was an Alabama Represenative in Washington. One of the programes he started in rural Alabama was  a books on wheels program. It gave every child in his district access to the Library. I can't tell you how many books I checked out from one of those book-mobiles. It was an ingeniious solution to a problem that plagued people in rural areas in the 1960s. Access to free books.

After retirement, he practiced law in the county seat. His son introduced us to him. He was gracious to a fault. He always made Jilda and me feel  important. He won the first John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage awards in 1990

These days, I guage politicians by Carl. Do they know what their people need. Do that provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, or do they cater to those who make the largest contributions?

Tonight Jilda and I are both happy. I just hope Doug Jones can fill the shoes of our old friend Carl Elliott.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hoping sanity prevails

Alabama is a strange and wonderful place. It would be a great place if it were not for our politics.  Today, we are voting in a special election to replace Senator Sessions who is now over the U.S. Justice Department.

We can choose between a man who helped convict the of the men involved  in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham during the turbulent Civil Rights ere in the 1960s. The other candidate is a man accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl when he was 30.

Alabama has made international news. Late night TV has had a field day.

I was at the polling place a few minutes after it opened this morning. I did my part.

I'm hoping sanity prevails in the place I call home.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Staying alive

For most of last year, we could have gone swimming. The weather was hot and dry into December. Not so this year. The temps took a nose-dive just after we replaced our central air and heating system.

We've used our fireplace more this year that we have in years. And on Friday, we had three inches of snow.

The autumn foliage is going fast. Yesterday while we were walking, I came upon this tiny fern growing around and through a decaying limb.

I stopped my stride long enough to snap a picture. While much of the plant life is giving way to winter. This little fern was doing what it could to stay alive.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday times

We did Christmas stuff today. We went to COSTCO early this morning to stock up on the things we'll need between now and the end of the year.

Once home, Jilda finished up her Christmas cards. We'll send the first batch out tomorrow. After lunch, we put up some of our "exterior illumination."   We'll get started decorating inside this week.

This evening, Jilda got "a-hankerin'" for ribs. We don't eat them often, but sometimes there's nothing better. She made coleslaw and potato salad as sides. 

While she was in the kitchen, I listened to George Winston's December. It's a beautiful Christmas album with only piano music.  I sipped green tea and read the New York Times Sunday paper.  Sunday afternoons may be my favorite time of the week. 

I hope you've had a remarkable day and have an even better week.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Dodged a bullet

When I went on Facebook this morning to check birthdays, a picture of Jilda and I popped up. It was
taken before we were married.

When I saw it, the image made me smile. Who would have thought two skinny kids would make it 43 years?

Our great-nephew Jorda and our great-niece Breeze were in a swim meet today in Tuscaloosa. We had nothing on our calendars so we drove down to give them our support. Tuscaloosa is about 80 miles south of here. They had heats most of the day so we watched a few and headed back home.

Stopping at Taco Casa, we eased through the drive-thru and got our order to go.

We decided to stop at the rest stop off the Interstate and eat our lunch instead of wearing most of it home by eating while we rode.

Parking in the shade, we ate and people watched. After tossing our trash in the receptacle, I turned the key. The car normally springs to life, but this time it clicked and buzzed. Oh Crap! (Clean version.)

I tried several more times but I knew the battery was dead. It had started slowly a few times when the weather was cold and I'd made a mental note to replace the battery but that mental note wasn't helping to turn that starter.

Stepping back inside the rest stop, I asked the attendant if she had jumper cables. She didn't but her friend who worked at the rest stop on the southbound side of the Interstate did. She called him on the radio. A few minutes later he pulled in and helped us get the car cranked. I'm not sure if they can take tips, but I put one in his pocket and thanked him profusely.

This incident could have turned out much worse. We were about 75 miles from home and family help. But thankfully, this young guy bailed us out. We now have a new battery on Jilda's car. Bullet dodged.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Snow Day

Just before we went to bed last night, the weatherman was pointing to the weather map saying the snow coming through this morning would be to the south and east of us. He said we could have a few flurries but that should be all.

I'm thinking the weatherman was hitting the cough syrup just a little too much because it started snowing and didn't let up until late this afternoon.

When I poked the ruler through the snow around 3:30 p.m. it was right at three inches. I know our Colorado friends would snicker, but it was a decent snow for us.

Samantha kept Jordan out of school and we played hard all day.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Learning how to see

We have a Japanese Maple tree in the backyard. It's in a pot as big as Delaware. I'm not sure why we haven't planted it in the ground because the pot weights much too much to wag inside.

The thing about this small tree is that it's beautiful, especially in the fall. It was slow to turn when the weather got cold. It seemed to want it to be summer for a while longer. The last few days, it surrendered.

I snapped a picture.

A few nights ago, I posted the picture I took at the forks of the river on Facebook. Someone said they were studying photography but they couldn't afford a "good" camera. I mentioned that I took the picture with my phone.

The thing is, I have an expensive digital camera. But the pictures I take with it are no better than the ones I take with my phone. 

When I was learning photography, I spent so much time and energy on getting the image "technically" right, that I didn't focus on the subject.

Jilda, who is an artist, taught me how to "see" photographs. And it's made all the difference. The best camera in the world is the one you have with you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Running on empty

It seems like I've been writing all day. I struggled with my column for Sunday's paper. I wrote three different ones before the words seemed to work. That's how it goes sometimes.

When Jilda got home from her early morning yoga class that she teaches for the staff where she works, we put on our jackets and walked. It was much colder after the rain moved through.

There wasn't a lot of color when we walked but I did see some lichen that fell from an oak tree in the yard.  I know it's kind of sad, but this is all that's left tonight.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Strangeness at the forks

I shot a couple pictures the other day when I was at the forks of the river. The light was amazing and I had the place to myself. 

When I walked up, there was a child's rocking horse sitting there. It was facing towards the east. My mind wrestled with what I was seeing. Why would a rocking horse be sitting there? My mind is usually good at connecting unconnected and seemingly unrelated dots. I'm not sure why I have that skill but I do. But still – there was a rocking horse sitting there and I was drawing a blank.

I have to go back there when the weather clears and talk to the crew and get the scoop. There's usually an interesting story connected to things there.  Once when I went, everyone was flying kites. You should know that most of the guys that meet there regularly are in the late 70s early 80s. But they seem much younger than their years because they are always laughing and having fun.

Anyhow, below is a picture of the rocking horse and another picture I shot while I was there.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Choosing a tree ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Thanksgiving was a low-key event for us this year. We had a few members of the family and some friends over on Thanksgiving Day to do the turkey thang. We may be a minority, but we like to celebrate Halloween in October and Thanksgiving in November. We don’t start decorating for Christmas until December. That’s just the way we roll.

This past week after coffee and breakfast, we headed to the tree farm for a Christmas tree. It will live in our yard until a couple of weeks before the fat guy cometh. Last year we waited too late and all the good “planting trees” were gone.

We settled for an artificial tree. It was pretty, but it smelled like polyvinyl chloride. For me, the tastes, sounds, and smells are what make it feel like Christmas. And the smell of plastic wasn’t Christmas-like. We vowed to do better this year.

The trees we’ve had in the past were Leland Cyprus. They make pretty trees, but they grow like they are on steroids. Our yard is full of them. The smallest one is about 15 feet tall. The largest one is well over 30 feet. The front and backyard look like Christmas forests. Our first live Christmas tree was a white pine that we bought in December of 1983. It’s now big enough that we could cut it and build a log cabin.

We wanted something different this year. Over near the edge of the tree farm, we saw a
Tree of Christmas past
beautiful tree. It was smaller than a Leland, but it had a good vibe. Sunlight made it look silvery blue. It smelled like the Pacific Northwest. The label said, Blue Ice.

Jilda stood guard by the tree while I fetched the “digger-upper-guys.” When I took them back to where she was standing, they gave me the tag and said I could go inside and pay for the tree while they dug it up and loaded it for me.

There was a line of tree-buyers waiting to pay. Apparently, a lot of people had the same “start early” idea as we did. So, I poured me a complimentary cup of hot apple cider and did some people watching while I waited.

Christmas music flowed from speakers that I could not see. Everyone in there was smiling. A cat, the size of a pot-bellied pig, purred on the counter while kids oohed, aahed, and petted him. After the swiping of the card, I headed back out for the drive home.

I’d never heard of a blue-ice Christmas tree so when I got home, I Googled it and learned that it’s an Arizona Cypress. Over the coming days, we’ll dig out our Christmas music, sip eggnog and decorate our little Blue Ice Cyprus. When Jilda does her magic, I know it will be beautiful.

We’ll also start our yearly tradition of watching our old Christmas movies. My favorite film to start the Christmas countdown is “A Christmas Story.” It always takes me back to the early Christmases in Sloss Hollow. Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation is usually the next one we watch.

This autumn has been a gift even though the weather has been warm at times.

But, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Where are they going

We could have snow this coming week. The weatherman hedged yesterday but today he seemed a little more certain we could see some flurries. I could have told him that we would have snow this winter. It said so in the Farmer's Almanac. 

Some people say the FA's predictions are unscientific, but in my unscientific opinion, they are often as good or better at predicting long-range forecasts as the Weather Channel.

Now, where was I? Oh yes – the prediction of snow motivated me to get the chicken pen snow-ready. I stuffed the laying boxes with fresh pine straw and tested the electricity and the small heater we use out there. 

After I finished my chores, I looked around for anything else that needed doing.  Things were pretty much in order.

I looked up at the evening sky before heading inside and I saw the contrail of an airplane headed west. I wasn't sure if there was enough light to take a picture but I shot one for grins.

After shooting the picture, I leaned against the back fence and stood for a long while. I could hear birds scurrying to find their places in the hedges. Woodsmoke from a neighbor's fireplace made me think of campfires and hootenannies. The brain is a wonderful vehicle. 

As it turns out, there was just enough light. But when I see a plane flying off into the horizon, I can't help but wonder where they are going. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Twelve years and counting

I know this would drive most productivity experts and self-help gurus insane, but I'm kind of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Back in December of 2005, I decided to give blogging a try.  I had maintained the alumni website for my local high school for years. Not only did I scan all the yearbooks from 1938 to 2005, but I wrote stories about the people who graduated from Dora.

The website resonated with locals who went to Dora High, so the site got a lot of hits. But updating the website with my stories was a pain.

I'd toyed with the idea of writing a blog for some time. What would I say? Who would want to read what I write? And so on. So I thought, I'll try this for a while and see if "this dog would hunt," as my grandpa used to say.

I had a Google account and one of the features was Blogger. I clicked on Create Blog and wrote my first entry.  It was an entry saying that I'd write updates from time to time. The entry got one comment.  But I became a blogger that night. 

Since December 2, 2005, I've written every night except a few times when we lost power for an extended length of time. Even during those devastating events, I managed to find a wireless connection for a post most of the time. 

Not all the entries would be candidates for a Pulitzer, as they say, but some were not bad. 

Blogging led to the opportunity to write a newspaper column and speaking engagements. My four books are compilations of some of those columns. 

I now have a small island in the Carribean, a yacht, and a lease on a private jet...OK, I'm lying about that, but I can say I've made a lot of blog buddies. In the scheme of things, I consider my friendships much more valuable than material things.

Autumn blueberry bushes - a future blog entry.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Finding Feng Shui and what not

The bench I bought in early November still hasn't found its forever home. I've tried it in front of the barn and over under the hickory tree looking off to the east. I knew instinctively that locale would not work because I wouldn't be able to see sunsets.

So I moved it. And moved it again. And again.

Yesterday, I moved it out under the oak in the front yard of the creative space. It didn't take a compass to know it was facing west. The sun was squatting on the western horizon, and shafts of light turned the woods into a kaleidoscope of crimson, orange, amber, and colors I could not name. I was so engrossed in the moment that I didn't take a picture.

This morning when we walked the dogs, a cloud cover gave the sun an opportunity to sleep in.

The colors were muted, so I decided to do a black and white rendition of the bench.

It will take time to know if the Feng shui is right, but you can't really rush things like the placement of a thinking bench.

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