Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Something rare

Last night before turning in, I stepped onto the back deck and looked to the east. I had to move around to get an unobscured view through the trees, but I saw the super blue moon. It was incredible.
I snapped a picture with my phone, but it paled in comparison to the photographs Jordan is getting with the telescope we bought him. It has an attachment that lets him take pictures.

This morning, we rose at 6 a.m. and I punched the brew button on my coffee maker. Stepping out again onto the back deck, I could see the lunar eclipse in progress. Jilda usually waits until the coffee is ready before rolling out of bed but she made an exception this morning.

We stood shivering as we watched the earth shadow munching away at the moon. We'd step back inside and then step back out every few minutes to check its progress. the last thing we saw before it slipped below the western horizon was a sliver of moon that looked like a thumbnail clipping.

I understand that the folks in California had an opportunity to see the entire show, but we saw enough to say that we saw the first super blue moon eclipse in over 150 years. I wrote about that in my journal.

I hope you had a chance to see this moon. It was something rare.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

NOT a lady

Today was my last official day at work. Actually, I didn't work much because by design, we spent most of the grant money last year.  That's the way grants work.

But, I did turn in my parking pass, the key to my office, and the laptop I used in my job. I was through by 10 and on my way back home. I haven't had may "last days at work." 

My last day in the Army comes to mind, but that wasn't a sad day. My last day at the newspaper in 1976. I loved that job even though my low salary made me qualify for federal assistance. I didn't apply, but I could have. But that was a sad day.

Then, I worked for the phone company for the next 33 years. And that last day was a sad and poignant one. I've written about that experience.

And today was a little sad. It came on the heels of a rough week. But now that it's over, I'm beginning to find opportunities that will help me in my new job that begins soon. I'm excited about that.

Which brings me to a pressing question. Has anyone else's home been invaded by beetles? I'm not talking about the singing Brits but beetles disguised as Ladybugs. 

I thought for a long that they were Ladybugs. They look just like the colorful spotted bugs that are good for the garden. But these beetles that have invaded our house will bite the crap out of you. I learned that the hard way. I was going to gently capture the little Ladybug and put it on the plants on our screen porch. When I picked it up, I thought I'd been wasp stung. Needless to say, that little beetle's life did not end well. I can tell you for sure, that bug was NOT a lady.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Missing my friend Tom ~ My column from Sunday's paper

There is a picture sitting next to the computer in my office. Three faces are smiling so brightly you can almost get a tan looking at the framed photo. I’m sitting between my friends Terry Frasier and Dr. Tom Camp. We’re speeding down the Black Warrior River in the back
Terry, Rick, and Tom
of a boat. Tom’s wife Judy was the boat captain, Jilda was the photographer, and Terry’s wife Ginny was supervising. We were having a large time. In those days, it was easy to imagine that we would live forever. But it turns out that forever was not long enough. My friend Tom died last Sunday.

Last year Dr. Camp fell ill in Honduras while doing mission work there. When he got back stateside, teams of doctors put him through tests and the diagnosis was not good.

When I talked to my friend after he got out of the hospital, he told me he had cancer. He said that no cancer was good, but his was the bad kind. The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is less than 10 percent. Unfortunately, he was not one of the lucky ones.

We said our goodbyes on the Saturday before he died. After spending some time with him, Jilda and I joined his wife Judy and some other friends on their screen porch. It was a beautiful day and the sun slashing through the screen felt warm on my back as I sipped on a hot cup of mint tea.

As I looked around at the faces around me, my mind drifted through the years we’ve spent together. When the conversation lagged, I told Judy that when I look back over the past 40 years, some of the best times in my life were with our circle of friends.

After we first met them in the early ‘80s, they invited us to an impromptu party at their old house which was on the outskirts of Jasper. Apparently, Tom was no friend to bugs. He had the first bug zapper I’d ever seen. The party crowd in the house spilled out onto their back patio. There was music and laughter in the air. As we sat enjoying the warm summer evening, a moth the size of a bat flew into the zapper. It seemed the lights dimmed as the critter fried. The crowd applauded. It didn’t take much to amuse us in those days.

The Camps once invited us to a rug ride. Jilda and I weren’t sure what a rug ride was, but we were game. As it turns out, the clinic where Dr. Camp practiced had bought new carpet for their office. The old rug was on the way to the dump when inspiration struck. Someone nailed the carpet to a long wooden beam and attached the beam to the back of a four-wheel-drive pickup.

There must have been 20 of us wobbling on that carpet like surfers while the driver hauled us around the pasture. The attorney Alexander Shunnarah would have been giddy watching that spectacle.

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

When the Camps became interested in raising llamas, they purchased their first one. On their way home with the new critter, they stopped by our annual Christmas Open House to show off their new pet. Before they left, Tom decided to name that first llama Dr. Watson.

Tom like to have fun as much as anyone I’ve ever known, but he was also a servant. He did medical service on a mission trip to Honduras and later decided to start the Alabama Honduran Missions. He called me to ask if I could help him get the website up. I managed that site for years detailing the work they did in that country. Soon the mission grew from a small group of volunteers who went once a year to several teams throughout the year.

He was one of the first physicians at Hope Clinic in Jasper, which provided medical care for those without insurance.

The last time he called me was about two weeks ago. He had a young man who worked for him part-time, but the man needed a steady job. Tom knew I did job coaching at the college so he asked if I could help. I said, of course.

It amazed me that even as weak as Tom was, he was still thinking about how he could serve others.

If my life could be woven into a tapestry, some of the most colorful threads would represent my life with Dr. Tom Camp.

NOTE: Tom asked Jilda and me to sing at his funeral several years ago. We sang a song we wrote. Below are the lyrics.

You come into the world small and frail
Kickin’ and screamin’ and raisin’ hell
Till you feel the warmth of you mama’s arms
You know love from the day you were born

These are ties that bind
Follow you through your life

Memories of birthday cake
A red balloon that flew away
Papa’s laugh and mama’s smell
Old photographs that tell the tell

These are ties that bind
Follow you through your life

There are those who had no choice
Who’ll never feel the joy
Of family and a place to call home
How could you survive
And make it through this life
Facing this old world all alone

There are friends as close as blood
That you lean and count on
Folks that know the good and bad
But you always know they’ve got your back



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Slim pickin's

Jilda and I love visiting our state and national parks. Several years ago we visited Desoto State Park in North Alabama.

There's a creek that runs through the park. Little River Canyon is there too. I think this photo is upstream.

The blog is slim pickin's tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

It's all I have

When Jilda and I were younger, we often partied all night and hit the ground running the next day as if it were any other. That ship sailed several years back. We can party all night now...well, that's probably a stretch – we CAN stay up after our bedtime, but the next day we spend a lot of time drooling and staring into space as if we were looking for the mother ship.

Last night we were up almost until midnight and we paid for it today. We'd promised our friends Kaye and Jamie that we'd have dinner with them tonight. Had we not canceled the last time because Jilda had the flu, we would have begged off tonight, but we put our big girl panties on...wait, that didn't come out right. But you get the picture. We drove into Birmingham through torrential rain to have dinner with them. It was a delightful visit. Jamie has owned restaurants before and the food was incredible. But we said our goodbyes early and headed home.

I didn't take a picture today so I dug through the archives. I found a picture I'd taken near Pebble Beach, California in 2004. It made me smile when I saw it and decided it would be perfect for tonight.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Today was a long one. We just drove in from South Alabama where we attended the wake of our friend Deidra's dad who passed away this week. He was 91. We stood in line for over an hour before we reached the head of the line.

The family was "beat." This ritual is brutal. I understand it, but that doesn't make it easy when you're standing in line and receiving what seems to be a never-ending line of friends, family, and well-wisher. I've been there with both parents and two brothers.

I didn't have time to take a picture again today, so I scanned back through the archive and found a picture taken in January 2008. It was the week of my birthday. I was standing on the beach at dusk. The colors of the sea and sky were remarkable shades of pink, mauve, and gray.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lonesome places

On this day back in 2011, I drove to the Southeast edge of Alabama. I could have taken a rock and thrown it to Georgia if the wind was calm. I was interviewing the richest man in Alabama.

It was warm for January. The sun was out when I set out that morning. I drove down Alabama roads I'd never taken that day. Old abandoned farmhouses, and fallow fields that were once the livelihood of people in this part of the state. That was back when cotton was king. When the farmers aged, many of their kids couldn't see their future in the fields so the left for Atlanta, Montgomery, and other cities where they could find work.

The land, in many places, looked lonesome.  I pulled to the side of the road to stretch my legs at one point. Of course, I chose an abandoned homeplace with trees hanging full of Spanish Moss.

I'm guessing there was a lifetime of memories left behind under that tin roof. This house was in better condition than many places. It looked as if part of the roof had been replaced, but there were no windows or doors. I wanted to hop over the fence and have a look around but thought better of it.  So I snapped a few pictures and let my imagination do the rest. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Just what my spirit needed

I've been in a bit of a daze since Monday. To use a tired metaphor, you could say I'm at low tide. I won't say why, but I wrote about it today for my column that runs Sunday. You can read it on Monday evening. But something happened this evening that was like a salve for a burn.

Our niece called earlier in the day and asked if I could pick up Jordan from school. Her folks had last-minute things come up and they needed a relief picker-upper. I smiled when I hung up the phone. Some time with that wacky kid was just what my soul needed.

Arriving at the school 20 minutes early, I sat in the truck with the windows rolled down. The breeze out of the west was chilly but the afternoon sun coming through my windshield was like the heat of a radiator at the old grammar school I attended.

When it was time, I walked over and sat on a low stone wall by the entryway and waited for "the package."

He's normally among the second wave of kids that come out after school. He came through the door and smiled as he saw me. When he came over, he reached for my hand and we walked toward the truck. Soon, he will be too old to hold my hand as we walk through traffic. But I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Once in the truck, I ask him what was new. He went into depth about the new game his mom bought for him for his birthday. His rapid-fire descriptions of characters, weapons, and modules were over my head, but I acted as if I were a player too – asking for clarification and details.

Jilda had to head off to work soon after we arrived home, but she'd made him mash potatoes, broccoli, and baked a chicken breast. He woofed it down plus a piece of her banana bread.

After he ate, we went outside to stretch our legs. Spending time with this youngun' was just what I needed to lift my spirits.

I could probably rent him out to people with depression. I can promise you – a little time with this youngun' is better than any high-priced therapy.

One of my favorite pictures of my great nephew Jordan

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Old cabin

I spent much of my morning cleaning out my office. After lunch, I worked on end-of-grant reports. Three hours of that was brutal. Fortunately, I managed to finish them before I got to the point of shoving a fountain pen into my temple.

When I finished, I went for a walk in a nearby park. I hadn't been there for some time. Up on the hill,
I noticed a log cabin. I remember when they moved the cabin onto the campus. Our old friend and historian Winfred Sandlin located the cabin somewhere in the sticks and negotiated ownership to the college. He then had it moved to its current location. That was in 1977.

We'd only been married about three years at this point.

I was glad to see that it's still standing strong.

After I strolled down memory lane, I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a picture of it today. It hasn't changed that much.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Habits ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Habits are interesting. The dictionary defines a habit as a settled or regular tendency or practice. That’s fine if the habit is exercising, reading, or getting enough sleep. But bad habits are problematic. Research shows that it takes more than two months to form a good habit. But a bad habit takes less time. Bad habits are like kudzu, drop one seed on Monday, and you can’t see your backyard by the following weekend. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work on my habits. So, I’ve spent the first part of January weeding out some bad habits and starting some new ones.

One of the new habits is reading at least 30 minutes a day. I’m not talking about Facebook here, but good books. I’m reading On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau. It is full of gems of wisdom.  When I finish it, I’ll start a new one. 

Daily guitar practice is another routine I’ve started. I played every day for years but took a day off. The day off stretched into weeks and then months. I’m not sure why I stopped, but my guitar got dusty and my fingers got rusty during the holidays. Since the first of the year, I’ve played daily and worn new callouses on my fingers. It hurts so good.

Another new habit that I captured on my list of “Good Habits” list was to write daily in my journal. I did updates every day for years. There’s a shelf of old journals in my office library dating back to the 1980s. My journals are private. The scribbled ink on these pages describes what I thought and felt at the time about the events. Sometimes the words were things I would never have said out loud. Somehow committing my thoughts to paper helped me make sense of the world at a time when my life seemed complicated. It might not have helped, but I felt that it did.

I got out of the habit of writing daily journal updates when I began blogging in 2005. After all, I was writing a blog entry each day too. But blogging is different because it’s not private. In fact, there are hundreds of people who follow my blog. The blog sometimes gives me ideas for these weekly columns. That reason alone makes blogging worthwhile. But my blog entries rarely touch on my innermost dreams, thoughts, and fears. 

During the last few weeks of 2017, I spent time pouring through my old journals. In looking back, I got a sense of how I spent the past 30 years. I saw habits come and go. It was easy to see where I spent my money and more importantly, where I spent my time. It was interesting to learn that I’d squandered more than I realized. 

I read once that bad habits are like a comfortable bed. I thought that was an appropriate analogy. We all sleep in every now and then, bad habits will keep you there. But investing the time to form new habits is time well spent. 

This has nothing to do with habits, but I did shoot the picture in January.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Everything will be alright

Today was more laid back. It was also much warmer. Last Tuesday it snowed and that night the temp dropped to 8 degrees.  That's rare here. But today, it was 70. It felt warm enough to swim.

We did fun family stuff today which gave a little balance to our lives. I think balance is important.

When things get too far out of whack, it feels as if I'm coming off the rails. Today we watched our great nephew Jordan and his friends swimming at the University of Alabama Birmingham Recreational Center.  There's something about the sound of children laughing that makes me feel that everything will be alright.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter sky

Today was visitation day. Jilda's brother has some health issues and we ran by this morning to check on him. He was sitting up in his bed and looking through the windows at the winter sky. The light made him look stronger. The sky has been remarkable today.

After lunch, we headed to the river to visit one of our oldest and dearest friends who is gravely ill. It was difficult seeing him so weak but we put on our happy faces. 

After a while, we joined his wife on their screen porch. She was out there with several other friends who'd dropped by to check on them. I sat with my back to the screen. The sun felt good on my shoulders. 

Jilda and I both promised her we would not overstay our welcome so after about an hour, we said our goodbyes.  We were both glad to see them but the visit made us both sad.

Just out of their driveway I noticed grass by the roadside with the winter sky as the backdrop. I pulled to the edge of the next to their pasture fence and sat for a moment with the engine idling. 

There were so many emotions running through my head. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a picture. The winter sky almost made me smile.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Friday

We talked to a local coffee house today to set up a series of singer/songwriter events for this coming spring and summer. We'll do one event a month and have our songwriter friends join us.

Jasper is the county seat. Over the years, businesses in the downtown area fled to be closer to the the mall.

But the downtown merchants who stayed have worked for years to revitalize the area. Those efforts were in vain...until a few years ago. The city put a lot of focus on main street and all of a sudden those efforts are paying off. Seventeen businesses opened downtown this past year. Microbreweries, restaurants, retail and a coffee house all opened for business.

Now when you go downtown it's harder to find a parking place. You can sit in the courthouse square and hear music on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can hear the clatter of dishes and silverware and smell pizza and fresh seafood. It's an exciting time here. And believe me, we are way overdue.

We'll start our events in April and they'll run through August. We are cranked.

After we talked to the owner of the coffee house, we headed over to the Bankhead House for the opening reception for the Smithsonian  Waterways exhibit.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had some pictures taken of the Sipsey Forks that they wanted to use in the displays.

When we got there at 2 p.m. the place was packed. We'll have to go back at a later time to have a chance to look at all the interactive elements of the display.

I was flattered they asked me to be a part of this event. Jilda snapped a picture of me by one of my photographs.

I hope your Friday has been a good one. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Moving on

Things are winding down at work. I spent much of today boxing up loaner laptops, books, and other things I've used in the last few years. 

I took a load to the Dean's office around lunch today. I have more to take in the coming days. And even more to toss before I start hauling my personal things home. 

I'll miss the view from my office window and the sound of rain on the cobblestone in the courtyard – and the way sunlight slashes through my blinds and crawls across my office floor.  I'll also miss the ornamental cherry trees that bloom early in spring. 

But it's time to move on and I'm excited about the next phase of my life adventure. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Change of venue

This morning when I checked the weather, the temperature in Empire was 8 degrees F with a wind out of the north that sent the "Feels Like" temp below zero. That's chilly for Alabama. It's been several years since it's been this cold. The last time it happened, we had a standpipe in the backyard that we used to water the birds. When I tried to turn it on, the faucet broke off.  I had to hustle to the water meter and turn the water off while I capped the standpipe. When the weather warmed, I removed that standpipe.

These days, I wrap all the outside faucets and if something outside needs water, we haul it in cans from inside.

I write my Sunday column on Wednesday, so I spent most of the morning tapping keys. After a late breakfast, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. There was still a little snow on the ground in the shade. When we walked the long path across the new property, I saw color out of the corner of my eye. A patch of snow-moss next to the path. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a photo. I love the contrast of white on green.

Jilda had to work this afternoon and I wasn't sure about the roads so I decided to take her to work. There's a Starbucks not far from the facility, so I went there to write. I bought a mocha and New York Times. There was an empty table in the corner, so I spread my things out there and wrote my column in about 20 minutes. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of venue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Second snow

The college sent out an emergency alert yesterday afternoon saying the college would be closed today due to the potential for hazardous weather. In the past, I would have whined about this because I'd have to make up the time. That's no longer true.

So this morning we slept until almost 7 a.m. We kept our eyes on the sky but the snow didn't come. The weather radar showed the clouds lifting just before the snow reached us. But there was more snow to the south in Mississippi. Around noon we began to see if fall outside our window. A flock of Orioles swooped in from the south to feast on the birdseed and suet we'd put out this morning. The flakes were slow to fall at first, but it got steady over time. It wasn't wet snow like the one we had in December. It was dry snow and not good for making snowballs.

The temps are dropping. It will be in the single digits by morning. I had to go out this evening and put long johns on our chicken.

The reason for the weather alerts is that the roadbed is still wet from the melting snow. By morning, it will be a solid sheet of ice. Schools will be closed tomorrow too.

Tonight, Jilda made chicken and dumplings with collards.  It was the perfect cold-weather dish.

I hope your Tuesday has been special.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dodging a bullet

At lunchtime yesterday, I left my office at Bevill State Community College to attend a chamber of commerce lunch meeting. The sky was tombstone grey with light mist falling. Cranking up my truck, I sat for a moment while the engine warmed and the wipers squeaked on the windshield, looking for water to swish. I rolled the driver’s side window down to wipe the mist off my rearview mirror.

It wasn’t cold so I left the window down as I navigated the parking lot. A clicking sound came from somewhere underneath the truck. It changed rhythm as I slowed down, and that concerned me. Pulling to the edge of the parking lot, I stepped out to check the tires. The rear driver’s side tire had what looked like a piece of metal as big around as a kindergarten pencil wedged into the tread.

Running my finger over the object, I couldn’t tell if it was stuck between the tread or jammed through the rubber. Had I pulled it free, there was a chance I’d have to change the tire. That meant that I’d have to get on the ground to reach the spare tire. So, I opted to go have the tire checked instead of attending the lunch meeting.

I clicked down to Sayre Auto Parts and pulled up to the tire bay. They do all the work on my vehicles. The mechanic was there in a second and looked at the piece of metal. “That’s a bullet,” he said.” I thought he was joking until I had a closer look. It looked like a cartridge for a .357-magnum handgun. “I hope it’s a spent cartridge and not a live bullet” he said. I involuntarily stepped back.

He removed the tire and took it inside. Sloshing soapy water on the area around the projectile, he looked for air bubbles. When he didn’t see any, he reached for his pliers and pulled the object free and held it up for me to see. The spent casing hadn’t damaged the tire at all. I was amazed.

He bounced-rolled my tire back out and replaced it on the truck.

As he worked, I surveyed the sky. The clouds had thinned enough to make out the outline of the sun hiding above. I thought about the things that happen from day to day in our lives. I half expected to fork out a few hundred dollars to replace a tire that was not quite a year old. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to me. I adopted something that Jilda’s dad Sharky used to say: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

When I asked about the charge, the shop manager standing nearby said, “There’s no charge.” I tipped the mechanic and opened the door to climb back into my truck. The window was still down. The shop manager called to me as I cranked the engine, “I guess you could say you dodged a bullet.”

Pulling into traffic, I and thought to myself, “Yep, it’s always good when you can dodge a bullet.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Girls Rock

One of my goals this year is to straighten up my office closet. A while back when we decluttered, we took it in steps. The books, the music CDs, clothes, etc. The office closet what overwhelming and I kept saying I'd do it next. I lied. When I opened it up yesterday, a small piece of equipment fell from a top shelf onto the big toe of my right foot. The pain was exquisite. That one random reminder from Mother Nature upped the priority of cleaning out that closet. I started today. 

I threw a garbage can full of junk away, but there were several items that I needed to repurpose somehow. Then I remembered a project with which my friend Fred is involved. 

He works with the Girls Rock group initiative in Birmingham. The group works with young girls to teach them the basics of music. Many of the girls come from homes where buying a guitar would not be an option. At the end of the project each year, the girls do a concert.

Fred, who is handing refurbishing musical equipment was a natural as a volunteer for the group. He knows sound, performance, equipment, lights, and cables. 

I had an old electric guitar, an effects pedal, music stands, and some other equipment that was sitting in my closet. When I called to ask if they could use it, he said, "Of course." 

There is always a market for this kind of equipment. I could have put it on Ebay or on Facebook and sold it, but that didn't feel right.

I loaded up the stuff and took it over there this afternoon. Thinking about putting the equipment in the hands of a young girl and giving her a chance to find joy playing music seemed like the right thing to do.

The picture of me was taken just after Jilda and I married in 1974. The guitar is a Gibson Les Paul. I wish I still owned that guitar.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alabama Ice Castles

We ate a late breakfast this morning. Since we'd be eating out tonight for my birthday, Jilda decided to prepare an Irish Breakfast. By, Irish Breakfast I mean eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. 

After we read the papers, we bundled up for a walk. The dogs were bouncing off the furniture, so I took them outside while Jilda finished bundling.  I remembered my gloves, but I 'd forgotten my toboggan. Halfway through the backyard, I felt a steady wind of out the north. One gust was so strong it made my ears whistle. I hustled back inside and got my headgear and pulled it down over my ears.

The walk was invigorating and the critters were beside themselves. They love the cold. When we headed around the old place and turned up the barn road toward the mailbox, I saw something you rarely see here in Alabama. Tiny ice crystals pushing up through the gravel and red clay.  They looked like tiny ice castles.

I bend over long enough to snap a few pictures. There wasn't as much color as I would have liked, but I still thought they were interesting.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fun Friday

Last night before turning in, I had to turn the AC unit on to cool the house down so we could sleep. Sometime during the night, the mercury dropped like a stone. It's still dropping. When I checked just now, it's 26 degrees F.

This morning I had appointments in Birmingham. My friend Dan who owns a media company also needs some help after I leave my current job. I've been a writer for him since he bought his first paper and now he owns at least seven newspapers and a marketing business. He's rocking and rolling.

We talked for a while and I got a feel for some ways I can help him. After we talked business, we talked fishing. We share a love of fly fishing.

After I left there, I ran to a music store a few blocks away to pick up a part for our 12-string guitar. Jilda and I have been friends with the owner for years. He wasn't there when I arrived but a sign on his door said he'd be back in 10 minutes. He has a cedar bench in front of his store, so I sat down. I snapped a selfie while I waited.

He pulled back into his parking spot with 30 seconds to spare.

We sat in his workroom and talked while he looked through drawers of parts. Jilda's 12-string is over 30 years old so a new part wouldn't fix it but I knew Herb would have what we needed. A few minutes later I heard him say, Aha!

I bought some strings and a while later I was on my way home. It was a delightful morning.

Tonight, we went back to Birmingham to join our great-niece Breeze's birthday party. But I'll let Jilda tell that tale.

I hope this Friday has been a good one for you too.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Color me happy

Today was eventful. I had to run to Fayette to pick up some laptops that we'd loaned our candidates. My coworker Danny met me in his office to talk through all the things we'd need to do to close down our work on the grant.

At noon, we decided to head somewhere for lunch. I thought I'd eaten at most of the local (non-chain) restaurants in Fayette, but I was wrong.

We loaded up in the Bevill SUV and headed to Country Junction. It's a meat and three during the day, and at night it's a steak and seafood restaurant. They specialize in fried catfish. Danno said they almost need a traffic cop on the weekends to direct traffic in and out of the parking lot.

I ordered the meatloaf, potato salad, coleslaw, with baked beans. My bar for meatloaf, coleslaw, and potato salad is high because those are some of Jilda's specialties. While the meal today wasn't quite as good as hers, it was better than I've had in a restaurant in a long time. I was surprised...and happy.

While food is always high on my list of event'ish things, we had other good things that happened today too. Jilda had her annual evaluation at work and her boss pretty much said that she walked on water. She got a raise. She was happy which made me happy.

I learned today that I have a new job that starts on March 1. I'll be working part-time at the newspaper where my column runs each week. I'll be doing feature stories, and taking pictures from around my hometown. The publisher also wants me to do short documentary videos.  This is exactly the work that I love doing. I won't tell the publisher this, but I've done it for free in the past.

So tonight, I'm sipping red wine as I type this entry. Color me happy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Vaycay Waylay

We've been antsy as we've watched the weather for this coming weekend. We'd planned to do my vacation getaway at the beach, but it looks like the weather here could get bad.  If it were just going to be cold that wouldn't be bad but they're saying we could get ice. Almost everytime we get ice we lose power. It's one of the features that come with living in the sticks.

So, we called to reschedule our trip. It might be February before we can get to the shore, but we will go before spring.

I've spent most of the day writing. I had columns to deliver and some other things. So, tonight my muse is napping.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


Yesterday was an old rainy day. Actually, it was an old cold rainy day. We had the first yoga class of the year at seven. I debated whether to go or not. I was hesitant because my team, the Alabama Crimson Tide was playing for the National Championship. And the game started at 7 p.m.

I decided to go and I'm glad I did. Read Jilda's blog to learn why. 

Normally on game day, I hang the Alabama football flag on the arbor outside. This routine helps me get my game face on but I didn't want it to get wet so I didn't put it out.

By the end of the first half, my team was down 13 points and it looked like their opponents, Georgia, was unstoppable. It was well after 9 p.m. but I dug the flag out of the flag drawer and went outside to hang it. I then put on my Alabama pajamas.

Alabama's starting quarterback was not having a banner night. We got the ball first after the half and I noticed the backup quarterback trotting on the field. He's a freshman. And while he came highly recruited, he didn't have that much experience. What he lacked in experience, he made up with enthusiasm.

My team clawed their way back and tied the game late in the 4th quarter. We had a chance to put it away with a chipshot kick with 3 seconds left, but the kicker shanked it. That meant overtime.

Georgia couldn't move the ball but managed to kick a field goal to go ahead by 3.

When we got the ball it looked as if we were struggling. On the first snap, they sacked the freshman for a loss that put them out of field goal range. One the next snap the quarterback hit an open man for a 41-yard touchdown. Alabama won their 5th championship in 9 years. I went to bed exhausted, but happy or my team.

I know some of you are probably yawning right now. Actually, I am too. But I'm a happy camper.

This is an old picture I took earlier in the year.

Monday, January 08, 2018

There's value in things from the past ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had our traditional New Year’s meal again this year. Black-eyed peas, collard greens, baked sweet potatoes, and cornbread. Our grandparents said it brings good luck in the New Year. The peas represent coins, the collards represent folding money, and the cornbread represents gold. Baked sweet potatoes represent the sweet taste of success. OK, I made that last part up, but you get the idea. 

People tell me that I cling to the past.  They call me an old fogy. That may be true, but we can learn a lot from the past.

And speaking of the past, the collards we ate on New Years were ones we planted earlier in the fall. They were heirlooms. My wife Jilda got the young plants from her sister Nell who got the seeds from Mamie – their grandmother. We shared the wealth with our niece, Samantha. She sent Jilda a text afterward and said the collards were the best she’d ever tasted. I had to agree.

Modern horticulture scientists have made great strides. They’ve tweaked plants so that they grow more fruits and vegetables. They often emphasize making them look more attractive on the supermarket shelves. But looking better does not always mean they taste better. Sometimes they just look better. And if you’ve ever saved the seeds from a hybrid tomato plant and planted them the following year, you won’t get the same tomato.  

Some people in horticulture are excited about genetically modified plants, beef, and chicken. But I don’t share that enthusiasm. I am not alone here.

On one side of the argument food folks are saying it’s the answer to helping address the world food shortage. Those on the other side share my concerns. The potential loss of biodiversity is vast. People also fear superweeds, superpests, antibiotic resistance, and food allergies.

I guess what I’m saying here is that just because something is new, doesn’t always make it better. 

Last year, I broke the handle on my round-pointed shovel. It hurt my heart. Jilda’s mom gave it to me back when Carter was in the White House. When I stopped by Posey and Sons Hardware store, there was a new shovel in the window. The price wasn’t bad, but when I took it to the counter to pay, Mr. Posey told me that it was imported. “It’s a decent shovel for light work, but it’s not like the old shovels,” he said. 

I’ve used the shovel several times, and it’s not as durable as my old shovel was in its day. 

Tools, cars, phones, and other things we use in our daily lives are pretty much disposable. Use it a while and toss it when it breaks. Our landfills are filling up because of this disposable mindset.

This column may seem like I’ve “drifted too far from the shore” as the old gospel song goes, but let me try and bring it into focus.

Science, industry, and modern processes have brought a lot of incredible things into our lives. But there is value in things from the past. 

You can call me an old fogy if you like – but I prefer the term heirloom. 

Happy New Year.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday fun

We got a lot of stuff done today. One of the projects both Jilda and I have worked on for the last few weeks is our vision boards. We cleared our calendars for this weekend and had no commitments other than doing things around here.

Today, I finished pruning the peach tree, and I did a little more on the old apple trees. They both look spring-ready.

After lunch, we put our boards on the dining room table, laid all the pictures of things we want in our lives this year and set to work. A few hours later, we stood them across from the couch in front of the fireplace and had a look. They both look pretty good but after we had a chance to let them settle in, we both saw things we'd omitted.

Turning the screen porch into a sunroom is something we've decided we'd enjoy. It will be a place we would use all year around.  I'd also forgotten to put something about eating well, gardening, and staying healthy. So I found pictures on the Internet and printed them. With the addition of these pictures, both our boards are rounding out nicely.

I'm sure we'll think of a few things in the next few days but we left enough space to made last-minute adjustments.

I hope your Sunday was as enjoyable as ours.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Neglected chores

I haven't been a friend to our fruit trees. I've fed them each season, but my pruner tool died a few years ago and I kept putting the chore off until it was too late each spring.

The last several years have been unseasonably warm. And then we had a drought in 2015. This past fall we got one peach. We didn't get a single pear or apple. Both trees are normally bulging with fruit.

I promised my old friends that I would do right by them. I'll be installing irrigating from the well and today I began following through with the second promise which was to prune.

The apple tree is the worst. I headed down after lunch and pruned until my arms were jelly'esk. I thought I was in decent shape, but the proof in the pruning. I'll go back tomorrow and finish the job. I'll also haul woods dirt, compost, and mountains of leaves on their roots. I think they will be happy and I believe next summer they will show their appreciation.

Pruning and chores like that are easy to ignore. The trees won't complain or throw a tantrum. They give all they can give because it's in their nature. But without good stewardship, they suffer.

Next autumn, I'm hoping to have an abundant harvest.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Planning birthdays at the beach

We're spending my birthday at the beach. We debated going somewhere else but could think of no place we'd rather be in January.

Jilda made the reservations today. It's a great time to the shore. The holidays are over and it's too cold to swim here. For most beach lovers it will be summer before they get sand in their shoes – spring break at the earliest. But we prefer winter.

There will be snowbirds there. We've talked to pe0ple from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada who say it's cheaper rent a place at the beach that it is to heat their homes when the snow comes.  The folks from up north that we've met at the beach are some of the nicest people we've ever met. 

Anyhow, we'll be there for my birthday and I think it's a great place to get some perspective on my 67th year here on earth.

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