Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween

I hadn't used the table on the screen porch for a writing desk since we sealed it up for winter. The porch, not the table.

When we put the plastic sheeting up last week, we left a few of the smaller wind chimes hanging between the plastic and the screen.

Pausing to collect my thoughts this morning, I looked up. The chimes threw off interesting shadows from the muted light cast by the morning skies.

The pink mandevilla plant still looks quite happy with the new environment. When the temps drop, I'll fire up the small heater to make it feel plant-comfy.

We had two Trick or Treaters tonight. Our great nephews Jordan and Anthony. They come every year but rarely do others venture out this far into the sticks. They must be afraid of witches and goblins.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fall morning

The dogwood tree on the property we bought a few years ago is leading the pack on color this year. I've tried several times to get a picture, but the light hasn't been right. I could take a picture but it wouldn't do it justice. 

This morning I took the big dogs out while Jilda was getting the halter and leash on Taz. Ol' Hook and Lady jumped a deer and were off before I could blink. Caillou looked around as if to say, "Can you believe those hair-brains think they can catch that deer?"

While waiting for Jilda to come out, I noticed the sun on some autumn grass. I thought it made an interesting picture.

It was a beautiful fall morning here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Autumn chores

It was warm enough to swim a few weeks ago, but suddenly fall came and brought winter with it. Now it’s time for autumn chores. 
This afternoon we plan to bring in all the plants that have been summering on our deck in the back
and in front of our great-room windows. Some of these are smaller plants that I can carry two at a time. There are others so big that using a forklift to move them would be helpful.
We used to put the 30 or so plants in our great-room turning it into a terrarium complete with lizards and frogs. They live in the plants and tend to assume the color of their surroundings for survival. A green chameleon looks like a green lemon leaf until it jumps for a mosquito. They freaked Jilda out the first few times we noticed them, but we have a “live and let live policy.” If they can survive inside, we let them live in the citrus trees.
One year, just after we’d brought the trees in Jilda was sitting in the kitchen with our niece Samantha who was about five at the time. Samantha kept hearing a squeaking sound. While investigating, Jilda took a closer look at one of the trees. When she bent over to look at the roots, a chipmunk launched out from a small hole he’d dug in the pot. Soon Jilda, Samantha, and the chipmunk were ricocheting off the walls of the living room. The two finally managed to herd the critter out the door with brooms. My only regret is that we didn’t film that chase. It would have been priceless on YouTube.
Last year, I came up with the idea of using plastic sheeting to turn the screen porch into a temporary greenhouse. We put the smaller plants out there along with an electric heater that we used on cold nights, and the plants thrived.
I feared that my new knee would keep me from climbing a ladder, but I’m getting around better now than I was before my surgery. I did a few test climbs on the ladder, and I feel comfortable climbing.
Hopefully, by day’s end, all the plants will be safe from the frosty weather that’s coming later this week.
Toward the bottom of my to-do list is cleaning out the firepit and collecting kindling. Soon, we’ll start having gatherings of friends and family. Usually, everyone ends up outside sitting around the crackling firepit. If there are kids in the crowd, we roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Both are kid pleasers.
This year should be even more pleasant because I saved the wood I trimmed off the apple trees in the garden. Few things have a better aroma than apple wood in a firepit.
Looking back, I’ve always had autumn chores. When I was a kid my areas of responsibility had two main areas of focus. Each evening I had to have heaping scuttles of coal on the fireplace hearth.
Since we didn’t have an indoor bathroom back then, I was responsible for carrying out the slop jar first thing each morning. 
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when my dad sprung for a furnace and an indoor bathroom. 

This much I know for sure ‑ When it comes to chores, I’d much rather be collecting apple wood to burn in our firepit than taking a slop jar to the outside facility.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Decorating cookies

We invited Jilda's brother and his family over this afternoon for chili and hotdogs. As an added bonus for the kids, she made a batch of her spice cookies. 

A few weeks ago, she showed me a cookie cutter in one of her catalogs. It was a Sugar Skull cookie cutter. It arrived in the mail earlier this week.

When it came in, it was bigger that she realized. Once cut out, the Sugar Skull cookies were as big as my hand. 

When we went to the store yesterday, we bought a ton of cookie decorating stuff. 

Today, after we ate, she pulled out the cookies and decoration stuff, and the kids headed ot the table on the screen porch.

The kids had a large time, and the results were amazing. Jilda will post a picture of all the kids, but I'm using one of the youngest decorator, Joy. 

It's amazing how much fun kids can have with a few sugary cookie decorations and some spice cookie.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Happy Navy Day

Today is a holiday according to the Holiday Insights Website. It's Navy Day.

The website says:
In the United States, Navy Day is commonly celebrated on October 27th.  This date was selected as it was the birth date of  President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid supporter of the U.S. Navy. In the 1970's, researchers determined that the birthday of the U.S. Continental Navy was October 13, 1775. At the time, efforts were made to move Navy Day to this date. However, Navy Day in the United States is still largely recognized as October 27th.

I'm an Army man myself. No one in my family ever served in the Navy except my Uncle Marvin Lee Ferguson. 

In December of 1941, he was on the USS California in Hawaii. He sent pictures home of him riding what looked like a Moped. In the photograph, he had on his Navy white uniform with his Dixie Cup hat. 

He looked like he was having the time of his life. He was dead before Christmas. 

He died in the opening hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The county where I live named the only VFW in his honor.

He died before I was born. Though I never met Uncle Marvin, I think we would have been buds. 

I would love to have heard him tell stories about sailing the high seas and sing bawdy sailor songs. 

All I have of my uncle is a few photographs and some stories that my mama told me about him.

Anyway, happy Navy Day Uncle Marvin. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

This time of year

A few months ago I got a recall notice on my 2004 Ford Ranger. Apparently, there was an issue with the airbags. I called to make an appointment but the parts weren't in. They called earlier in the week to say the parts were in.

I made an appointment for 8 a.m. The time seemed reasonable on Monday afternoon, but this morning Jilda looked at me and asked what the heck I was thinking? I didn't have a good answer.

After were got back we decided to walk. It wasn't raining but the mist was thick enough to lick from the air.

On our first lap, I noticed a small bush between the back gate and the barn. The red berries looked like tiny beacons.  These bushes can be invasive, but so far they are just here and there. They are beautiful this time of year.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Autumn is finally here

The street light in our yard stayed on longer this morning that it normally does. Even though the sun was out somewhere, it was no where to be seen here. And it was chilly.

As the day wore on, it got cooler and when I went outside to tend the chickens, I thought I could smell rain on the wind.

Later, when I had to run to the office for a meeting, enough rain was falling to streak my windshield when I turned on the wipers, but there wasn't enough to swish off the glass. My wipers made pooting sounds.

Jilda had tucked a vest under my arm before I headed out. By the time I reached the office which is about 20 miles away, the rain was rattling the cab of my truck. When I clicked the gearshift into park and switched off the engine, I wiggled into the vest before stepping out in the rain.

I did a quick jog inside and my new knee coorperated. I was so proud.

After the meeting, I had a couple more stops to make before heading home. I did one unplanned stop at the local coffee shop. A few moments later, I walked out with a steaming mocha. It was good for my soul.

Tonight as I write these words, I can hear the rain tapping on the metal roof. The heat just kicked on. Autumn is finally here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Winter ready

Tonight my bones are aching...all of them. I got the screen porch sealed with plastic and moved all the plants in from outside.

Even though I'm weary, it's a good kind of weary. Getting the plants inside to safety was a big to-do on my list. 

I mentioned how tall the lemon trees were but I snapped a picture just after we moved them inside and had Jilda stand beside them so you can get an idea how tall they are in our house.

We had already trimmed off more than a foot from the tops of each tree.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Plant moving day tomorrow

Tomorrow we'll have to bring our plants inside. The weather was warm enough to swim just over a week ago, and now the weatherman is predicting frost by the weekend. 

Most of our plants are citrus and they tend to frown on cold weather. We leave them out until we get "THE FORECAST." 

I'll also have to put the plastic sheeting around the screen porch tomorrow as well. 

Last year, the lemon and grapefruit trees thrived on the screen porch. On cold nights I keep a small electric heater on which kept the porch comfortable. 

Someone asked us recently why we went through all the trouble of moving the plants inside and out during the winter and summer. When we explained that some of the plants were over 50 years old and were gifts from our parents and grandparents they understood, but I doubt they would have bothered had the plants been given to them.

The thing is, once Jilda and I are gone, I doubt any of our kinfolks will bother with them either. 

This morning when Jilda and I walked, I noticed branches of one of the blueberry bushes was turning. The light fell just right, so I snapped a picture for the blog tonight. 

If any of you are close to Empire tomorrow and want a little exercise, feel free to drop by. I have a lemon tree 14 feet tall waiting for you to carry it inside.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad’s birthday was this week. He would have been 95 years old. 
I have a picture of him on my desk, and he seems to be watching over me as I work. Sometimes looking at that picture makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me sad. You’d think that after 32 years the memory of losing him would lose its edge, but this one is still sharp as a shard. 
I drove to the cemetery on his birthday and parked in the shade next to the family’s plot. Flipping the tailgate down, I sat for a while in the morning sun and drank coffee from a thermos cup. A freight train blew the horn as it approached the Burnwell Crossing in Dora. The sound echoed by through the hills and hollows. 
On this morning the horn sounded lonesome for some reason. My dad loved that sound. He was a hobo at heart, but I’m not certain he ever rode a train. The cemetery fell silent after the train rumbled by.
As I sat there, I realized that someone had stolen the flowers that Jilda and I had put on the graves during the summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the graverobbers had a flat tire driving out of the cemetery because my dad hated a thief. 
Each time I go fly fishing I think of my dad. He couldn’t afford high-dollar rods and reels, but he managed to net enough bream and perch to fry up for supper. I still have his old fly rod and reel behind the seat of my truck. Several years ago, I sprung for a new fishing rig with a graphite rod and a fancy reel. They cost more than my first car. The equipment is nice, but I find myself using the old Shakespeare fly rod and reel that my dad gave me before he died in 1986.  
My dad also loved to drive the backroads. Some of the roads were tar and gravel, but others were paved with crushed red rock. The potholes in some of those old backroads were brutal. I heard him tell his friend Glen Sellers a story about getting stopped by a policeman while driving down one of those backroads. The officer said, “Mr. Watson you were weaving. You’re not drinking, are you?” My dad said he told the constable, “Well, hell officer, you have to be drunk to drive these roads.” 
My dad’s mother lived to be 95. I often wonder what it would have been like had my dad lived longer. My dad was one my biggest cheerleaders. When I had a win or reached a milestone in my life, I loved sharing the news with my him. He would listen, nod his head and smile broadly. “I’m proud of you son,” he would say. Those words made my spirit soar.
If your father is still living, I encourage to spend as much time with him as possible. There are very few things in life more important.
Happy birthday, dad.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Buzz Cut

I took my collie Caillou to the groomer back in May to get his summer cut. I had no idea when I took him in exactly what a summer cut meant. When I picked him up, it looked as if he'd gotten drafted and had gotten a basic training buzz cut. He was pitiful.

The other dogs didn't recognize him. Without his hair, he looks a lot smaller. I think the other dogs made jokes at his expense.

The upside of the episode is that Caillou did a lot better through the oppressive heat this summer. But still, I will never get him cut that short again.

His coat is finally coming back and he looks more like himself, but he still has a ways to go.

When I was outside on the bench, I snapped a picture of him to show his progress.

He should be back to his old self by Christmas.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

House concert

We had an early performance today. It was drizzling rain when we left and the temps started dropping after lunch. The weatherman said we wouldn't see the sun today. 

Our friends played at noon and we went on at 1 p.m. It was an acoustic performance in the Bankhead. The house once belonged to Tallulah Bankhead's parents. It's now a museum of sorts. 

They had an exposition entitled The Magic of Music. They displayed every kind of instrument you can imagine. They have live concerts inside the museum and in the amphitheater in the yard. We played inside. The acoustics were remarkable. 

After our set, we stood around and talked to those who came. It was a delightful experience. But playing acoustic means there is no sound equipment. The be heard, takes a great deal of energy.

Usually, we would stop somewhere an eat at a restaurant, but Jilda and I looked at each other and without saying a word, I aimed the car for home.

This evening we've been veggies. Since it's rained all day, we didn't take the dogs for a walk. They go out the doggie door and do their business, but that's not a walk.

After we had a nap, I stepped outside to let the big dogs run. I sat on the garden bench in the front yard for a while. They enjoyed it and so did I. 

While sitting there in silence, the sun broke through the clouds to the west. It was a beautiful moment.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Seeds and stuff

Jilda and I stopped at her sister's house to pick up some young collard plants. Since the temps have dropped it's time to get those babies in the ground.

Each time we visit for one thing, we leave with five things. Not only did we get enough collards to feed a third-world country, but we also got clumps of flowers, seeds, and other goodies.

As we got ready to leave, I looked over in one of her sister's flower beds and saw daisies. While she chatted, I stepped over and snapped a pic of this little beauty.

I'm hope by next fall, we'll have clumps of these babies of our own.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Jilda is still struggling with sinus crud so she went in for a followup visit today. She could probably have gone alone, but I wasn't sure what all they would have to do so I decided to take my laptop and write in the waiting room.

I knocked out my column for Sunday and most of a news story while I waited.

At one point, my eyes were weary from looking at the screen so I looked toward the window at the blue sky. Across the way, I noticed two young children. I did not know them but I'm guessing they were brother and sister. 

They were two cute kids and got along together well. As I watched, the young boy was showing his sister something on his iPad. I took a picture and posted it here last night. One of my blog buddies commented that it could be considered illegal in some places. The more I thought about it, I realized that while it was not the intent, it could be considered an invasion of privacy so I removed the picture.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Weather Lore

An old neighbor used to say that when there are "a plenty" of hickory nuts "a fallin'" then it's bound to be a cold winter. If that's true, I'm buying some more long-johns. 

Each day when we walk, we have to tiptoe by the old barn because walking over the hickory nuts is hazardous. It's been a while since we've had this many.

When I was a kid, my grandmother used to pay me in candy to crack hickory nuts for her. She wanted enough of the "goodie" (the edible stuff inside the nut) to back a cake. I thought I was taking advantage of her because there was nothing I enjoyed more than beating the crap out of things with a hammer. 

I soon learned that hickory nuts have mother nature's version of titanium. I beat the hide off of both my thumbs and most of my fingers. I finally got enough for a cake, but I thought she should have given me the entire box of candy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Locked out

Today has been jammed. I went to a city council meeting this morning. When I got out of the truck,  I had both arms full of stuff to take inside. Once the meeting was over, I headed out to the truck to go to another appointment, but I couldn't find my keys.

I traced my steps to see if I had dropped my keys on the way inside. Then I walked over and peered through the tinted glass. There they were dangling from the ignition. DANG! I thought.

I pulled the cell from my pocket and called Jilda at home. She was walking the dogs, but she hurried back inside and drove the 12 miles to the city hall to bring my spare key.

She didn't hound me or give me a hard time. She just opened the door, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, "I'll see you later."

When I went to the newspaper office this afternoon, I stopped by the Ford dealership and had a spare key made.

Hopefully, I won't be stranded with keys locked inside my car again.

An old picture of the beast.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Big Rocks

There is a mossy rock in the hollow behind our barn. It’s nestled under a canopy of oak, hickory, and pine trees. It’s a peaceful place. When my life gets crazy, I carve out enough time to visit the rock and think for a while. The sound of songbirds and whisper of the wind in the trees helps me find perspective – to put my life into balance. I don’t visit that big rock enough.
These past few weeks it seems I’ve spent my all my time juggling. The to-do list in my daily planner looks thicker than the U.S. tax code. Each time I strike one thing off, three more appear at the bottom. It seems the more my life gets out of balance, the more daunting the list becomes. It’s a pattern that repeats every few years. 
Just when I’m at the point of jabbing an icepick into my eye, I do a mental reset and go back to the basics. I know how to handle situations like this, but sometimes life and logic get tangled up.
Jilda and I took a class several years ago that put things into perspective. It was a Stephen Covey class entitled What Matters Most. He did an exercise with a volunteer from the audience that drove his concepts home.
On the podium was a bucket. Beside that were a few pounds of sand, some gravel, and some large rocks with things written on them like family, health, education, work life, money, and spirituality. The gravel represented things that weren’t as important but seemed urgent. The sand represented things that weren’t important but were URGENT!
He asked the volunteer to pour the sand into the bucket and then asked them to put in the gravel. Lastly, he asked them to fit the big rocks into the container. 
No matter how hard the volunteer tried, they could not fit the bigger rocks into the container. They simply would not fit. The volunteer had to leave the rocks representing family, health, or education out of the bucket. That bucket represented our lives. 
When it was obvious that all the rocks wouldn’t fit into the bucket, he pulled out another bucket. This time he had the volunteer put the big rocks in first. Then they poured in the gravel, followed by the sand. This time they all fit. The key was to put the big rocks in first.
This exercise made a tremendous impression on both Jilda and me. We’re both great at putting out fires. In fact, we are professionals. But so many of those fires are like candles that the wind will blow out in time. 
This afternoon, I wandered down to my big mossy rock and spent some time meditating on the big rocks in my life. When I got home, I scanned my to-do list and moved about 90 percent of them to my “Ain’t Gonna Happen” list. 
I already feel more in balance.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Waning Zinnias

It's been a low-key Sunday for both Jilda and me. We laid down after lunch for a nap and didn't bother to set a timer. I think I may have slobbered on my pillow.  After the nap, I decided to do something productive. Cutting the grass was on top of my list so I got to it.

This afternoon a breeze out of the west was cool but the sun was warm. That means it was perfect weather to cut grass. Topping off the tank of the old John Deere, I started mowing.

Cutting around the garden, I had considered mowing down the Zinnias. As I approached them I cut the engine and got off to inspect. Normally, these beauties thrive and decorate our mantel and bathrooms until frost. But these are beginning to look sad. The late August and September heatwave had its way with the plants.

The butterflies still had not given up on the flowering beauties and I thought it would be a shame if I did. So I gave them a reprieve for a few more weeks. Maybe if we get rain, they'll make a comeback.

I hope your Sunday has been a lazy day too.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Anything less

We had a show tonight with our good friend Joe Greg. He's a steelworker and gets very few days off work. He took vacation so that he could play with us tonight. And we were grateful that he joined us.

We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. We knew going in that we were up against SEC football. This is not our first rodeo. 

Some songwriters and bands get discouraged when the crowd is not overflowing. We take a different view. Each person that comes to see us deserves the very best we have to offer. We played and sang as if we were at the Astrodome playing to 50,000 screaming fans. We would never consider doing anything less.

This pictures was taken a few years ago.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Getting vitamin D

I had my last therapy session early this morning. After I hugged necks and shook hands with all my therapy peeps, I swung by Starbucks for a coffee and a paper. 

Once home, I grabbed my laptop and headed to work. I soon knocked out the first draft of a feature and the  wrote a news story. 

Wrapping up, I headed to the house. This was our first chilly day, but it was warmer in the afternoon. Heading out to the back deck, I sat in the sun to get some vitamin D. Samantha's dog Lady came out to join me. 

Sitting back in the Adirondack chair, I decided to meditate for a few minutes. My eyes were closed so I never saw Lady as she slipped up to me and gave me sugar. I took a selfie of us and sent it to her mama.

Lady, Hook, and Caillou had jumped a deer earlier in the day when Jilda walked them. Lady still had beggar lice on her nose from the chase.

Samantha is saving for a house of her own. Both Jilda and I told her that she could move, but she had to leave Jordan and Lady with us. I don't think she's convinced yet but we're standing our ground :)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Failure to communicate

I've always prided myself with my ability to communicate. Being able to express myself with kids, professionals, and people like me who grew up dirt poor is important to me. But today, I had a failure to communicate. 

I saw the company that trims power right of ways in our neighborhood last week. I called the power company and told them I wanted a supervisor to call me and discuss what needed to happen in my yard when the trimmers got to my address.

The supervisor's office was in Tuscaloosa which is an hour and a half from here, but he drove to my house.

I was working but Jilda explained our situation. He assured us he would have the crew chief talk to me before the crew cut the first limb.

The crew chief came at 7:30 this morning. I walked outside holding a mug of coffee and we walked through the yard. He said the oak limbs hanging over the power lines would have to be trimmed back. I knew that and had no problem with that.

He said they would have to snip a few limbs off the dogwood. I flinched a little and he assured me that it wouldn't be that much.

He mentioned a couple other places that needed a little attention and we shook hands.

I had an appointment to interview someone just before lunch and when I got back, I quickly saw they were trimming more than what I was promised. 

I grabbed my cell and called the crew chief. He was a few miles down the road. By the time he got there, they had trimmed our hemlock. We've had that tree over 20 years and it was barely 15 feet tall. It would never have grown tall enough to have been a problem around the power lines. 

When the supervisor walked up, he knew I was angry. I told him to tell the guys to stop cutting. "You are through cutting in my yard," I told him.  They started packing up.

He apologized and said he thought we were on the same page. I told him that I thought the same thing. I also told him I would do a better job explaining the next time.

I rarely get angry. In fact, I don't remember the last time I was angry. It bothers me that I let this get to me. But this place is our home. We planted almost every tree, shrub, and flower here. Most of them have stories behind them. 

This much I know for sure. The next time these folks come around there will not be a failure to communicate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Woke up to the rain

I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof and a gentle ticking of the rose-of-sharon bush outside our bedroom window.

The weather-folk said we could have rain later today at the earliest. But the hurricane in the Gulf changed the dynamics in the atmosphere.

Jilda and I shoe'd up after coffee and headed out for a walk. The rain had stopped but the grass was wet enough to dampen our shoes and sox.

The light was a little wonky, but there were a few photo ops. The yellow heart is a muscadine leaf and the red is what I think they call pin oak.

The hurricane made landfall on the Panhandle of Florida and moved over southern Alabama. A cold front from the west is pushing the circulation eastward. It's now over Georga heading for the Atlantic.

If any of you are in the path of the wind, stay safe.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Finding a mother: Adopted sisters discover their heritage ~ my story in today's paper

SIPSEY - This story would have been told years ago, but it got tangled up in excitement, joy, and grief. The fact that things happened the way they did is extraordinary. Some would say it was a lucky coincidence. 
Three sisters, Linda Vandiver of Empire, Brenda Willingham of Argo, and Regina Richardson of Jasper believe it was divine intervention.
Brenda and Linda Holt were born at a clinic in Sipsey in 1960. Their mother, Fay Holt, was a single mom who was living at home with her father. After the infants were born, Holt’s father left, and the young mother had no food or no place to turn. She did the only thing she knew that would give the young twins a chance to survive – she gave them up for adoption. 
Mary Watson and her husband Albert lived on the Hull Road between Sumiton and Sipsey. Mrs. Watson decided to adopt the twins without discussing the matter with her husband. There is a black-and-white photograph of Watson in an old rocking chair with the twins in his lap. It’s hard to tell if the look on his face was one of surprise or happiness. 
It didn’t take long for the twins to steal his heart. “We were daddy’s girls,” said Brenda Watson Willingham, who is one of the twins.
“Mom and dad always introduced us as their adopted daughter,” Willingham said. “But we were not sure what being adopted meant until we were older.
In the late 1970s, when the twins were 18, they went on a quest to find their birth mother. All they had to go on was that their mother’s name was Fay Holt. They weren’t able to locate their mother. The adoption records were no help, but the girls never gave up on their quest to find their mother.
In 2001, the twins had just turned 40. They renewed their efforts to find their parent.  Linda Watson Vandiver of Empire was the second twin. She was at Randy’s Store in Sipsey, and a man overheard her conversation about trying to locate her mother, Fay Holt. The man told her he thought he knew who she was talking about. This was a glimmer of hope that Vandiver and her sister had longed for.
The man gave Vandiver the name of a man that he thought was the younger brother of Fay Holt. He was dead, but his name was Dennis Holt.
When Vandiver gave her sister this tidbit of information, Willingham got on the internet and searched for the death certificate of Dennis Holt. With the death certificate in hand, the twins were able to find Dennis’ children. His son David lived in Haleyville.
The twins called David. “We’re trying to find our birth mother,” Willingham said. She gave David her name. David said he had an aunt named Margaret Fay Holt. Willingham asked for the number.  David gave her the number of Regina Holt Richardson, who was Fay’s daughter.
The twins called Richardson and told her they were looking for their birth mother. Richardson asked, “Is this Linda or Brenda?” 
“This was a crazy time. I had just adopted a daughter who was premature and was on a heart monitor. I’d also just learned that my mother was dying of brain cancer,” Richardson said.
A few weeks earlier, when her mother had fallen ill, an aunt had told Richardson that she had two older sisters who’d been adopted as infants. Their names were Brenda and Linda. With Margaret Fay dying, the aunt felt that she should share the information with Richardson.
“When I got the call from Brenda that day, I thought it was someone else,” Richardson remembers. But then she realized the voices on the other end of the line were her sisters. “It had been hidden from me my whole life,” Richardson said.
The twins were anxious to meet their mother, but they wanted to make sure their adopted mother didn’t mind. Mrs. Watson was happy the twins had found their birth mother and gave them her blessing.
Regina was in the process of transferring her mother to an assisted living facility in Jasper.  At this point, Holt could barely talk and only had days to live. Regina asked her mom if she wanted to see the twins. She did.
“When the twins went into the room to see mother for the first time, she had a look on her face that was incredible. It was the first time I ever saw her peaceful,” Richardson said.
“God put us all together at the perfect time,” Willingham said.
The tumor had attacked the part of their mother’s brain that controls emotions. “But she mustered up the strength to say, “I love y’all,” Vandiver said.
During the following days, Willingham took her children to the Terrace to meet their birth grandmother. The three sisters spent the next four days with their mother and were by her side when she died.
Those last hours with their mother were emotional. “It was a thrill just to find her and know that all of their lives, they only lived 12 miles apart,” Vandiver said. “We were happy we found her and got to spend time with her.”
When Willingham and Richardson’s sons met, they looked as if they could be twins, according to Willingham. “There is no denying that Regina is our sister,” she said.
Through the years, Holt knew where her twin daughters lived and followed them from a distance throughout their lives. Richardson said that her mother would often disappear for hours at a time and no one knew where she was.  She now believes she was going to watch over her twins. 
“I often had a feeling that someone was watching me,” Vandiver said. She understands now that it was her mother.
Growing up, whenever Regina needed a birth certificate her mother would run by the health department and get an abbreviated card.
After her mother died, Richardson got her full birth certificate and learned something that neither she nor the twins realized – they have another sister.
Their unknown sister’s birthday is January 15, 1963, and all they know is that she was adopted by an attorney who lived in Mobile. They’ve learned that the missing sister was taken from their mother by the Department of Human Resources because Fay had given up the twins for adoption.
Vandiver met her mother by accident the year before she died. “Mother worked at a kiosk at the mall, and I went there to buy something,” she remembered. “I didn’t know who she was, but she knew who I was."
People ask Brenda, why she wanted to find a mother who gave her up? She answers, “There was a reason she did that. She couldn’t care for us, but she gave us to wonderful parents that she knew could care for the young children,” Willingham said.
Since the sisters learned of each other, they’ve grown close, and their families vacationed together at the beach.
The three sisters hope the renewed interest in their story might help them find their other sister. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Graduation day

This coming Friday is graduation day for me. There won’t be any diplomas or gifts, exchanged, but
the time I’ve spent has been life-changing. Friday is my last day of therapy.

I’ve known for a few years that at least one of my knees would have to be replaced. I started with drugs, but my stomach does not play well with anti-inflammatory meds. The knee doc gave me shots with needles the size of kindergarten pencils. They used steroids and a type of viscous material that offered some temporary relief for knees that were bone on bone. 

Earlier this year, it became painfully clear that I’d have to put my big-boy undies on and have my left knee replaced.

My niece Samantha is a physical therapy assistant who knows her stuff. She sat me down, and we had “the talk.”  I’ve given her those “talks” since she was in diapers. I can’t help but believe that she got satisfaction on some level from telling me what I had to do to make my knee better.  To her credit, she didn’t giggle, smile, or say, “You’re going to get it, mister. Payback is going to be brutal.”

She recommended a doctor based on the results she had seen in his patients coming through her facility. I made the appointment for the consultation. He didn’t sugar-coat the procedure. Jilda and I were both impressed with the doctor and his staff. Getting my surgery scheduled was a matter of clearing time on my calendar.

Several weeks before surgery, my niece put me on a pre-therapy routine. This helped to build strength in the areas that would be affected by the knife, saw, and mallet.

A few hours after surgery, a physical therapist had me up walking around the hospital halls. I went home the next day. The following day, Jilda drove me to where Samantha works to get started with therapy.

Those first few sessions were not fun for me although I thought my niece seemed to have a mirthful look on her face at times. But maybe that was just my imagination.

Doing yoga with my lovely spouse was also helpful before and after surgery. Whenever the pain seemed unbearable, I could hear Jilda’s voice saying, “Acknowledge the pain and breathe.” I learned that the technique worked for me.

My recovery progressed steadily over the following weeks. I was driving after the second week which actually extended my life. If I’d spent much more time on the couch, my cabin fever would have forced my wife to kill me with a dull butcher knife. “I’m not sure what happened officer. One moment he was whining about not being able to drive, and the next moment I just snapped.”

This past week when I went to my knee doc for a follow-up appointment, he was almost giddy with my progress.

Yesterday was the first day in many years that I have not felt excruciating pain in my left knee. In fact, there was no pain at all. I wanted to do a little dance but didn’t want to push my luck.

On Friday when I graduate, I plan to drive over to the coffee place and get a fru-fru coffee and a New York Times newspaper. I think I “knee’d” to celebrate this graduation.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Laying sorry

Today has been a restful one. I needed it. Spending time on Friday and Saturday at the festivals was fun, but this morning it all caught up with me. "I laid sorry most of the day," as my grandma used to say. 

We left today open for the most part. My nephews' wife is recovering from mono and Jilda promised James that she'd make lasagna and bring it to them for dinner this even. 

After we got home, it was early, but we both looked at each other knowingly and donned out pajamas.

I can promise you it will be an early night tonight.

Sorry for the brief post. I'll do better tomorrow.

A picture of us from the archives.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Fun Ain't Cheap

This has been a froggy weekend. Last night we played at the Frog Level Festival which is in a city about 70 miles west of here and today was the Frog Festival which is here in our hometown. 

I take pictures for the Frog Festival so even though my rear end was dragging this morning, I loaded up the camera and headed to the Festival. It was even hotter today.

I shot over 200 pictures in about three hours. At lunch, I went to my favorite vendor at the festival. It's a family that BBQs ribs, Boston Butts, and all things piggy. I got two rib sandwiches to go.

When I got home, Jilda was waiting. We ravaged those sandwiches.

I had my PJs on by 5 p.m. this evening. Bedtime will come before long.

This much I know for sure, Fun Ain't Cheap.

NOTE: Some of you asked last night for a link to the song I blogged about. You can hear it here on Youtube.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Poignant moment

We played at the Frog Level Festival in Fayette tonight. When we took the stage at 6 p.m. it was still 85 degrees and still as a crypt. I can't remember it ever staying this hot in October though I could be wrong.

The sound folks did a remarkable job. They have the high-dollar equipment. Our sound guy Fred went with us last year and lusted all over their amps, racks, and speakers.

We closed out the set with World Keeps Spinning. It's a melancholy song about turbulent times. The idea came from the stories Jilda heard from the military folks coming from a war zone. It's not a happy song, but we think it's an important one.

After we finished, a veteran who was sitting in the audience came up to Jilda and shook her hand. He saw things that we sang about. It was a poignant moment.

I love this festival. The arts and crafts are remarkable and the people are friendly. 

Places like this are why we keep playing music.

I used a picture from the Frog Level Facebook page.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Sharing possibilities

My assignment this morning was to cover a career fair at the local college. The paper wanted a story and pictures. Local high schools bussed Juniors and seniors to the college campus. They came through the doors in droves. There were a lot of hands-on exercises they could do to get a feel for what jobs in that industry might be like.

Some of the kids were excited and participated and others just strolled around gazing at their phones. After shooting pictures for about 45 minutes I started to go. One of the organizers caught up with me and asked, "Are you not going to man the newspaper's booth?" When I looked, there was an empty table for the paper that the college had set up but apparently, the paper didn't realize they had a table.

I put down my camera, sat down and started talking to kids. One of the questions I asked was one I always ask, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" For the ones who had an idea, I encouraged them. For those who didn't, I asked if they'd ever considered a job in media.

I told them about the kinds of things I enjoy about my job. I also told them that jobs in the media weren't all newspaper jobs. Many are video, photography, drone photography, YouTube channels, and TV.

My pitch was compelling. One of my friends owns a local TV station and he sat down to chat for a few minutes. A group of kids came up and I gave them my pitch. When they left, he said, "I wish I had recorded that. That was a great pitch. You gave them some of the reasons I went into the media."

Who knows if any of the kids will decide to make a career in media. It was not my job to sell them. It was to share possibilities.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Hunting for apples

I was between projects this afternoon so I filled my glass full of water from the sink and stood looking out the window at nothing in particular. Something in the field caught my eye and it took a second to realize it was a deer under the apple tree.

It was standing on its back legs trying to reach one of the apples but the low-hanging fruit was the first to go. He couldn't reach the ones that were left.

I pulled the phone from my pocket, but the image of the deer was too small. Stepping to the computer room, I got my big camera with a telephoto lens and stepped to the back deck.

Even though I was in stealth mode, the deer wasn't fooled. It was on full alert. I shot of one picture before it darted through the field and disappeared behind the barn. 

I used to feed them corn to hold them over until the winter food source came in, but hunting season is just around the corner and I didn't want to draw them here because they have to cross land on which people hunt.

So, they have to come back now and then to see if an apple has fallen or if there are persimmons for the munching.

Travel safe my little buddy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Road time

I put a lot of miles on my vehicle today. An early morning city council meeting had me rolling just after coffee and afterward, Jilda had the crud and went to see her ENT. These appointments can be squirrely because of her Meniere's Disease so I took her.

Once home we had a quick lunch and I was on the road again for appointments in another city.  One stop was at the Bankhead House and Herritage Center where they are having an exposition on music. I loaned them one of my guitars so I loaned them one with a story behind it.

Organizers also asked Jilda and I to perform there later in October. We'll be playing acoustic in the living room by the fireplace. It was 94 degrees here today, so I doubt there will be a fire burning while we play.

As I was leaving, the beautiful fall color taunted the heat so I shot a picture in support of her defiance.

By the time I got home, I felt as if all the air had been let out of my tires.

Monday, October 01, 2018

My thinking bench

The late August and September heatwave coupled with the lack of rain had my hopes of a colorful autumn fading. The dust on my truck was thick enough to plant potatoes. It looked like the leaves of too many trees were turning as brown as tobacco and falling to the ground. Then a few nights ago, I heard salvation drumming on the roof just before dawn. It was a soaking rain.
Some people complain if it rains for more than an hour, but I love rainy days. It seems to cleanse my spirit.
Today I took a break from writing when the clouds thinned, and the rain slowed to a drizzle. Gazing out the window, I thought that a walk in the rain might clear my head. Grabbing my hat, I opened the door. Ol’ Hook, the bulldog that adopted us, almost knocked me down running out the door. I guess he had cabin fever too. 
A few steps down the barn road and he jumped a deer. Like a flash, he was off through the hollow like a shot. I used to try to call him back up, but I could holler until I was hoarse and that dog would not slow down a step because he’s as deaf as a post.
All along the barn road were signs that fall was near. Crimson sumac leaves had blown onto the road along with poplar leaves the color of fresh butter. The quality of the light also seemed different. Maybe that’s what sent the hummingbirds south.
Down at the barn is a persimmon tree draped with a muscadine vine. That vine has been on that tree since we first moved here in 1980. The vine near the ground is as big around as my bicep. 
The wild grapes ripen this time of year. The vines hanging from lower branches make the muscadines easy to reach from the ground. I stopped to pick a few choice grapes and shined them on my pants leg. When I held it up to the light, they were the color of a California Merlot. I popped one into my mouth, and the tart sweetness exploded. 
My thinking bench was a few steps away, so I thought it was only fitting that I sit for a moment and think about the changing season.
When I was a kid, there were only two seasons. Christmas time and summer. The other seasons were unending days between the real fun.
As I aged, I’ve come to enjoy all the seasons. One of my favorite songs of all time was written by Pete Seeger and recorded by The Byrds entitled, Turn, Turn, Turn. Seeger lifted the words from the Bible out of the Book of Ecclesiastes. 
The words resonated with me the first time I heard the song in October of 1965. They strike even closer to the marrow now that I’ve gotten older. 
It’s sobering when I realized that time is running out on all the dreams that I promised myself I’d do one day.  One day is now. 
This is what I thought about on this rainy day in September while sitting on my thinking bench.

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