Friday, March 22, 2019

Happy birthday, Jilda

Tomorrow is my lovely spouse's birthday. I could tell you her age, but that might cut my life short.

I first met her when she was in junior high school. She was dressed as a pilgrim and playing a pump organ for a fall festival.

Her cousin introduced us.

We've celebrated a few birthdays since then.

Here's the thing – her pilgrim dress was yesterday.

Even if you live for a long time, life is brief. 

Do yourself a favor and be here now.

Burn all your fuel.

Celebrate at every opportunity.

Happy birthday, Jilda.




Thursday, March 21, 2019

Beauty is ephemeral

Fluctuating temperatures have not been kind to the camellias blooming by the backyard fence. When they first bloomed, they were hard to miss.

But beauty is ephemeral. This morning when I walked by earlier this week, most of the camellia blossoms had fallen.

This morning, this one was splayed out underneath the bush. It was as if she were saying, I gave it my all.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pollen munchers

One of the best things about living where we live is the fruit. The peaches, apples, pears, and figs make living in the sticks more palatable if you'll excuse the pun.

They've been popping out more and more each day. Today, the pear tree was showing out. The bees were down with this latest development. You could hear the buzz.

I tried to shoot pictures of one of the little pollen munchers but they didn't have time to pose. The picture below is from our morning walk.

I wrote my column for Sunday today. It's about the bees. That's probably a shocker to you all.

Here's hoping your Wednesday was a good one.




Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Goofed

I did something yesterday that I haven't done before. I missed an appointment for an interview. Actually, let me be more specific – I forgot that I'd made the appointment.

I'd somehow put the appointment down on the wrong day so my reminder was waiting to remind me. 

The photographer sent me a text asking if I was OK. It was embarrassing to tell her that I'd messed up.

Later, I called the gentleman back and told him that I'd screwed up and asked if he would consider rescheduling. He's my age and chuckled a little and asked if we could do it today. I told him I would come at his convenience. 

I met him at the small airport in Jasper. We talked for over an hour. He was a Vietnam veteran who flew combat missions. 

The story will go in the quarterly magazine that will be published in April. I will share it then.

This evening, I got home as Jilda was leaving for work. There were several stories that I needed to write. After the first one, I took the dogs for a walk.

Not far from our front steps, I noticed tiny white flowers on anorexic stems. The looked beautiful in the shade of the sweet gum tree. I snapped a picture.

It's getting beautiful here. The temps will be near freezing tonight. I'm hoping all the blooming things have a sweater.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Movie biz

I knew it was a long shot, but I thought I'd give it a try. The mayor called me over the weekend to say that a movie company was shooting a few scenes of a movie in Old Dora.

I dug my press pass out of the bottom of my camera bag. Most everyone here where I work knows me and I never have to show the pass so I've never actually used it.

Heading my truck into the gates, I eased up to the edge of the parking lot where the crew was assembling.

I casually got out of the truck as if I owned the place. Strolling around, I shot several pictures. When I started toward the carts with the cameras a young man approached me. I showed him my press pass, but he wasn't impressed. He asked me to leave.  I did.

A few minutes later my phone buzzed. The mayor sent a text with the phone number for the publicists. She gave me the scoop and apologized for the closed set. But I understood. They didn't want a thousand locals coming to the set wanting to be extras.

I got a story and the few pictures I'd taken would be OK.

On the way home, I drove on through the old town. I've written about this tunnel in the past. I've never driven through it without blowing my horn.

Today, as I snailed through it, I stopped in the middle. School kids have spray painted their names on this tunnel ever since spray paint was invented. Apparently Ben loves Alexia. And Bro did something disgusting with XXXXXX. The "with" name had been sprayed over.

There are small towns all across this country. All of them are full of history. If they could talk (or write screenplays), there would be thousands of compelling movies.

I smiled at that thought as I headed home to write my story.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bee watching

I have an old metal folding chair that my neighbor gave me a few weeks before he died. It's been leaning against the pear tree out back.

Today, I dragged the chair down and placed it under the peach tree just a few feet from the beehives. This afternoon, the sun was high in a cloudless sky. I think it got warmer than the weatherman predicted.

I sat in the folding chair and watched the bees. A few of them flew up and landed on my pants leg to get a better look at me. I sat still and talked in low soothing tones.  They considered me for a long while before zipping up to suck on a peach blossom.

It's peaceful sitting there and listening to the drone. They rarely rest when there's work to do.

Ol' Hook sat beside me and helped me keep watch. He learned to respect flying insects last year when he tried to dig up a yellow jacket's nest.

As the sun drifted behind the oak an poplar trees, I stood to walk to the house. A Canadian Swallowtail butterfly almost landed on my shoulder. It changed its mind and fluttered around just ahead of me. Hook chased its shadow.

It flew all the way to the collard plants by the back deck before swooping down to check out the yellow flowers on the bolding plants.

It paused just long enough for a portrait.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

New friends

I set the clock for 5:30 a.m. this morning which is something I rarely do.   Setting an alarm pretty much gaurantees that I will not sleep well. But, I needed to be on the road early.

The beekeeper called earlier this week and said that Saturday would be a good day to come get my new hives. Bees do better when you move them when the day is young.

My nephew Haven agreed to help with the heavy lifting. I was at his house at 6:30 a.m.

The weatherman said it would be sunny, but the morning skies were ash gray. A wind out of the northwest was biting. I'd started to the truck in a simple long sleeve pullover but it only took a few steps outside to realize that the thin shirt was not going to cut it.

We arrived at the beekeeper's house before 7 a.m. His dogs greeted us when we pulled into the driveway.

The beekeeper had closed up the entryway into the two hives last night trapping the bees inside. When we lifted the hives off the stands this morning, they were not happy. I could hear their wings beating in a syncopated drone. I think the note was a B-flat (sorry for the pun) The hives vibrated as we carried them to the truck.

It's over 20 miles from the beekeeper's house to ours. I drove slowly. We set the stand up facing east. They are situated among our peach, apple, and pear trees.

I let them settle in for about an hour before I put on my beekeeper suit. When I took the narrow blocks off their entryway, the bees flooded out of the hives. Several of them lit on the vail and said some unkind things to my face.

Soon, they settled down and got down to the business of scouting the territory to look for food, and water.

This evening, Jilda and I walked down to the hives slowly without protective suits. A couple lit on my pants leg but after looking me over, they headed to the pear tree which is in full bloom.

Jilda and I are both excited about friends.





Friday, March 15, 2019

Color me sad

The storms came through yesterday afternoon. The wind chimes sounded angry as the first line of storms swept through. Then the power blinked out. 

I did my blog in the dark last night...on my phone. Jilda didn't bother doing her blog.

We planned to do several things today, but our great nephew Jordan wasn't feeling well so our plans changed. He spent the day with us.

After breakfast, he wanted to go for a walk. We shoe'd up headed out. Down in front of our old house, I was taking a picture of lichen on a limb that had fallen to the ground. Jordan looked up into the ancient oak in front of the old house. 

He said, "Something scratched that limb on the oak." When I looked up, my heart sank. What he'd seen was unmistakable. During the storm last night, lightning struck the oak. It looks as if one of the higher limbs was shaved with a pocketknife. 

I want to believe that it will be OK. Time has taught me that it is hard for trees to survive lightning strikes.

Color me sad.





 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In the dark

We’re in the dark this evening. Storms blew through a few hours ago and took our lights with it. Jilda was at work and I sent her a text that it was heading in her direction.
I told her that if she saw our lights to please tell them to get back home.

She called just before 6 to say she was on the way home. I drove down to the main road to make sure she could get through.

Down at the main road there were huge oak and hickory trees blown down. When they fell they took power lines with them.

I’m posting this on my phone so it will be short.

Happy Thursday.



Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday

We had baked garlic chicken with chickpeas for lunch today. Jilda cooks almost every meal we eat.  She found this recipe in a magazine that featured Mediterranean dishes. I could say it was scrumptious but that would be a disservice. 

Wednesday is an off day for me, but Jilda teaches one yoga class at the rehab center.

We decided a nap after lunch, would be just the ticket. We were right. I think I may have drooled on my sleeve.

Later, I walked out on the back deck. The sun was warm. Wind out of the west played a concerto on the chimes hanging on the eve.

I sat in the sun drinking ice tea and eating pistachios. There must have been twenty redbirds on the fence waiting for their turn at the feeders. There are probably better ways to spend a Wednesday, but none come to mind.

The picture below is one I took of our camellia by the back fence. It was a little blurry so I decided to have some Photoshop fun. This is my "impression" of the camellia.






Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mystery plant

The rain moved out yesterday. Through the great room windows, I could see the morning sunlight turning the trees a light shade of fuschia.  

After coffee, we put on our walking shoes and hit the trail. Down by the barn there were tiny violets blooming. Jilda beat me to the draw on that one. You have to be photographically quick to beat her.
I did see some blooming purple plant. I don't know what it is but I have an app that might identify it but I have to shoot it against a white background. Needless to say, I didn't have a white background. I'll do that another day. Until then it's a mystery plant.



Monday, March 11, 2019

Career Fair Fun ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There is a window of opportunity in the lives of most children when it’s possible to inspire them to reach higher. Young children will often listen, but they get lost in the words. Older kids get to a point in their lives where they know everything. They hear you and understand what you’re saying, they just think you’re stupid. The sweet spot is around the age of 14 years old. This seemed to be a good time to plant seeds of opportunity.

I think it’s no mistake that Bevill State Community College offers a career fair each year for eighth graders.

This past Friday, I helped with the Mountain Eagle booth at the career fair on the Sumiton campus. Students from Valley, Lupton, and several other schools sent busloads of students to learn about available career opportunities here in Walker County.

The students came into the auditorium in waves. Once inside they coalesced into groups of three or four and wandered around as if they were Christmas shopping. Many were attracted to the robotics demonstrations, law enforcement booths, and the Alabama Power booth. These all can be exciting careers.

The Eagle didn’t have any bells or whistles in the booth to grab the attention of students. The sign read – News Reporter. I have to admit that when I was 14 years old, news reporter would not have appealed to me either.

I used the old fashion method often used by old folks which is – “Hey kid, come here and let me ask you something important.” The question I always ask young people is, “What do you want to do when you grow up.”

The question never fails to make them think for a moment. Some of the students today came back with quick answers. One young woman said, “I want to be a pediatric nurse.” A young man said without hesitation, “I want to be a preacher, and raise stock for rodeos.” He was wearing a belt buckle as big as a Buick bumper. It was a buckle like I’ve seen rodeo professionals wear. I expect that this young man will do what he said. You could see it in the set of his jaw.

More often than not, the young folks said, “I have no idea what I want to do with my life.” I told them that most people don’t know at that age. I’m 68 and I’m still not convinced that I know what I want to do.

Then I gave my spiel about working for a newspaper. I told the students that a better term for the field was media and graphic design. All the students I talked to knew about Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I told them what the media does is tell stories using words and pictures. The Mountain Eagle uses a newspaper, but you can tell stories with Facebook or Instagram. I talked about the six-year-old boy that made $11 million in 2017 reviewing toys. All of a sudden, media field sounded a little more appealing.

I ended my pitch with this: Storytelling is a valuable skill no matter what career field you select. Most successful doctors, lawyers, and business owners use storytelling in their work.

If you ask Google about the most important skill in business, the first skills listed is communication.

One of my last pitches was to two young women. What I told them must have resonated because when it came time to leave, they came back to our booth and said that my talk had been their favorite. I told them I felt like they both would do remarkable things in their lives.

Driving home, I felt good because I think I planted a few seeds.





Sunday, March 10, 2019

Time Change Blues

I'm not a fan of this time change. I know. I've heard all the arguments. I'm still not a fan. Both Jilda and I were a little prickly this morning. The coffee helped but we kept our distance from sharp objects.

We didn't have breakfast until 10 this morning. After cleaning up the kitchen, we took the dogs out for a walk. Midway through the first lap, the sun peeped out from behind a hedge of clouds. Sunshine always helps.

I took the picture below yesterday. It was raining. The light falling on the barn looked odd. In regular light, all the boards are the same shade. As you can see, that was not the case this time. Maybe it was the carpet of moss.

I'm thinking about writing a song entitled: There is No Cure for Time Change Blues.


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Somewhere in between

I was in Birmingham this week.  Tuesday I had an appointment with my doctor.  Her office is on 20th street. It’s one of the main streets running through town. The complex is about halfway up Red Mountain. Vulcan stands at the crest of the mountain and The City of Birmingham spreads out at his feet for as far as the eye can see.

The Iron Man is a symbol of the Magic City. The statue was commissioned by the Commercial Club of Birmingham. The Italian-born sculptor Giuseppe Moretti started building the statue in 1903. 

It was one of the first places I took Jilda when we started dating in the summer of 1968. The view of the Birmingham skyline from that statue is breathtaking. 

The picture below was taken a few years ago from The Club which is an exclusive country club within a stone's throw from Vulcan Park. I was there with my friend Dan who is the publisher of several newspapers in the area. 

Looking out over a city always makes me feel small. At any given moment you're looking out over hundreds of thousands of people. 

Each of these people has different hopes and dreams. Some are at the top and some cannot sink lower. And from my vantage point, I fall somewhere in between.




Friday, March 08, 2019

I found a photograph in the back of an old photo album yesterday and it set off a thread of memories as rich as homemade divinity candy.

In November 1975 I worked for The Community News. It was a small operation that published a paper weekly. My buddy Dale Short was the editor and I was a staff writer/photographer. We had a couple guys selling ads and a receptionist.

Jilda helped me shoot football pictures during the fall and we spent most Friday nights in the darkroom printing pictures for the next issue. I loved that job, but even with an Army subsidized paycheck (retraining program), we probably qualified for food stamps.

Jimmy Carter was elected as president that year. I made a bold prediction. "1976 would be a great year for freaks and farmers," I said. I committed to growing a garden and a beard.  The picture below is the last photograph taken of me without some kind of facial hair.

The guy in the picture is Doug McGraw. He was stationed with me in Panama. I taught him to play guitar over a long Memorial Day weekend. Jilda and I have visited him in Virginia and he's been to Alabama a number of times.

Several months ago, I found my old phone finder. That's one of those metal devices that sat next to our phone back before smartphones. We kept our phone numbers in there. Back in November, I came across the finder and I flipped down to the M. His number was one of the first listed.

Picking up the phone, I dialed his number. He answered on the second ring and it was like I'd seem him last week.

I know this is a rambling post, but that's what happens when I come across old photographs.






Thursday, March 07, 2019

A way into our hearts

Dogs are funny creatures. We've had a multitude of mutts through the years and no two were the same. They all found a way into our hearts.

Ol' Hook joined me this morning when I got up to brew the coffee. I'm not sure what it is about the fireplace that he loves but every time we turn it on, he stands close enough that I'm afraid his whiskers will burn.

Hood reminds me of Ol' Red. We had Red about eight years ago. He was one that when he got too sick to care for someone brought him down our dead-end road and dumped him out to die. But he didn't die.

He lived on the fringe. He came into our yard after our dogs had eaten and looked for any scrap of food they may have left.

Jilda saw him at first. We already had too many dogs. When she fed our dogs, she would step to the edge of the yard and dump out a few cups of food in an old hubcap. The dog would wait until she went inside and the shyly come up and eat.

Our neighbor had a German Shepard that was a bully. He would come into our yard, pee on all our trees, chase our smaller, weaker dogs and strut.

One day, Jilda and I were sitting on the back deck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the shepherd coming from next door. Our dogs were on the defensive. When the bully got to the edge of the yard and was about to harass one of our critters, I saw Ol' Red come from out of the edge of the woods and hit the shepherd like a professional linebacker.

Within a few seconds, the old Red dog had the bully on his back. I was afraid I'd have to call our neighbor with bad news but somehow the shepherd managed to squirm out from under Ol' Red and hightail it back toward his house. We never had another problem with that dog.

With that one act, Ol' Red enjoyed the last few years of his life.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

It was cold last night. This morning, the collards in the raised beds out back droop as if they were ashamed...and they enjoy cold weather. This morning a breeze out of the north made it feel even colder. 

The waterer in the chicken pen was as hard as marble. After I fed the girls, gave them water, and collected the eggs, I stepped over to the fence and looked into the heavens to the south. 

The cloudless sky was topaz. The contrails of two passing jets made an X. It looked like they were playing Tic Toe.

I should have taken a picture but I was charging my phone. I held the make-believe camera to my eye and clicked a few imaginary frames.

Later, we drove into Birmingham to visit COSTCO. We buy quantities of some things that we use. Beef and chicken stock as well as olive oil, washing detergent, and such. It was a beautiful drive.

We decided to enjoy the sunshine while we could. Storms are forecast for Alabama again this weekend. 

The weather gets wacky this time of year. Maybe it's upset about the time change.

More fungi photos from yesterday.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Good books and Lime mushrooms

I'm reading my eleventh book of the year. It's by an author I've been reading for many years. It's New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke. Most of Burke's work is crime novels set in and around New Orleans.

It's not just the who done it that appeals to me, but the description and language Burke uses. Each time I read one of his novels, it makes me want to work harder to become a better writer.

I'm listening to this book on audio. When I pulled into the driveway earlier after a meeting at the newspaper office, I switched off the engine sat in my driveway listening. 

Finishing his books always makes me a little sad. Not at the story, but that the story ended.

That's when you know you've read a good book.

The picture below is a mushroom growing on tree stump down at the barn. I would have missed it, but Jilda pointed it out on our walk yesterday. I would miss a lot of pictures if it weren't for her.



Monday, March 04, 2019

Life is a water pipe ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Life is a water pipe. It may be hard to wrap your mind around this, but it’s true. It will take a little “splaining” but bear with me.
This past week the sun and blue sky made me feel like it was springtime. The wind out of the north reminded me that the vernal equinox was still a month away. 
I had a list of chores as long as a hoe handle. As the afternoon progressed, several things moved from my get r’ done list to my got r’ done list. It felt good.
I worked up a sweat. After drinking a bucket of water, I decided to take a shower to wash off the grime. Something happened while I was standing there that made me think of the complexities of life.
You may be asking what could have happened while showering. It was like this: I was blissing out in the warm water when Jilda punched the start button on the dishwasher and the clothes washer. The water coming out the shower head slowed so much that I had to do a kind of dance to wash off the soap. Then she flushed her commode. Had she decided to put water in the bird feeders, my shower stall would have had less water falling than a desert. 
So what does a shower have to do with life and what not? There is just so much water (or life) that can go through the pipe at the same time. 
Most plumbing pipes used in homes are relatively small. When you crank up the dishwasher, and the washing machine while taking a shower, they all have to compete for the water flowing through the small pipe. Metaphorically speaking, it’s the same with life.
There is a finite amount of time and resources in your life. If you’re in college, you can study, party, or hang out with friends. You can do all these things at one time, but you won’t do them well. I learned this one the hard way back in 1968 during my first semester of college. I aced partying, but I wound up taking freshman English three times before I passed it. Wish I’d understood more about waterpipes back then. 
The same is true later in life. Most people have families, careers, friends, and spiritual needs. When I commit too much time to one of these areas, it takes away time from the others. There’s an art to juggling life. I sometimes think I can pull it off, but I often struggle. The pipe is just not big enough to do everything at once.
Through the years I’ve seen families that suffered because a husband or wife spent most of their time and life energy on their careers. It’s possible to make complicated lives work, but it takes balance. It’s best to focus on what’s most important first and invest quality time there. Then work on the other things that matter.
If you doubt my logic here, I dare you to wash clothes, do laundry and take a shower at the same time. You better hope no one flushes the commode.




Sunday, March 03, 2019

Bolting collards

We planted collards in our homemade planters in the fall and we've had several meals of their tender leaves. Caring for them is easy. Just make sure they have water and a little food every few weeks.

Earlier this week when the sun was out, I looked over and saw they were blooming. Soon they'll bolt (put on seeds). These are heirloom plants. The parents of these seeds are older than most of our nieces and nephews.

Last week I planted milkweed, chives, and lavender in our grow-light container. The chives did well. The milkweed not so good. But the lavender showed out. Almost every peat pot had multiple shoots that sprouted.

We plant to plant milkweed for the monarch butterflies, the lavender for our bees, and the chives are for us.

I guess you can tell from this post that it's been a slow news day today.





Saturday, March 02, 2019

Looking into the sun

I came across a picture tonight I had forgotten. It was taken almost 60 years ago. It's my cousins and me and was taken near our old house in Sloss.

We were a gang back then. I'm the one to the left in the back and my cousin Regina is standing next to me. Mickey and Robby are in the front and were a few years younger. Both of them are dead now.

I'm not sure why, but most of the pictures taken in my youth were looking into the sun. I think there must have been instructions somewhere that said to do that. As a result, my face was perpetually scrunched up in most of the pictures taken of me.






Friday, March 01, 2019

Red tips

I interviewed an exchange student from Italy this week. This afternoon, I took a few pictures of her with her host sister. The sister lives a few houses away.

This young lady is delightful. She speaks four languages and speaks English as good as most of the folks I know.

I also had an opportunity to interview a young lady that was launching a new design business. She was excited, afraid, and confident at the same time. I think she'll do well because it's work that she loves.

Tomorrow, I'm on call at the paper. There's no telling what's on the board. I never know from one time to the other what I'll be covering.

On the walk this afternoon, Jilda pointed out that the red tips are blooming I snapped a picture.

Soon the weather will break which will widen the photo choices. Right now, I have to take what I can get.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Roadside Prophet

I met my bees today. The old gentleman where they currently reside, called yesterday to say that the warm weather has them abuzz.

He suggested that I pick them up tomorrow but the weather forecast shows the temps dropping like a drunk. I suggested coming next Friday and he was OK with that.

He lives further in the sticks than Jilda and I do. I know that may be hard for you to believe, but it's true. His place is not far from the river. The roads there are kidney bruisers.

I passed a handmade sign on the way down to his place and I made a mental note to stop on the way home for a picture.

At one time the hand-painted signs were all over the county affixed to trees with nails. I call him the roadside prophet. These signs had short Bible verses or inspirational sayings.

A few years ago I tried to find out who the person was and do an interview about his mission. Apparently, he'd sworn everyone around him to silence because no one would tell me who was nailing the signs to trees.

Most of the signs are gone now. That's why I wanted to stop and snap a picture of this one.





Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Mostly cloudy

Jilda and I talked a great deal about clouds today. Bear with me.

I had a six-month checkup at the knee-doc this morning. It's rare that I set an alarm clock, but we wanted to make sure we didn't oversleep. 

The thing is – I wake up each morning a few minutes before 6 a.m. without any alarm. But, Jilda fretted that we'd oversleep so I set the clock.

Instead of waking up at sixish, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. then 5 a.m. At 5:45 I rolled out of bed and started the coffee. 

When I stepped out on the porch to dump the grounds in the compost bucket, I stood for a long time looking at the sky. 

The sky was thick with clouds. Back inside, I sat on the couch and meditated while I waited for the coffee to drip. 

Pouring two steaming cups, I set them on the coffee table and roused Jilda out of bed.  After a few sips, she gave me the weather forecast. "It will be mostly cloudy today," she said. "We probably won't see the sun."

I asked if that didn't also mean that it would be partly sunny. She groaned.

On the drive into Birmingham each time I saw a bright spot in the clouds, I would point it out. "Isn't that the sun." She didn't budge.

After my doc visit and her acupuncture session, we headed home. By that time, the clouds had thinned considerably, and there were places where the sun was as bring as a camera flash.

This afternoon, the clouds were sparse, and the sun was out in force. She conceded.

I took the picture below when I stepped out to secure the chickens in their coop. 

The clouds were moving back in.




Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Early bloomers

Even though it's still winter, some of the trees and shrubs around here didn't get the memo. Our buttercups, yellow bells, baby's breath, peach, along with the blueberry bushes decided they'd slept long enough.

Today, I was heading to the local high school to interview an exchange student from Italy. I passed this pink tulip tree blooming its heart out in a thicket of vine and privits. I started to drive on by, but something about the color entwined in dead vines appealed to me.

Turning around, I pulled off the side of the road and managed to weave my way through the tangles and get close enough to get a few pictures. I'm glad I did.



Monday, February 25, 2019

Mama's $2 bill

I had to cover a city council meeting in Sumiton yesterday. Sometimes it’s hard for me to face that kind of work without a stiff drink, so I stopped in The Blend Coffee Shop to buy some java. 
Pulling the wallet from my pocket, I reached for the gift card my sister had given to me for my birthday. While sliding the card from its holder, a $2 bill fell onto the floor. Picking it up, I remembered that this was a gift too.
The $2 bill was a gift my mom gave me over 20 years ago. She collected them for some reason. One Sunday during a visit to her house, she was sitting in her lounge chair close to the fireplace. Someone had installed a natural gas heater in the old fireplace, and it kept her living room slightly hotter than a sauna. 
There was a room full of family members and friends there. It was after Sunday lunch, and everyone was stuffed. The toasty room made most of us long for a nap. Some said their goodbyes and headed home. Jilda and I lingered a while longer to help clean up the kitchen.
Afterward, as we sat there letting the fried chicken digest, a thought occurred to mama and she reached for her purse. Fumbling around through some of the hidden compartments, she pulled out a small container of $2 bills. She gave me one and said, “Keep this in your pocket, and you’ll never be broke again.” 
Not being broke was important to my mom, who was a child that lived through the Great Depression. She was the middle child of 13 children. Times were hard, and money was scarce. A $2 bill back then would have seemed as big as a sail.
After my mom and dad were married, he worked as a laborer in low-level jobs to put food on the table. She worked in our home raising kids. She spent most of her time cooking, washing, starching and ironing clothes. She also kept a garden.  
Later, she earned a little extra money by washing and ironing clothes for some of the more affluent people in the area. While our family didn’t have money to burn, she was never broke again. She always had a little money stashed in her purse in one of those secret compartments.
Today as I write this, my calendar chirped reminding me that mama had died seven years ago today. 
I could go on and on about all the gifts my mom gave to me throughout my life, but that $2 bill was a way of teaching me a life lesson. There were times in her life when she had no money and those times left a lasting impression on her. She worked her fingers to the bone to ensure that she would never be broke again.
Since that day she handed me the $2 bill, there have been times I didn’t have money to buy a coffee, but even though money was short, I wasn’t broke – I had my $2 bill.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunshine at last

We were getting ready to go to bed last night when I got a text.  I hate getting these texts from this number..

It was from weather alert system saying there was a tornado warning issued for my zip code. Yikes! We launched into our weather plan. I already had my wallet in my pocket and Jilda's purse in our safe place. I had phones, flashlights, and all three dogs. 

Our safe place is small and I can tell you it was cozy in there with three dogs that know that storms are a'comin'.

A few minutes later we got a call from our nephew on the house phone. He said the tornado went between us and the town of Sipsey which is about five miles away. The storm must have been aloft because I didn't hear the roar of destruction that I heard seven years ago when many places around her were devastated.

We went back and watched on TV as a small supercell thunderstorm raced toward the northeast at 55 miles an hour. We'd dodged a bullet.

This morning, when I brewed the coffee, I could hear wind playing a song on our wind chimes. It was a lazy song. The morning sky was clear of clouds. 

It turned out to be a stunningly beautiful day and I spent most of it outside.








Saturday, February 23, 2019

Weather watching

This afternoon after we returned home from the produce stand. We heard a siren. Not a police or ambulance, but the unmistakable wail of a tornado warning. 

We hurried inside and flipped on the TV to get the scoop. The storm was 25 miles away at the northwestern edge of the county. Fortunately, it was just a signature on radar, but I'm guessing it was torrential rain and howling wind.

After that, the sun came out and heated up the atmosphere. Not good.

This evening we got another notification of warnings in West Alabama. It sounds like a tornado hit around Columbus, Mississippi. I'm not sure how bad it was.

As the storm moved eastward, it seemed to be losing some of its punch. We'll know within the hour if straight-line winds will  be a factor or not. 

I did step outside before dark and snap a photo of the jasmine blooming on our arbor.



Friday, February 22, 2019

Out of steam

I'm out of steam tonight. When I looked through my archives, I found a picture from February a few years ago. That's all I have tonight.




Thursday, February 21, 2019

More rain

I took my desktop to the computer store in Birmingham today. The rain had slacked up when I left, but the drive home was a slow one. 

When I got close to home, I decided to swing by the forks of the river to see how much the water has risen. 

This sign in normally at the edge of the parking lot. The wrought iron bench is where all the old guys set each evening and tell lies.

I've seen the river higher but if it does rain four more inches, this sign will be underwater and the bench will probably end up in Mobile which is almost 300 miles away.



.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

I feel your pain

I've been in a melancholy mood most of the day. My calendar dinged to remind me, but I remembered that today is the anniversary of my mother's death. She died on February 20 2012.

I was hard losing a father, but after my father was gone, my mother was like the anchor for the family. The holidays still orbited around her even when she was frail. 

The day we buried her it felt as if my boat became untethered and I was set adrift. I still feel that way at times. 

When people lose their mothers, I never tell them I know how they feel. No one can understand the relationship someone has with a parent. What I do say is that I feel your pain. And that is the truth.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thangs

Sunday we booked a room in Savannah for our 45 Anniversary in May. It's a beautiful B&B. Jilda has a knack for finding hidden jewels. It looks remarkable. It's less than 20 miles from Tybee Island. There's a lighthouse there.

Today was a work day for both of us. I had an early morning city council meeting. I called the high school principal to get information about an exchange student from Italy. I hope to interview her later this week and get the scoop on how she sees America. 

It's rained hard all day. When I walked outside this morning to feed the chickens, the wind aloft sounded like a train in the clouds.

Usually, when you hear thunder and see lightening here, it's warm enough to swim. Today it was in the low 40s with a cold wind out of the north. The weather felt spooky. 

We didn't get a chance to walk today, but I shot a picture yesterday of a limb that had fallen in the barnyard. I would describe it but that would be complicated. Instead, you can look at the picture.

If you live in the south, Y'all stay dry. If you live further north, Y'all stay warm.



Monday, February 18, 2019

Snow moon

The rain moved out overnight. Even though it was still overcast this morning, the light was different and it didn't feel as cold.

I spent most of the morning in my home office writing a story about the American Legion outreach program. It's where members visit old soldiers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

After Jilda left for work this evening, I began transcribing an interview with a woman who will turn 94 in a few weeks. During the interview last week, she was delightful. This evening I had to get away from computers so I ran to the store to get gas for the generator. 

Our county is under a flood watch. Some are forecasting 10 inches of rain before Saturday. I live on a hill and far enough away from the river that there should be no danger of water getting up this high. In years past when there is a lot of rain, the root system of trees is compromised and a strong wind could bring them down. That's why I bought gas for the generator.

On the way home, I looked off to the east. Even though it was still cloudy, there were breaks in places. Through those breaks I saw the snow moon. 

I was a few miles away from the pond where I take pictures all the time. Getting a picture of the full moon with the pond in the foreground was a long shot, but drove there quickly.

When I stepped out of the truck, I looked off to the east and all I could see was clouds. I kept walking down the bank of the pond. About a hundred yard away from where I parked, I saw the clouds part. I had my real camera with me and I snapped a dozen or so pictures. 

I think it turned out good.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mossy trunk

We did rainy-day things today. The rain slacked off just before noon and we got a few steps in before the deluge restarted.

The sky was overcast making the light unremarkable. I did manage to take a picture of moss of a tree trunk.

I wish we could share some of the rain with our friend across the globe who are experiencing a
drought.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tax work

I worked on taxes today. With a small business, it's complicated. After about six hours of compiling receipts, verifying numbers, and figuring I was ready to slash both my wrists.

That seemed like a good time to take the dogs for a walk. The afternoon was supposed to be sunny and the temps were supposed to be in the low 60s. I think the weatherman must have been hitting the sauce because it was cold and damp all day.

Behind the barn, I noticed a color I hadn't seen before. I'm not sure if it was the angle of light, the amount of rain we've had the last several days or what but the dead limb from a nearby oak turned orange. Actually, it was fungi on the limb that had turned that color.

I found it striking. It turns out, it was the picture of the day. I didn't think you'd enjoy seeing stacks of receipts and spreadsheets.



Friday, February 15, 2019

Ducks

Jilda was scheduled to do a yoga instructor certification class today. I'd planned on fishing, but it was deceptively cold with rain in the forecast. Call me a wimp, but I postponed my time on the water.

There is always work when you freelance. Today seemed like a good day to catch up on the things had been stewing on the back burner.

At lunch, I had a few errands to run, so I grabbed my camera and headed out.

When I passed by the pond that's not far from where I live, these two old ducks were sitting on a guardrail passing the time of day. I think they are called Muscovy Ducks.

There were no cars behind me, so I clunked the gearshift into reverse and backed up for a few pictures.

The ducks looked as if to say, "Don't be rude dude, can't you see we're talking here?"

I snapped a photo and left them to their gossip.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Old Stuff

Jilda and I played a festival several years ago. The venue used an old farm in Tennessee. It wasn't far from Virginia. Or North Carolina. It was a beautiful place.

The music was good, and several friends had also agreed to play. It was like a vacay.

One of the reasons I loved this festival was that the farm was a working farm. There were tractors, implements, and other tools everywhere. Some of the equipment was still in use, but there were other things that had done its work long ago. Instead of tossing the old stuff, the owners left it on the farm. It added ambiance to the festival.

I have a ton of pictures from that weekend, but the one below reminds me of something from my childhood. The well behind my great-grandmother's house had a pump exactly like the one below. Through the years I pumped that old handle until my arms hurt. The water came from deep within the earth. It was cold and tasted like no water I had before, Or since.

There are old things down at our barn. A friend who owns an antique booth asked if we'd like to part with the old stuff. Jilda and I smiled and shook our heads no in stereo.

We both like old stuff.



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

For what they're worth

I drove into the driveway this evening. Sitting there collecting my things to take into the house, I glanced through the windshield. Ol' Hook was watching for me through the laundry room window.  I'm guessing he'd been there waiting ever since I left a few hours earlier.

He was sitting on a storage trunk next to the window. When I stepped out of the truck, he was off the trunk in a flash. He dashed through the doggie door. Before I closed the door of my truck, he was standing at the backyard fence wagging his tail. He was thrilled to see me.

I stepped over to let him out into the front yard so that he would walk the few steps with me back into the house.

That's the thing about dogs. They are a bundle of pure joy with wagging tails.

Ol' Hook has a unique personality, but as I reflect on the dogs we've had through the years, they have all had unique personalities.

I think their sole purpose is to love. Unconditionally.

Caring for animals can be expensive, but I'm thankful it doesn't cost what they are really worth because no one could afford them.

Ol’ Hook on the writing porch last summer.




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Throwaways

I had an interview this morning with a woman who was 94 years old. Her name was Lola, and she called me because she has some news clippings she thought I'd enjoy reading.

We chatted for a long while. Lola was born less from a mile from where I now live but moved away in her teens. There was a picture of her father in his Army uniform. He served in WWI.  There was another picture of her husband. He was drafted early in WWII and was supposed to be gone for a year. He asked her to wait. She waited five years before they were reunited and married.

After shooting some pictures, I said my goodbyes and headed out to my truck. It was raining. Hard. From beneath my truck, I heard a pitiful squeaking sound. When I kneeled down to look, there were three little black puppies under there.

Stepping back to the door I told the woman that her pups must have gotten out. She said they weren't hers. Someone had dropped them in her yard. They were throwaways.

I shooed them from beneath my truck, and they ran up next to her house under a shrub. I snapped a few pictures. 

Getting back into the truck, I slipped the gearshift into reverse and kept my eyes on the pubs as I back out slowly. 

There is a rescue organization that helped me with my neighbor's dog, Lucy. I wrote her story back in the summer. I donate money to that organization.  

I texted a picture to the woman I know there and gave her a call. She said that puppies were easy to place. "I will handle it," she said. Soon they will be in a forever home where they won't have to worry about having to sleep in the rain.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Time to look ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The sky this winter has been remarkable. Yes, there have been days when the clouds were ash grey, but on other days the color at sunset took my breath away. Maybe it has always been this way, and I didn’t take the time to look.

A few weeks ago, my truck was in the shop for front-end repairs, and I had to drop Jilda off at work. Bradford Health Services sits about a half mile off of Arkadelphia Road in Warrior.  When I went back later that evening to fetch her, the sinking sun was like a half-open eye on the horizon. I pulled to the edge of their drive and watched the colors change. For those few minutes, the sky was a kaleidoscope.

I pulled my camera from the bag and snapped several pictures. Later that evening I posted the shots on my social media pages and my blog. My timeline lit up with comments and shares.

Earlier this week when the weather warmed, I had a chance to haul a load of plastic to the recycle place.  I’d been collecting empty milk jugs, yogurt cups, and straws for months. There are no recycling places here in Walker County, so I headed to Birmingham Recycling and Recovery on 41 Street South. 


Ten garbage bags of plastic as full as ticks filled the bed of my truck. While driving, I kept my eyes on the bags in my rearview mirror. That last thing I needed was for one of the bags to take flight and scatter plastic all across the Interstate.  Dodging traffic to collect plastic was not my idea of a fun afternoon. On the drive, I stopped several times to check the bags to make sure none took flight.

At one stop, I leaned against my truck for a moment waiting for traffic to clear. Some of the vehicles were going so fast the slipstream of air rocked my truck. 

While standing there, I looked at the median. There was a bouquet of yellow dandelion flowers stretching as far as I could see. Some of them had already gone to seed and were waiting to ride the wind. That scene was a gift, and it would have been easy to miss had I not stopped to look.

Thankfully I made it to the recycle yard with all the bags.

The recycling place is enormous now. They do metal, plastic, cardboard and other recyclables. Pulling to the curb, I tossed the bags in the bin and headed for home.

 The recycling lot is located in the industrial section of the city near the train tracks. After pulling out, I turned on 1st Ave and headed toward the city center.

 A stoplight ahead turned from green to yellow, so I slowed to a stop. Glancing out my window, I noticed a wall looking back at me. Cranking down my window, I snapped a few pics while I waited for the light to change. A street artist had painted a pair of eyes that watched traffic.

I love that art can make even a dismal place more hopeful. I’m thankful that I “saw” it.

And this morning when I walked, I saw this.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

It's been too long

It's been too long since we've been to the beach. Today was as dark bad news. Jilda worked on training classes for new instructors that she'll be teaching this.

I walked the dogs, but they kept looking back for her. I thought they loved me but it's one of those things where they know who puts food in their bowls each day.

The wind out of the northwest was frosty this morning. I had my gloves on but it was one of those times I wished they were heated.

I've vegged out this afternoon. I had things I needed to do but I slothed instead.

Tonight when I looked for photos, I realized I took none today. When I scanned through my Feburary archives, I saw this one from a few years ago and I realized – it's been too long since we've been to the beach.




Saturday, February 09, 2019

Yard art

Today was my day to be on call at the paper. On my sheet when I arrived was a Freedom Foundation gathering. Politicians O'Plenty were there. I shot a lot of pictures.

The Lt. Gov. finished his talk just before lunch. I walked out with him as if I were part of his staff. Then I ditched him and his security detail and headed for the truck. I had grub on my mind.

There's a place downtown that serves good food. A hot steak and cheese sandwich spoke to me from the menu. It was all I could do to keep from ordering a beer the size of Rhode Island. The sandwich was good and the waitress was sweet. (Can I say that and not be accused of being a misogynist?) Maybe I should say she was kind.

Back at the office, I sent the pictures to the editor with cutlines and then started transcribing interviews I'd done on Thursday.

When 4 p.m. rolled around, I didn't let the door hit me on the butt.

I took a ton of pictures today but no blog photos. Looking back through my archives, I found one I shot earlier in the week. I call it yard art.



Friday, February 08, 2019

Jordan made it better

Yesterday the temps hit 80 degrees. After the front moved through last night, the temps dropped like a stone. I think it was in the 20s when we got up this morning. Jordan's grandpa was having issues and had to go to the hospital this morning so Jordan stayed with us.

We were drinking coffee when we heard a knock at the front door. It was Jordan and his mom.

He had the flu earlier in the week and doctors told him not to return to school until Monday. He was over the flu by Wednesday. Today was our day with him.

He was delightful. When the sun came out this afternoon, he wanted to go outside. We bundled him up and I went out in the back yard with him. He's into demolition. There was a hammer on the back porch from some work I did yesterday afternoon. He allocated the hammer for the work at hand.

He beat the top of the old stump in the back yard to a pulp. There is also a dead apple tree over by the fence. He made that tree say, uncle.

After a while, the sun began to drop and the temps followed. I asked if he would like some hot chocolate. He smiled and said, "That would be good."

I made us both a cup and put extra marshmallows in his. He gave me the scoop on all his games while we sipped our hot chocolate. I shook my head as if I understood what he was saying. He might as well have been speaking in Sanskrit.

It was a stressful day but Jordan made it better.






Thursday, February 07, 2019

Saving movies

Our antique VCR stopped working when we replaced our TV last year. The device works, but we can't make it work with the new TV.  We have almost a hundred old movies on VHS tapes. Some of these were so-so movies, but would probably never watch them again. But there were about 50 that are movies we LOVE.

Many are holiday films. Holiday Inn, A Christmas Carol, and other Christmas films. But we also have tapes that we watched on other holidays. Groundhog Day was one that we watched on February 2, every year. The Match Maker and Darby O'Gill and the Little People are two that we watch on St. Patty's day. We have movies that we watched on Valentines Day, Easter, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving.

Back in January, Jilda asked if we should toss the movies in the Goodwill bag. I was perplexed.

After a little research, I found a device and software that would let me copy the VHS tapes onto my computer and then burn them onto DVD.  It wasn't cheap, but I also have a ton of old home movies and I can use the software to archive these movies too.

It's a slow process, but I have everything in the office and I copy movies while I'm writing.

Last week on February 2, I popped Groundhog's Day into the DVD. I was thrilled that I was able to save those old movies.






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