Monday, September 30, 2019

Thief of time

I’ve discovered that there are unwanted intruders in our home. They are not there to take our stereo or laptop. What these intruders are stealing is much more valuable – our time. 

Several years ago, we had our TV sitting on a table in the living room. We flipped it on the first thing each morning. Even when we weren’t watching, it was there in the background droning on about things of little value and telling us to ask our doctors if a brand name drug was right for us, or asking if we needed adult diapers.

When we did sit down to watch a program, it was often a re-run or something less than compelling. Watching TV was eating away our precious free time. We discovered that we were writing fewer songs, practicing less often, reading less, and when we ate dinner, we rarely talked to each other.

When we decided to remodel a few years ago, we made the decision to move the TV to what would become our laundry room. We bought a small love seat to go in there. We made it less comfortable for a reason.

If there was a program we wanted to see, we would sit out there. Sometimes we listened to the TV over the clang of tennis shoes in the clothes dryer and the spew of water going into the washer. As a result, we watched less TV.

Our creative output increased overnight. We wrote more songs, Jilda painted, and we talked during dinner. 

On a side rant, why do doctors and dentists have the TV blaring in their waiting room? Several years ago, when Jilda was taking infusion treatments, the treatment room had 12 chairs. Most of the time, each chair was filled with people with serious ailments. Some were slowly dying of cancer. Hung on the wall was a 48-inch TV that was always on. 

Playing soft classical music or some other form of music without words would have been like a salve for her soul. Cable news made her want to slash both of her wrists.

Now back to my regularly scheduled column about intruders.

In the last several years, there’s a new intruder in my life. The new thief is in my pocket.

Before the smartphone, I could go all day without checking my email or my social media feeds. Now, if I don’t check it every few minutes, I start twitching. 

A while back, when Apple pushed out a new software release, it put in a feature called screen time. It reports on how much time I spend with email, social media, listening to music, or playing games. I admit it – I play Words with Friends.

When I began seeing my summary of how much time I spend with my phone in hand, I was alarmed. The living room TV was a minor distraction compared to how much time I’m spending on my phone. It’s bordering on an addiction.

Maybe the only alternative is to go back to a flip phone or go cold turkey and go cell-less altogether. 

I’d be interested to hear my readers’ thoughts on how to combat this intruder.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Clouds at sunset

We've had almost a hundred days of temperatures in the 90s. We could go to our raised beds and toss in a little olive oil and have fried green tomatoes on the vine...OK, that's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

The one thing I cannot complain about is the autumn skies. They have been remarkable.

Yesterday at the 4-H chicken show during a pause in the action, I looked into the sky. The sun was sinking low into the western horizon. Before it made its final exit, I cast an amazing light on the clouds overhead.

I had my SLR camera with me, but I shot this picture with my phone.

When I scrolled back through the images, this one made me smile.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Chicken show

We went to a chicken show today. Yes, a chicken show. This was the 4-H event where our great nephew Jordan took three of the chickens he's been raising since early May.

The temp had been in the high 90s earlier but by the time we arrived at 4 p.m. a few clouds had gathered and it was only 93 degrees in the shade.

After the show, the 4-H did an auction of the chickens in the show. Jordan's three chicken sold to the high bidder for $100.  OK, I was the high bidder. Jilda and I had made up our minds to donate the money to 4-H because we believe in what they are teaching our children.

Jordan called me a sucker because he said I could probably have bought them for $40. We had a good laugh as I wrote the check.

Jilda is going to blog about the show too so she's going to post a picture of the ribbon Jordan won.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Empire bougainvillea

I took pictures at a homecoming parade this morning. At 11 a.m. it was already steamy. By the time I walked up and down the sidewalk taking pictures of the children who'd come to see the parade, my shirt was sticking to my back.

After the parade, I walked a few hundred yards back to the car. Once inside, I cranked up the AC and let it blow on my face.

I got home just in time for lunch. Call me anything, but don't call me late for a meal.

While doing chores after lunch my phone chimed. It was the Weather app saying to expect a brief rain shower in four minutes.

Both Jilda and I stepped out onto the back deck to get a first-hand view of the weather.

It took a few minutes, but then I felt a drop on my left hand. A moment later, Jilda felt a drop. We were almost giddy.

I leaned my head back and looked into the sky. A jagged cloud was moving off to the east. A raindrop as fat as a dime fell just under my right eye. It rolled down my cheek like a tear.

While it was only a few drops, I was thankful.

The one plant we own that loves this kind of weather is a pink bougainvillea. When we first got the plant it didn't bloom. When I Googled the problem, it said that I might be watering it too much.

When I cut back it began to bloom. That was last summer. This summer, I only watered when the leaves began to wilt. It's forgiving and it jumps right back out....and it blooms.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Not much to say

Not much to say tonight. I had a colonoscopy yesterday and it's taking a little time for the anesthetics to vacate the premises.

I'll leave you with a picture I took of the sky last fall.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Local woman breaks free from power of alcohol

NOTE: This is one of the addiction stories I wrote for the paper. Several of you expressed an interest in her journey.

Growing up, Sharreda Anderson of Pineywoods never felt good enough. “I had a very intelligent and
handsome brother – an intelligent and beautiful sister, and I never lived up to that,” she said. Not being athletic, smart, or as attractive as her siblings made her feel inferior. “No one made me feel that way except me.”

Anderson said she was overweight, so in social situations, she became the center of attention by being funny. Her thinking was that if she could be perfect, life would be perfect. “I think I got sick of failing,” Anderson said.

High school was a struggle for Anderson. It didn’t help that she became pregnant during her senior year. After graduation, she started college and married her child’s father. Anderson finished college on the dean’s list in four years even though she gave birth to two children and was pregnant with a third when she graduated.

Gastric bypass surgery helped Anderson deal with her weight issues when she was in her mid-20s. “I thought if I could just be skinny that everything would be OK,” she said.

She lost the weight but was having marital problems, and she still was not happy.

Anderson occasionally drank for most of her adult life, but even though she didn’t drink often, she drank hard. “I drank until there was no alcohol left or I couldn’t function,” she remembered.

During this period of her life, she became interested in cooking shows and started watching Rachel Ray. “She never cooked a meal without having a glass of wine with it,” Anderson said. Within six months, she was drinking from one to two bottles of wine a day. Anderson knew she had a problem. “I wasn’t one of those who denied that I was an alcoholic,” she said.

One day she was watching Dr. Phil, and there was a woman on there with her family. “Her family was saying she was an alcoholic, and the woman didn’t believe it.” Her family told Dr. Phil that they found more than 15 bottles of alcohol in her bedroom.

“I got off my bed and pulled 27 bottles of wine from under my bed,” Anderson said. “I realized then I was hiding it and lying about it.”

Her family had no problem with her having a drink in front of them, but she realized she was drinking too much, and it ended up becoming an issue in her marriage. “It was not a great marriage, to begin with, because we married so young and we both came from such different backgrounds, but the alcohol pushed it over,” she said.

Admitting that she was an alcoholic was not hard for Anderson because it gave her an excuse to drink.  “I’m drinking because I’m an alcoholic,” she remembered thinking.

After she got drunk during Christmas 2009, her husband confronted her and told her to get help or get out.

That was the first time she entered treatment. “I really didn’t want to get sober. I just didn’t want the consequences anymore,” she said.

Anderson dried out in a 14-day program and did well until she went to pick up her 60-day-chip (an award for remaining sober.) She stopped on the way home and bought a six-pack to celebrate. She drank solidly for two weeks, and when she tried to quit, she had seizures.

After several more weeks, she went back to rehab for 10 days to dry out. She could go for a few weeks without drinking, but she could not stop. “I was either sick from drinking or sick because I needed a drink,” she said.

The cycle repeated. “I could never imagine life without alcohol, and I didn’t want to,” she said. “Everything I hated about myself went away when I drank.” In October  2012, she attempted suicide.

She took all the medication she had and wound up on a ventilator in the hospital. “Something happened during those five days I was in a coma that made me realize that God was there with me,” she said.

When she woke up from a coma, it was like she awoke from asleep. She realized that she was in the Intensive Care Unit.

She remembered someone visiting her when she was in a state between a coma and being awake.

“I remember it was a male and he was standing on my right side, and he kissed me on my forehead,” she said. The instant he kissed her forehead, she relaxed. Later, when she asked her mom and the nursing staff, they told her that no man had been in her room. “I knew then that God had been with me.

After this, she started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly. She also got involved with the church during that time. But it was still a struggle.

“One of the biggest hiccups for me at the time was differentiating religion with the spirituality of the program,” she said.

When Anderson got involved with the church, she thought she could stop going to AA meetings.

“I thought – God is everywhere, so if I’m going to church I’m fine,” she said. It turns out that she wasn’t.

Anderson and her husband were separated, and their children were with him, but after six months without a drink, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Her husband approached her about the idea of an agreement that would let them end their marriage, and they would both walk away with what they wanted.

She left the meeting with her husband, met a friend at a Mexican restaurant, and ordered a margarita. She got drunk.

The next day her husband learned that she’d gotten drunk again. The deal was off. “I remember thinking I can’t even stay sober when life is good, so I’m not going to try anymore,” Anderson said.

The divorce got nasty. Anderson had joint custody, but the children had to live with her husband because she couldn’t keep a job and care for them. She showed up at ballgames drunk. She was an embarrassment to her kids.

She sank lower and lower. “I started surviving by any means necessary,” she said. “I would lie, I would steal, and manipulate people.” She did everything she could to get alcohol that day. During the next few years, she wound up in jail 10 times.

The thing that haunts Anderson most about that period of her life is the fact that she didn’t care about anyone but herself. She had no idea that her behavior affected anyone but her.

The event that changed her was when her youngest son, who was 14 at the time, told her that his biggest fear was that he was going to find her dead in her house one day. “That was the first moment I realized that my behavior affected someone.”

Later that day, she texted a friend who was in recovery. Anderson’s friend convinced her to enter a long-term treatment facility in Florence.

While waiting for a bed to open in the facility, she was arrested for shoplifting alcohol, but the judge saw fit to release her into her mother’s custody so that she could transfer into long-term rehab.

The next six months were a brutal blessing. Anderson had to face the fact that she’d done things to hurt people in her life that she loved the most, but taking responsibility for her actions started her onto the path to recovery.

“While I was there (in rehab) I learned that God made me OK, and God made me complete when he put me here,” she said. For 38 years, Anderson kept looking outside for what made her complete, but she found out that God made her complete. “I learned that God loved me and wanted me to be OK,” she said.

Anderson explained that there were a lot of things in her life for which she was not responsible, but she was responsible for her reaction to those things. This was a harsh lesson to learn. “I liked being the victim,” she said. “I like for it to be your fault that I behaved badly.” What Anderson learned in rehab was that she was the solution to her problems. “There is power and freedom in understanding that,” she said.

Anderson became reflective as she talked about how her life changed after she got sober. The things that changed were the people, places, and things. “I’m now around people who support me in my recovery, going to places that are conducive to staying sober, and having things in my life that are the most important,” she said. Life is no longer about material things, but things that matter.

Anderson picked up her four-year coin (AA) on May 10, 2019. Her life has been dramatically different since her last drink. “Life is more peaceful, and I’ve learned to live in the moment,” she said.

Each morning she reads her AA meditation – I can’t do this, but God can, and I’m going to let him. Each evening she reflects on the day and ensuring that she’s on the path that God had made for her. “It’s these reflections that keep me sober,” she said.

Her kids are back in her life. “They’ve learned and grown during this process,” she said.

For the past two years, Anderson has worked as an assistant counselor for a rehab center. She mentors young women coming into the program, sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

The hardest thing for those struggling with addiction is to ask for help and take it, according to Anderson. She said that it was vital to surrender to the program.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Just stuff

The paper is working on a Women's issue where we write about local women who are doing remarkable things in our community.

When the editor gave us the list, I knew immediately which one I wanted to write about. 

Today, I set up the interview. She is over the county's Coalition for the Homeless. I've talked to her before and the stories she told me were haunting.

I have a routine appointment with the doc tomorrow. I'm excited. 

No new picture today, so I found one from September 2017.  It looked like the sky today.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Grit ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Becoming successful is a mysterious journey. Many would explain success by saying someone was at the right place at the right time. There may be some truth to this, but I think more often than not, it’s because of grit.

 Some people are born into affluent families that nurture, educate, and mentor children. For these fortunate few, success should be a foregone conclusion. But even with a leg up, some young people languish in mediocrity.

 Children from families with few advantages sometimes do remarkable things and become successful. I’m reading more and more about one trait that can be a predictor of success — grit.

 During my Army basic training, there was a skinny kid in my platoon. He probably weighed less than the duffel bag of clothes given to him upon induction. During the hand-to-hand combat training, everyone expected him to come up on the short end of the pugil stick fight. We were wrong.

 One of the biggest guys in the platoon chose the smallest as his opponent. He grinned at the smaller soldier as they circled the dirt ring looking for openings to attack. The stronger guy prevailed at first and knocked the little guy down. He wouldn’t stay down. In the end, the drill sergeant called the match a tossup. 

 Later in the mess hall when our table rehashed the day, we all agreed that the little guy won the match because he refused to lose. To me, his refusal to quit made him a winner in our eyes. He had grit.

 Grit is a trait that is hard to measure. Angela Duckworth wrote a book released in 2016 entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

 Duckworth wrote, “…grit is a driver of achievement and success, independent of and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute. Being naturally smart and talented are great, but to truly do well and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. It is only with effort that talent becomes a skill that leads to success.” 

 Thomas Edison could have written a book on grit. He invented a motion picture camera, a storage battery, wax paper, and the light bulb. I read that he failed over 10,000 before finally succeeding in making the light bulb. Not many people have that kind of grit.

 Grit is not something they teach in school. I think there were a lot of people in the previous few generations that had grit. They had to have grit to survive those lean years of The Great Depression.

 As a mentor for our nieces and nephews, I try to instill the value of perseverance.

 This much I know for sure – worthwhile things rarely come easy. Almost every guy I knew growing up wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Many of them tried, but it didn’t come easy. They worked until the steel strings made their fingertips raw, and then they quit. It’s painful and takes grit to play with blistered fingertips, but the music that follows makes the effort worthwhile. I think the same holds true for sports, education, and business.

If you truly want to be successful in your life, you have to study, struggle, and persevere. You need some grit.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lost Creek

An assignment a few weeks ago took me to a community down by the river. When the gentleman gave me directions, I realized that I'd been within a few miles of his home dozens of times.

Our friends Tom and Judy had an old fishing cabin near where the picture below was taken.

During the summer, we spent almost every weekend on the water skiing, boating, wave-riding on an innertube, and just sitting by the water watching the world ease by.

When I drove over the bridge recently, I looked in the rearview mirror to make sure no one was behind me. Clicking on my emergency flasher, I stopped and stepped out of the truck to snap a few pictures.

If I'm not mistaken, this area is called Lost Creek.

It's still as beautiful as I remember.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Zinnia art

I spent most of the day today learning about bees. Yesterday was informative, but today it got down in the trenches.

The most important thing I've learned is that I don't know much about beekeeping. The thing is, most of the master at the craft say the same thing.

It was fun.

I'll leave you with Zinnia art.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Learning about bees

Jilda and I got up early this morning and headed a few hours south. The annual state beekeeping conference was in Clanton this weekend.

Planners packed the day with speakers whose topics ranged from backyard beekeeping to using bee stinging therapy.

Being new to beekeeping I'm sure there was a great deal of information that whizzed over my head like UFO's heading to Area 51.

Like learning most new things, you sometimes must let the information wash over. You'll pick up bits and pieces and then somewhere down the road it will click.

The session just before lunch ran a little short, which gave Jilda and me a chance to get close to the front of the chow line. Call me anything, except late for lunch.

When we finished, we headed outside to spend some time in the shade. 

The temp had dropped considerably today and there was a breeze out of the west. We blissed out for a while before heading to our afternoon sessions.

I was a fun and informative day.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I had an assignment to take pictures at a VFW ceremony honoring soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts were on hand to offer assistance by passing out programs and commemorative flags.

Thankfully, a bank of clouds shaded the courthouse square during the ceremony.  The crowd gathered was attentive even when the PA system hummed annoyingly. They always do that no matter how solemn the occasion.

When a woman sang the National Anthem, you could tell the veterans in the crowd. While most people covered their heart with their hands, even ancient veterans stood statue straight and saluted. 

As the speakers talked about POWs and MIAs, I surveyed the crowd, and many had tears in their eyes. 

I love that our town takes time to remember and honor the sacrifices that were made for them. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Need some rain

There is no rain in sight so I did the first step in my Bring On the Rain routine. I washed my truck. In years past, this is practically a sure-fire way to make it rain.

A few years ago a local weatherman said he would bet the farm that there would be no rain. That afternoon, I washed my truck. Pulling out of the carwash it started drizzling. A few miles down the road, it poured.  My windshield wipers clicked all the way home. The weatherman now lives in a house trailer at the edge of town. I hated to do that to the guy, but we needed rain.

If it doesn't rain within the next few days we'll move to phase two and start using our grandmother's joo-joo-moe-joe spells.  We don't do it first because once when we did it, we got locusts instead of rain.

The last thing we do is the midnight butt nakid' backyard rain dance. It's not pretty, but when the ground is dry and as hard a slate, I'd do just about anything to bring on the rain.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Barbed wire

I got a text from my nephew today. I guessed what he was asking but I couldn't help but have a little fun at his expense. It went like this:

Nephew: Do you have and barbed wire around the house?

Me: No but I have bad dogs. Should we install barbed wire around the house?

My nephew ignored the reply but I knew it made him smile.

Nephew: I just need an inch or two.

Me: Don't we all?

As it turns out, he needed a little barbed wire for a promotion that he was working on.

The thing about the barn is that there are many farm-related things down there that have not been used for 30 years but I keep them just in case.

Today was a perfect example of why I do.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Looking on the bright side

Jilda and I wrote a song with our friend Tracy Lea Reynolds several years ago entitled Look on the Bright Side. In the past, when we performed the song at festivals and coffee house, it seemed to make people smile. But something has changed in our country and looking on the bright side is getting harder to do these days. It seems that people are angry, and all they see is the dark side of every issue.

I can remember in the not too distant past when relationships could be represented by two circles. No two circles were an exact match, but there seemed to be an area where the two circles intersected. Inside this area is where people shared ideas, beliefs, and values. It was common ground.

Coming to a complete agreement was sometimes tricky, but when there was common ground, there was a place to start. There was a path forward.

When there is common ground, there is room for negotiation…for consensus. An agreement can have components that each person values. A win-win.

When I was in graduate school, we studied a theory called the zero-sum theory. This is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each person's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the others. To put it simply, if I win, you lose. This theory, like so many other theories from over-paid consultants, proved to be flawed. 

I think some people today are clinging to the zero-sum theory and it explains why some people are so angry. "This is especially true when the topic is one of the hot-button issues like politics, religion, and guns. On these issues, there is no middle ground.

There was a time in my life when citizens and politicians recognized and addressed problems. While each end of the political spectrum felt they had the best solution, they were civil in their approach. They looked at where they disagreed and found areas where their views and values were similar.

Once they found common ground, they could map out a plan to solve the problem that both sides could live with. America won. I miss those days.

Perhaps it's because most people get their news instantly on their computer of phones. But I tend to believe that social media is playing a huge role.

Reading Facebook and Twitter comments these days has become disheartening. Even a simple opinion often generates a thread of snarky, rude, and sometimes threatening comments.

By reading some of these threads, it's easy to determine what cable news talking heads they follow.

It seems that reading and contemplating an issue from various points of view takes way too much time. It's much easier to just to latch on someone else's opinion that agrees with your own. Seeking common ground is out of the question.

We're headed down a rocky road, and it doesn't have to be that way. We live in a garden. If I win, you don't have to lose. If we sit down and find common ground, we can solve almost any problem.

Lyrics to Look on the Bright Side
When all you see is doom and gloom
And there's no end in sight
No matter how long and dark the tunnel
Somewhere there's always a light.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Optimistic leaves

We had to walk early this morning. Even at 7:30 a.m. there was not a tinkle from our windchimes.

I didn't bother looking at the thermometer this afternoon. Normally, the hummingbirds are tanking up to head south for the winter, but either they left early or they called in drunk today to avoid the heat.

I did manage to snap a sweetgum picture. I think these leaves are being optimistic but just looking at them made me feel a little better.

This is a busy week for us so it will be bedtime soon.

Y'all bee sweet.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Jilda and I attended a gala for the Main Street organization a few weeks ago. It was a few hours north of here in a city that straddles the Tennessee River.

Cooks Museum of Natural Science was the venue for the event. It didn't take long for Jilda and me to realize that this was a place that our great nephew Jordan would love.

His mom was tied up today, but his grandmother was up for a road trip.

We spent almost three hours going through the interactive exhibits. It was fascinating. Jordan had a large time.

We took a moment to shoot a selfie next to the entryway to the bird exhibit.

It did my heart good to see so many kids thrilled about science.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Nailed it

I walked out tonight to get a photo of the Friday the 13th full moon. The sky was overcast. It feels like it hasn't rained since Nixon was in the White House, but tonight, it's cloudy.

I know what you're thinking. With no picture of the full moon that he practically promised last night, he has to go with the goldenrods.

Nailed it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


I had to cover a city council meeting this evening. The business was short and it lasted less than 30 minutes.

On the way home, a turn in the road opened up the eastern horizon. The moon in the sky was beautiful. I held an imaginary camera up to my face and clicked the shutter with my tongue. Click click.

Tomorrow is the full moon and it's also Friday the 13.  I think I'll take the tripod out at dusk and wait until moonrise to see if I can get another moonshot.

I took the one below last year not long after I got my new camera. When I saw the results of those pictures, I smiled.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dog doc

The past several weeks I've noticed that Caillou has been restless at night. His bed is in front of a box fan and normally he sleeps for most of the night, but it was almost like he couldn't get fixed. When he did lay down, he plopped down.

This morning when we walked, I noticed he was having issues. Hook brushed by the Caillou and knocked him to the ground.

I've read that one of the first things a collie has trouble with is the hips.

After breakfast, I loaded him up for a trip to the vet. He's a gentle dog and the vet techs always faun over him when he goes down there.

The vet confirmed that the problem is with the hips. She gave him his annual meds, but she also gave him some medicine to help with the inflammation in his hips.

After settling up with the bill, I led him outside and opened the door. He hopped in the truck unassisted.

When I got home I started looking through our records to see how long we've had him.

He was full-grown when he chose us in March of 2011. This means he's at least nine years old and maybe older.

This evening he walked much better. I'm hoping the meds keep him comfortable for a long time. Experience has taught me that often times this is not the case, but I don't want to think about that now.

We plan to enjoy our fur-baby as long as possible.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Days work

September is National Recovery Month and the paper is working on a series of stories about addiction.

We had a meeting today to discuss the project and I think it will be compelling. 

I interviewed one woman who has been in recovery from alcoholism for several years. This past week, I interviewed two people who both lost parents to opioid addiction.

This is a hard topic because many feel the addiction of a family member is embarrassing. I think it's even more so here in the south.

The stories will begin running this weekend.

On another note, it rained all around us. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Mother Nature will smile on us tonight with a shower.

I took the picture below today on my way home from the office. I noticed purple blossoms on some kind of plant. I'm not sure what kind, but it's beautiful

Monday, September 09, 2019

Remembering 9/11

This week marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Even now, thinking about that day makes me feel melancholy. The world changed that day. It became much smaller and more divided. 
I remember within a few feet, of where I was standing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in Birmingham, attending a training class. Arriving early, I'd just poured a cup of coffee and was getting ready to sit down in the break room to wait for the class to begin. Several other people were drifting in.
A TV mounted on the wall was muted until we saw those first images on the screen. Several of the people who worked with me were in the Steven Covey training class – What Matters Most. Let that sink in.
The course description said it teaches how to do self-evaluation and gives students the tools to determine what is important in their lives. You can understand that some of the things that seemed important to me changed that day.
We all stood there, silently watching the screen and trying to wrap our minds around what had just happened. 
At first, I thought it was a small plane. But then the video clips began looping across the screen. Then another airliner struck the second tower. There were no dry eyes in that breakroom.
That evening when I got home Jilda hugged me as I walked through the door. 
We had friends that lived in Manhattan. Getting through to them was challenging, but we learned they were safe. Forever changed, but safe.
Neither of us had much of an appetite that evening. Stepping out to the back deck, we sat lost in our thoughts as the ice ticked in our tea glasses. 
We live in the flight path for the airport in Birmingham. The planes come over high, but almost any time of the day you can look up and see aircraft whispering across the sky dragging contrails behind them. 
After the attack on the World Trade Center, the government ordered all aircraft grounded.
On that afternoon, the thing that I heard most was silence. I know that doesn't make sense, but the silence was profound. Even the hawks, crows, and sparrows seemed to be in mourning. I will never forget that day.
Another thing I remember is how our country pulled together. Other countries from around the world hurt with us. 
There will be many tributes to 9/11 this week. People who were old enough to remember will reflect on the events of that day.
I'm not sure I can add anything significant here, except to say that there was one tribute from a few years ago that resonated with me. It was a slideshow with haunting pictures. The slideshow was set to the Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence." A heavy metal band performed the song. The power of those words and images brought tears to my eyes.
Googling that tribute, I watched it again today. Afterward, I took a mug of coffee to the back deck and sat for a long while. Before 9/11, I'm not sure I’d ever REALLY heard the sound of silence.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Scores of chores.

Today was chore day here. It seems that every off day we've had for the past month has been spent doing unfun things.

All are commitments - promises made. Important things. And then, of course, there was healthcare. I never realized that staying healthy took so much time and energy.

When we went to the eye place on Friday, I asked the folks there for my mail. "Yes, I'm spending so much time here now we've decided to start getting our mail here. They laughed.

Today, Jilda looked at me with narrowed eyes. "You don't have anything on your calendar today do you?"

I have a feeling that had I said yes, I would be eating Kibbles and Bits tonight.

As it turns out, we both did chores. Scores of chores. It's things that have been piling up. For me, it was things that took little mental effort. When I do this kind of work, my mind goes to another place. I zen out doing the work. 

One of the things I did was pull up all the ragweed on our property. In one area, I noticed goldenrod getting ready to bloom.

I shot the picture below a few years ago when I was interviewing an old veteran out in the country.

Saturday, September 07, 2019


We attended a funeral first thing this morning. It was in north Alabama. Jilda read a Facebook post on Wednesday morning that said she was having fairly minor surgery.

That afternoon, one of our mutual friends posted that she died during the surgery. She was three months younger than me.

Her husband seemed to be holding up, but I suspect that he hasn't fully processed what's happened. 

We stood in the receiving line for almost an hour and when we walked out, there was still a line waiting to pay their respects.

I have no point of reference for how to handle this kind of loss.

Friday, September 06, 2019

At that moment

I cut the day before the rain set in last week. The yard looked like a golf green. When the rain moved off to the east, the sun came back in full force. The combination of rain and sun turbocharged the grass. Today it was ankle-deep.

We had to run into Birmingham to get new contacts for Jilda and we stopped at COSTCO. We love that place.

After lunch, I tanked up the John Deere and mowed a patch of grass roughly the size of New Hampshire.

When I finished, I got a glass of cold water and stepped out front to the bench and took stock of my life and whatnot.

Over to my left, the water fountain and the small birdbath was buzzing with bees. They are polite critters. Some buzzed around while others perched on the water's edge and drank their fill.

At that moment, things seemed to be as they should be.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Change of venue

I've been struggling with a column idea for weeks. I've written it no less than five times. Today, I pulled out one of the old drafts and started writing. The first part flowed, but then I lost the buzz. The writing fell flat. I saved it in my WORK IN PROGRESS folder and closed my laptop.

Today is Jilda's early day so she headed out after lunch. I loaded my laptop into the truck and headed to the office to pick up my mileage check. Rather than sit around the office, I decided to stop by the coffee house and grab a seat by the window.

Sitting there watching people go by on the sidewalk, I remembered that 9/11 is this week. Opening my laptop, I wrote the first draft of my column while my coffee cooled.

Sometimes it just takes a change of venue to get the juices flowing.

Leaves and gravel

Wednesday, September 04, 2019


This morning after coffee, I headed to the screen porch with my laptop. Normally, Wednesday is a slack day for me, but the holiday threw me behind and I had a stack of stories that wouldn't write themselves.

I knocked out one story before it got warm enough to flip on the ceiling fan on the porch.

Standing and stretching so hard my back popped, I decided it was time to walk the dogs. I know when it's time because the two big dogs sit on either side of me while I'm writing looking up into my face expectantly. CAN WE WALK NOW? NOW? WHAT ABOUT NOW? They are relentless.

Walking into the living room, Jilda was ready to walk too. She snapped the leach on Taz and we were out the door.

I walked ahead and let Jilda and the little mutt amble. Standing at the edge of the zinnias, I noticed a swallowtail butterfly as big as my hand. Gently leaning over with my camera, it flitted off as if to say, Nice try cameraboy.

I didn't give up. It fluttered down toward the beehives and then on toward the barn. It landed on a young tulip poplar tree. That's when I leaned in and capture a closeup.

Soon, these babies will be gone. This much I know for sure - I will miss them.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Autumn is coming

Autumn is coming. Even without a calendar, some signs provide hints. The days are getting noticeably shorter, hummingbirds are tanking up to fly south, and the wind out of the west feels different. Soon we’ll be singing “California Dreaming” along with the Mamas and Pappas – “All the leaves are brown, leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.”

When I was a kid in Sloss Hollow, there were different signs that summer was ending.

The high school was a few miles away. Toward the end of summer, the Bulldog Marching Band began to practice each afternoon. I remember hearing the sound of drums and tubas echoing through the hollows.

I learned that those drums meant that my days of running barefoot and half-naked were numbered. For that reason alone, I dreaded autumn.

The chores that time of year were no picnic either. Raking leaves as a kid was a form of parental torture. I think I would have preferred going to the dentist and having him jab a needle the size of a kindergarten pencil into my gums. 

The years have changed the way I view the season. These days, I look forward to the early signs of autumn. This week I began noticing the signals.

Jilda leaves early on Thursdays for work. After she left, I decided to take the dogs for a walk. On the first lap of the walk, I noticed that the tulip poplar trees were dropping their leaves. Their color is a shade of yellow, almost the color of homemade ice cream.

Behind the barn, there is a hickory tree thick with muscadine vines. When I walked around the barn, the ground was covered in wild purple grapes. I picked a fat one up, shined it on my pant leg, and popped it into my mouth. The memory just now made my mouth water.

Last summer we put a bench down in front of the old house and the barn. It sits facing toward the sunset under the shade of an ancient oak that someone planted over a hundred years ago. We named it the thinking bench. On the last lap, I sat for a while on the thinking bench.

Closing my eyes, I listened for tree frogs or cicadas. They weren’t droning yet, but when I looked at a nearby pine, I noticed a poison ivy vine as thick a rope that weaved its way up into the upper branches. The leaves were turning crimson. I’d love to have a car that color.

College football starts this weekend, and all that implies.

Soon, the holidays will come tumbling toward us. Jilda and I ran into a store recently, and they were already putting out Christmas items next to the Halloween section.

I’m not sure about you, but I like doing my holidays one at a time, and I don’t like skipping over Thanksgiving just because it has less commercial appeal to the big-box stores.

The older I get, the more I want to hold and suck the marrow out of every day. Life is too short not to enjoy each and every day.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Finding peace

There's a place I go to 
When life moves too fast
And my brain moves too slowly to keep up 
It's a place that's quiet enough 
to breathe 
to unwind
to think
About the important things
And to cast out the unimportant
A place to find balance
To focus
To find peace

Sunday, September 01, 2019

It's September

It's hard to believe that it is September, and yet the calendar does not lie. Jilda and I've both worked around the house this weekend. 

Today, we had company come over for a pre-Labor Day meal. Jilda whipped some ribs, brats, dogs, and her world-famous potato salad.

We were yawning before everyone left. Their cars were barely out of the driveway when I took my contacts out and put on my PJs.

I should have taken a picture of the folks here, but I didn't. I did find a picture of Desoto Falls that I took six years ago today.

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