Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 2016 non-fiction

As promised, I am posting my favorite books of 2016. Today are my non-fiction favorites, and in a few days I'll post fiction.

I read 30 books this year, eleven of which were non-fiction. Just as I don't set out to read a certain number of books, I don't purposely set a number of non-fiction vs. fiction. I just read 'em as they come.

Here are my top six non-fiction for the year, in no particular order:

1.  Destiny and Power, by Jon Meacham. This was the first book I read in 2016, by historian and fellow Nashvillian Meacham. It's the story of the Bush family, the one the two presidents came from. I love reading about politics, especially the inside and background stories, and this one certainly did not disappoint. As I recall, it goes back a couple of generations before George H.W., and it's a fascinating read about a fascinating family. Although some might call them privileged, which might be hard to argue with, it's also hard to argue with the sense of honor and service that permeates the family tree.

2. Jesus Outside the Lines, by Scott Sauls. Sauls is the pastor of Nashville's Christ Presbyterian Church, and is a protégé of Tim Kellar, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. I loved this book, in which Sauls makes the case for Christians finding common ground rather than maintaining an "us vs. them" mentality, while challenging them to stand strong in their faith without compromising. I highly recommend it.

3. Bare Bones, by Bobby Bones. There's a pattern here -- this is another book by a Nashville resident. Bobby is a local morning DJ, and I have been listening to him for several years. He and his thirty-something  crew are on one of our country radio stations, and the show is syndicated nationally. I was drawn to it because of the funny interaction among them, and I noticed early on how clean the content of their program is and the positive message conveyed, with segments such as "Tell Me Something Good."  When I heard about his book, I thought it would be interesting reading because I enjoy the show, but I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. Bobby tells the story of his growing up years -- born to a teenage mother in a small Arkansas town with a father who left them early on, and traces his path to success. He gives credit to coaches, teachers and friends who took an interest in him and helped him reach his goals.

4. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. If I could make you read one book on this list, it would probably be this one. A young neurosurgeon writes a poignant account of dealing with an illness that will ultimately take his life. That's right, you know the outcome before you finish, but his narrative is riveting, first, because of his medical knowledge of what is going on inside his body, which he is able to share with the reader in a highly understandable manner; and second, because of the vulnerability and honesty with which he tells the story. Given the subject matter, you can't be surprised at how it will mess with your emotions, but I promise it's worth the tears.

5. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. I reviewed this book in one of my weekly columns and posted it here in June, so I won't go into great detail.  Gawande, a general surgeon of Indian descent, presents a compelling case for an end-of-life experience that preserves the dignity of the person, whether elderly or younger. I learned so much from this book and would recommend it for anyone facing end-of-life or near-end-of life decisions -- whether it is yourself or a family member. Even if you're not yet faced with those decisions, chances are very good that you will be one day, so it would be worth your time.

6. Seven Women, by Eric Mataxas. This is a follow-up to Mataxas's "Seven Men" which I read a couple of years go. The full title is "Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness." Metaxas writes a brief biography of each of the women (which include Joan of Arc, Susannah Wesley and Rosa Parks) who in many ways helped shape history. I'll leave you in suspense about the other four and would strongly suggest your purchasing a copy of this book or checking it out from the library to find out, and then, of course, reading it. I'm sold on Metaxas as a writer, and this one continues the excellent style for which is has distinguished himself.

That's it for now. See you in a few days with my fiction picks for the year.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December update

Well it's been a while.

My last post was the day after the election and I did not even comment on it. I think I was still too much in shock.

After a month, I'm starting to accept the fact that Donald Trump will be president. I did not vote for him, but all I can do now is hope for the best. I'm so-so with his cabinet picks thus far.

He still acts very un-presidential as far as I'm concerned and often still carries like he is in campaign mode. I shudder to think how he'll conducts himself as POTUS.

But I have way too many important things to occupy my mind.

I don't necessarily like it, but I'm moving on with things.


We had a great Thanksgiving at our house, with a total of 12 at our table. Wife, as usual, put on a feast worthy of royalty and that's what we ate like. Older Son, DIL and I ran a 5K "Turkey Trot" that morning, hoping to offset some of the calories in advance.

I don't know if that happened or not, but it didn't hurt.


Now we are in the midst of Christmas preparations. I don't shop, but Wife tells me hers is all done. She has been incredibly efficient recently, e.g. setting the Thanksgiving table more than a week in advance because she knew she would be out of town the weekend prior, having all the Christmas shopping done and most of the gifts wrapped by December 1, etc.

I asked if perhaps she were about to leave me, but because of her merciful heart wanted to assure I  be prepared.

She said no, but I've still been on my best behavior.


I'm sharing a couple of photos.

The deer have been in abundance this fall. This picture is from our front yard a few weeks ago.

The other is our Christmas tree, which we finished decorating yesterday -- with a minimum of stress, I might add.

I'll be back soon with my favorite books of 2016. Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Circling the Sun

Nearly eight years ago, I read a book called "West With the Night," written by Beryl Markham. I included it among my favorite books of 2008 and said the following about it on my blog post:

 West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. As I write this I am still a few pages short of completing this memoir by a remarkable English-born woman who grew up in and lived most of her life on the African continent, mainly Nairobi, Kenya. Markham, who was born in 1902 and died in 1986, first published this work, her only book, in 1942 and it was not well received. It was, however, re-published in 1982 after someone found an obscure review written by none other than Ernest Hemingway, in which he praised Markham’s prose and lamented the fact that he would never write as well as she. This has not been one of those “I can’t put this down” types of books for me. In fact, it is only about 300 pages long and it has taken me almost a month to read it. But I would not think of not completing it. As I read the story of this rogue farmer-turned-horse-trainer-turned-pilot, I am fully aware that I am reading beautifully written narrative that is totally worth the effort.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I picked up a paperback on Wife's bedside table called "Circling the Sun" by Paula McLain. McLain is the author of "The Paris Wife," a fictional account of the life of Hadley Richardson, who was Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Since I had thoroughly enjoyed that one, and noticed "Circling the Sun" was by the same author, I thought I would give it a try too.

I asked Wife about it and she said yes, it was definitely a good read. She said it was also historical fiction (like "The Paris Wife") and had references to the folks from "Out of Africa" -- a book I never read and a movie I never saw.

What she didn't tell me is it is written from the point of view of Beryl Markham, as if it were her autobiography.

While "West with the Night" was largely about Markham's unlikely and historic flight across the Atlantic, with references to her life in Africa as a farmer and horse trainer, "Circling the Sun" gives a detailed account of her life from childhood. She moved to Kenya from England as a young child with her parents, only to have her mother and brother return to England, after which she was raised by her father and a housekeeper who became the companion of her father.

As a child, she became close friends with a native Kenyan boy who was a member of one of the local tribes, and their friendship lasted her entire life.

She learned farming at a young age and became an expert and sought-after horse trainer. She had a series of disastrous relationships, including a marriage she spent years trying to get out of, and another one that was a marriage of convenience. She gave birth to a son who was essentially taken from her and raised by her boorish mother-in-law.

Her one true love (as one would believe from reading this book) was a safari hunter (from "Out of Africa") who would never make their relationship exclusive.

And she became a pilot and flew across the Atlantic.

There is much, much more, and this book filled in many of the blanks from "West With the Night." (And of course, after eight years, I had forgotten a lot).

Although it is fiction, I am confident in the author's extensive research on, as I wrote eight years ago, "this remarkable English-born woman."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fall? Really?

          "Record or near-record warm temperatures."

           That has been what we have been repeatedly hearing from our weather prognosticators here in middle Tennessee.

           We have had maybe a few days with highs in the 70s, or a tad below, since the official beginning of fall September 21st.  But for the most part, our fall has been more like a mild summer, with highs in the low to mid 80s, pushing 90 degrees some days. It has also been extremely dry. We need rain in the worst way.

           People try. They have put mums and pumpkins on their porches and they even wear sweaters.

           They drink pumpkin-spice lattes, apple cider and Oktoberfest beer, and some are even building fires in their fireplaces.

            But the reality is it's still really, really warm. We are running our air conditioner at our house and I'm still wearing shorts. I can't make it cool just because I want it to be.

             The mornings are very nice, cool and crisp, and are really the only indication that it is fall rather than summer. But other than that, you could have fooled me.

            It has been a busy fall season (according to the calendar) for Wife and me. She arrived back from Paris a week ago Friday, and I met her in Atlanta that afternoon. We stayed at Older Son's and DIL's home that Friday night, although they were in Dallas for a wedding.

              Younger Son had been working in Florida the previous week, and flew into Atlanta Saturday morning. We picked him up and headed for Auburn for the Auburn-Arkansas football game, and met Daughter and SIL there. This is the fist time we had seen Younger Son since his relocation to Indiana in August, and it was very good to see him and be with him. We brought him home with us on Sunday and he stayed here until Wednesday.

               Wife is gone again this weekend, helping host a wedding shower in Little Rock for the daughter of longtime friends, and also spending some time with her parents. I spent the morning at a board meeting for the non-profit where I serve, and then stuck around to serve lunch to the homeless men. It's always a good experience to get a glimpse of the clientele and remind me why it is so worthwhile to give my time and resources to this organization.


               This Monday is Halloween, and Wife and I will stay home and answer the door for the trick-or-treaters. We might be inviting some of them to come inside to get cool! (High Monday is to be 85).



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Funny how it all works

It has been a different kind of weekend for me.

Wife is out of town -- out of the country, to be exact.

Over a year ago, she and and some lady friends started talking about a trip to Paris. Wife, Daughter and I went in 2013 and Wife just didn't get enough and once she found some friends who were interested in going -- sans husbands -- well, that's all it took.

As I have mentioned, Wife is quite the planner, and planning trips is right up her alley. She is looking toward retirement in the next year or so and while I don't know if she would want to be a full-fledged travel agent as such, she could certainly have a second career as a trip planner if anyone would be interested in enlisting her.

For some reason, she has the patience and intuition to sift through everything that's available on the Internet and travel books (Rick Steves, Fodor, etc.) and plan itineraries. I have been the beneficiary of this skill of hers (see recent post about our trip to Canada, and other previous posts) and now, three of her friends are traveling with her and enjoying her abilities.

That's not really the point I'm making here. The point I'm making is how incomplete I am without Wife around.

Now, I'll be the first to admit when she tells me about one of these adventures that doesn't include me, I have a sense of anticipation. I'll do just what I want, and just when I want to -- that is what I think to myself.

But I quickly find that those things are somewhat limited.

Yes, I stopped at my favorite craft brewery Friday afternoon before coming home. I always envision myself striking up a conversation with someone and becoming the life of the party . . . but truth be told, I'm an introvert, and I go in with a book or a newspaper in hand, happy to respond to someone who might initiate with me, but way too uncomfortable to start that interaction myself. The result: I enjoy the latest offering of the brewery, read my book/newspaper and come home.

I have friends. I really do. But I rarely feel comfortable calling and saying meet me at so-and-so, or anything of the sort. It's that introvert thing again. I really love people, but they make me tired, and I'm hesitant to initiate something I might end up wishing I had never started in the first place.

Which makes me, I am without a doubt, a perfect candidate for counseling or psychotherapy should I ever decide I'm that messed up (and I'm sure I am).

I have gotten a few things accomplished this weekend. I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday morning, removing the crisper drawers and washing them, and discarding a few items that had long outlived their shelf life.

It's post-season baseball time and college football is right in the thick of it, so I watched some of that.

This morning I skipped church (I'm sorry about that, but it's that insecurity thing again, much preferring to have Wife sitting next to me) and opted instead to trim all the shrubs in the beds in front of the house.

This afternoon I went to a hipster coffee shop and since I don't drink coffee, opted for beer instead.

No, I have not drunk myself silly this weekend. Moderation in all things.

But if these times do nothing else, they remind me of how I am so much better with my better half.

I am so happy for her that she can make trips like this. I really am. And I would never for one minute deny her going.

And it's not like we have one of those marriages where she bows and scrapes -- quite the contrary. I'm very much an egalitarian and have never worried about who does the laundry or the cooking or the yard work (although she's a much better cook and I've told her if she'll cook, I'll gladly do everything else, which is laughable).

It comes down to the fact that we have been together 32 years, and I miss her.

Kind of funny, really. When our three children were all still at home and we were in the midst of raising them, and the occasional few days might come up where it was just me at the house, I could hardly believe my good fortune.

Yes, it's funny how that seems now.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Election blahs

Going back and looking at my blog posts over the past eight years, it appears I was once more politically minded than I am today.

I would not say that is necessarily the case. Perhaps I just come at it from a different perspective now.

I wrote quite a bit about the presidential election in 2008 when Obama was running against McCain, and much less in 2012 when Mitt Romney challenged President Obama.

It has been even less this time.

I have written about the election a few times in my weekly column, and I think I posted one of those here.

Anyway, although I have an interest in the political process that dates back to my childhood, I am not nearly as vocal as I once was.

So with that said, I will say this:

Right now I plan to abstain from voting for either of the main party candidates for president. I thought at one time I might vote for Trump. I later thought I would vote for Hillary.

I simply can't bring myself to vote for either of them. Can't do it. Either vote would simply be a vote against the other candidate, but it's still casting a vote for that person I vote for, and I have a problem with that.

I am researching some of the outlying third-party candidates (particularly the Libertarian Party candidate) but right now I'm not planning to vote for any of them either. That could change as I learn more, but for now it is a no-go.

Wife says she feels like she has to vote, that it's a privilege we should never take for granted and that it's our duty.

I get that, and I agree with it in principle.

On the other hand, if Hillary is elected and appoints Supreme Court judges who make law rather than interpret it (which she will do), my conscience will be clear.

Or, in the unlikely event Donald Trump is our next president, when he goes off half-cocked and calls people names and is disrespectful to everyone who comes in his sight, and gets us in all kinds of trouble on the international front because he has no filter, I'll rest easy knowing I had nothing to do with that.

So that's the plan for now and I still don't plan to say much about it here.

That could change too if I get worked up over something.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A great story

I haven't posted a link to a column in a while so thought I would share this most recent one.

A while back Kelly posted a review of the novel Gone With the Wind. It occurred to me that I had never read it, and Kelly's excellent summary, as I say in my column, piqued my interest.

Since I'm doing the occasional book review in my weekly column now, I decided I would write about it. It's really not a review but, rather, a summary of some of my impressions. It's a classic story but certainly would lack political correctness today. I could and would never defend against any of the criticisms.

But it's a page-turner, that's for sure, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a great story with characters that seem to leap off the page. If you read it, enjoy it for that, and look past any statement Margaret Mitchell might or might not have been making.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another great trip

Wife and I just returned from a glorious vacation.

We both love to travel but I'm the lucky one -- Wife makes the plans and makes it happen. She spends untold hours doing research and planning an itinerary so that, by the time we are ready to go, all I have to do is pack a bag and either get in the car or board a plane, depending on the destination, and go along.

This year we flew from Nashville to Calgary (via a stop in Toronto). We rented a car there and drove to Glacier National Park in Montana before heading back into Canada and spending time in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.

Typically, Wife had planned a day-by-day schedule for us, but it was loose and as we went along we axed and added some things.

The scenery was nothing short of spectacular and we had an incredible time. The pictures below hardly do it justice and it would take me too long to do a narrative of all we did (besides the fact it would bore you to tears), but I'll put a few photos here. They include a glacial lake (thus the teal color), Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and yours truly fishing on the Bow River near Banff.

Best story of the trip: Wife and I came up on a mama bear and two cubs -- about 20 yards away on a trail, just us and them. We walked the opposite direction before they saw us and they eventually took an alternative route. And no, I did not take time to get a photo (although I wish I had!).

Monday, August 8, 2016

More passages

Over the years I have had this blog, I have written a bit about passages.

Life is full of them. And I guess a big part of life is moving from one passage to the next.

I wrote in my last post about Younger Son getting the job with the publication that covers Notre Dame. He is there now, and all seems to be well.

Wife and I left last Saturday morning in his truck and a borrowed truck, both packed with Younger Son's belongings. It's about a 7.5-hour drive from Nashville to Mishawaka, the town where he is living, which is right next to South Bend, where Notre Dame is located.  (We could make it in 7 hours if we didn't have to make bathroom stops but that's not happening at our age).

It's not a bad drive at all -- we just headed north from here.

You might be wondering where Younger Son was we drove up there. That would be a fair question, since it is he who has moved.

Well, for several months he has had a fishing trip in Wyoming planned, so when he got this job offer, he was able to negotiate a start date so he could still make the trip. We were happy to help him out so he could go. It took some logistical planning, but it all came together.

He left Nashville on Wednesday of the week we would drive to Mishawaka.

After we arrived at his new apartment, we took possession for him and unloaded his stuff. Since he didn't have a bed yet (he had ordered one to be delivered after his arrival), we stayed in a hotel. We worked at his place on Sunday before driving to Chicago, about 90 miles away, into which he flew Sunday night.

I drove back to Nashville Monday. Wife stayed until Wednesday morning when she flew home. Younger Son started work that day.

And the nest is empty again. It's an exercise to which Wife and I have become accustomed -- having them leave, then having them return for a while, then having them leave again, with the final departure being the "launch."

Yesterday we celebrated Wife's birthday and this Thursday we will have our 32nd wedding anniversary.

And time continues to tick away.


Notre Dame is a beautiful campus, with stately old buildings, and new buildings built to model the old buildings (or that's what it looks like to me).

I'm attaching a couple of photos, including one of "Touchdown Jesus," the famous mural painted on the outside wall of the library, which faces the north end zone -- hence the name.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How is your summer going?

There is a common question I hear these days when I see someone, perhaps at church, or the grocery store or the Y, places I go frequently but where I might run into folks I don't see on an everyday basis.

The question is, "How is your summer going?"

I'm an observer of people, and also of words, and while most people don't find that to be a peculiar question, I do.

Because how often will someone ask, during other seasons, "How is your fall going?" or "How is spring treating you?"

No, I don't believe you'll hear such a question. But people seem especially interested in how I might be enjoying summer (and I might sometimes say, "Not that much" because, as I've previously stated here, I detest hot weather).

So why does summer prompt such a question?

I have given that some thought and I think it's because, even though most of us in the upper-middle-age category are not governed by a school calendar, at one time most of us were. And summer is still considered that time when we take a breath and take a break, and friends and acquaintances want to ask us how that time is going.

I still think it's a rather strange question.


Wife and I are in the stage of life where we are called "empty nesters." It took us a while to get here. Older Son graduated from college in 2008 and moved back in with us for a little less than a year before moving out, never to return as a permanent resident.

Daughter did the same thing in 2011, the same year Younger Son graduated from high school, and they essentially passed each other as he was moving out to go to college and she was moving back in. She stayed for three years before moving out for good in late summer 2014.

Younger Son finished college last spring (2015) and was the first to not move back in immediately after college. He went right into a job in Auburn (where all three went to school) following graduation.

The job, which was working for a sports media company and website, was really an internship, and his pay was, to say the least, meager. Wife and I agreed that, because it was a good opportunity in a field that's tough to break into, we would continue to supplement him for the time being.

Back in the spring, with no prospects of the internship working into a permanent position that would pay a living wage, he decided to end his time there and move back home, which he did in late April.

He was able to do some freelance work for the publication for which I write a weekly column, but he has been actively seeking permanent employment.

He's had his ups and downs, and a couple of  pretty bitter disappointments. About a month ago, a company called him after he submitted an online application, one that he confessed to me he thought was a long shot.

They asked him to interview via Skype, which he did. They asked for samples of his work and gave him a writing test. Days later they asked him to make a personal visit.

With Daughter and SIL both being teachers and being off (and often getting that question about how their summer is going), he asked if they would like to accompany him. They all three made the drive north.

Last week, it became official, and Younger Son has accepted a position in South Bend, Indiana, working for a publication that covers sports at the University of Notre Dame. He starts in early August.

He will have been with us for about three months, and he's quick to point out he had the shortest time back home after college.

Wife and I are excited for him and the opportunity this presents. It's going to be outside his comfort zone a bit location-wise, but as I've told him, everyone needs an adventure. I think this will be an exciting one for him.

I read and hear a lot about adult children who move back home. Apparently these millenials are known for it.

I don't deny the challenges it sometimes presents.

But Wife and I have been fortunate, in that for each one of our three, the time back home post-college has, for most of the time, been immensely pleasant and enjoyable.

We agreed, when it was decided that was what Younger Son would do, that we would welcome him, give him all the space he needed and, most importantly, enjoy the time.

Because we knew it wouldn't last forever, and it would be a way we would not pass again.

In three short months I have grown accustomed to having him here, and now it's going to be hard to see him go.

It's been a good summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Recent columns

When I renewed my commitment to this blog a while back, I said I would begin to post links to the weekly column I write for a local publication.

I have done that from time to time, but since at times I write about local matters, I realize many of you reading this blog would find that of little or no interest. Accordingly, I have only posted links to the column a few times, and only when I thought it would be something of interest to a general audience.

Today I am posting the last two, which pertain to my interest in reading. The first gives details of my top five favorite books, while the second is a review of a recent read. I hope you enjoy.

Oct. 13

Oct. 20

Monday, May 30, 2016


Memorial Day weekend is typically thought of as the beginning of summer, especially in the South, where schools are out by now. This is true even though the official start of summer is not until June 21.

I have made no secret of the fact that summer is my least favorite season. The main reason is I can't stand hot weather. Also, I am reminded of more challenging times in my life that correspond with summer dates. It's silly to think that way, and I'm not big about remembering dates, but for some reason I'll have the occasional flashback. Again, that makes no sense.

So I make the best of it by dwelling on things I do enjoy about the season: fresh fruits and vegetables, occasional lake outings with friends, baseball and leisurely visits with Daughter and SIL, who are both teachers and have some extended time off.

And speaking of those two, they arrived at our house late yesterday afternoon, the first stop on a journey that will take them to Steamboat Springs, CO next weekend, where they will run in a half-marathon on Sunday. They will drive tomorrow to Little Rock and stay with Daughter's grandparents, and will arrive in CO on Thursday.

They will make it back here the following Thursday, June 9th, and on the 10th, Daughter and Wife will go the beach for a few days, while all three boys (Older Son, Younger Son and SIL) and I will go on our annual (if at all possible) baseball trip -- this year to Chicago (White Sox vs. Royals) and Milwaukee  (Brewers vs. Mets).

I also have a high school class reunion this summer, on July 4th weekend, and Wife and I have just planned a late August vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana, and the Canadian Rockies.

So while summer will never be my favorite season, if I can fill it with activities such as this and manage to stay cool as much as possible, I think I'll be OK.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pretty silly

As national debates go, if there has ever been one as silly as the one regarding bathroom use for transgender people, I don't know what it is.

Talk about "borrowing trouble."

I don't know any transgender people, but I tend to believe they have been using public restrooms assigned to their current gender for years. I never thought about it before but I figure that's what has been happening and I strongly suspect, truth be told, they would just as soon carry on life without having attention called to them.

Here in Tennessee, our legislature considered a bill that would require schools to require students to use restrooms and locker rooms for the gender on their birth certificates. They wisely decided schools could address those matters without interference from the government and the bill died.

A teacher wrote to the local newspaper, stating just that, saying he didn't want to be checking birth certificates and he was confident the schools could handle it.

On the national level, President Obama pushed through another one of his executive orders, this one saying all public schools should allow students to use bathrooms for the gender "with which they identify" -- or something like that.

His extreme overreaching and abuse of the executive branch of government is every bit as absurd as what our state government considered and decided against.

He needs to stay out of it, just like our state government needed to stay out of it.

I bet, if we handle these matters on a case by case basis, it will all work out.

You want to boycott Target because of their announcement about rest rooms? Well go ahead and boycott Target. It's your right to do so.

I don't shop a lot at Target but, should I need something there, I plan to keep right on shopping there.

But I respect your right not to if their stance on bathrooms is too much for you. That's how the free market works and I can live that.

There are plenty of things to get worked up over. This isn't one of them.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Gobble, gobble

I decided to wait a respectable amount of time after blog friend Ed from Iowa posted photos of turkeys in his yard before I posted this one, right out my front door. I didn't want him to think I was stealing his ideas. I took this photo right before I read his post about his own turkeys, with pictures.

I don't live in the country as Ed does, but the area where we live was once pasture and farm land, and we have our share of wildlife. In the 15 years we have lived in our house, we have always had deer in abundance. During mating season, it gets a little embarrassing, if you know what I mean. But we generally co-exist with them.

We have the occasional coyote, and every so often we'll spot a fox. Unfortunately, skunks are frequent visitors and I'll never forget the time our late dog, Ralph, had an encounter with one. As you can imagine, the smell lingered for a loooong time. We also have a beaver that makes appearances in a nearby ditch.

Until a couple of years ago, we had never seen turkeys, but they have become about as common as the deer. They are peculiar animals, and although they will scatter when humans come near, they never seem to be in much of a hurry about it -- hence the photo I took from about ten feet away. I used the zoom on my camera phone, which makes the picture just a tad blurry, but I think you get the idea.

When they cross the street, they meander about their way, appearing to expect oncoming cars to wait until they are out of the way -- which is what most of us do. I have never known of any of our neighbors to run over one.


Spring started with pretty warm weather here in middle Tennessee but, as usual, it got cool again, and we've had days of being cold in the mornings but downright hot by late afternoon. The warmth has about settled in, with daytime highs climbing into the 80s recently.

I enjoy the changing seasons but, if I'm honest, I like fall and winter better than spring and summer. I detest hot weather and, although spring can be quite pleasant, it's a reminder of what's to come. Also, for whatever reason, the more challenging times in my life have been in spring and summer and I think spring's arrival is a reminder of those times, even if subconsciously.

But, optimist that I am, I try to dwell on what I do enjoy about spring and summer -- fresh fruit and vegetables, fireflies and baseball. We also have a wonderful outdoor summer concert series in our community.

And I guess I'll add turkeys to that too. They seem to enjoy visiting us during spring and I must say they are fascinating to observe.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Time to go outside

            Blog friends Kimberly  and Ed recently posted about their adventures in the great outdoors. Kimberly took a hike at a beautiful spot near her home, while Ed loaded up and went from Iowa to Northwest Arkansas, where he hiked around and floated the beautiful Buffalo River and camped with his family.

            Both posts made me a bit envious. I love day hikes, and I floated that same Buffalo River a number of times in my young adult life when I lived only a couple of hours away from it. It really is a gorgeous place, with breathtaking views of bluffs towering above the river. Floating along in a canoe is quite enjoyable, and usually pretty tranquil.

            Anyway, both of their posts made me long for some extended outdoor time myself, and I'm going to pull out my copy of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Nashville and see where I might go in the near future.

           I would love to work in a fishing trip as well. I haven't been fishing since last May when I went to Dallas, where Older Son was living at the time, and went to a spot about 1.5 hours from him.

           I try to exercise in the mornings, and when the weather is nice I try to do that outside, but that is something I am trying to start and finish in an hour or less. Although I enjoy it more when I can be outside, I am not spending a lot of time enjoying the scenery.

          "So what are you doing with your time?" you might be asking, and why can't I just get myself off to the woods, or to the lake to fish?

           That's a fair question. And well, I'm still, thankfully, gainfully employed, and plan to be for many years to come. That takes up the bulk of my time.

          On weekends ,Wife and I have found ourselves traveling a fair amount since the first of the year. We spent Easter weekend at a lake near Auburn, AL with Younger Son, Daughter and SIL. It was cool and rainy, but we had a great time and attended a wonderful outdoor church service Easter morning.

           We have also made a few trips to Arkansas since the first of the year. Wife's parents have moved into a retirement community. She went over a couple of times to help them get their house cleaned out and ready to sell, and also help get them settled in their new place. And she and I have been over together a couple of times. One of those trips included time with old friends in Hot Springs.

            Wife spent a few days at the beach with DIL, and I met her in Atlanta and brought her home.

            There have been trips to Huntsville to see Daughter and SIL.

            I detest hearing people saying how busy they are, so I'll not say that. I'll just say life has been full, and I'm not complaining. Almost all the travel involves people I love.

           But I'm headed out on a hike before long, and hopefully there is also a fishing trip in my future.

           I think either or both would be good for my soul.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Can't do it

The Republican debate is playing in the background as I write this.

If you were to go back and read blog entries from years ago, you would think I were a Republican.

I consider myself an independent voter but the fact is, more times than not, I'll go with the GOP candidate. That's because that candidate will usually align with my views.

But I really do vote for the candidate, not the party, and over the years I have occasionally voted for a Democrat.

I've mellowed a great deal over the years, even since starting this blog. I really can't believe that at one time I thought Sarah Palin was a brilliant pick by John McCain for a running mate.

I would apologize for that but let's just chalk it up to my being so against Barack Obama, that I couldn't see what was as plain as the nose on my face -- that she was in way over her head and McCain got some really bad advice.

On the aforementioned debate airing on my television, there's a reality TV show host, a couple of senators and a governor going at each other, although the governor (John Kasich) is little more than window dressing. And in case you didn't know, the reality TV show is way ahead of the other three.

I write about politics a bit in my weekly column, but almost always from the point of view of an observer. I try hard not to let my opinions show.

But it's a bit different here on my blog and I'll tell you, unequivocally, that I'll not be casting a vote for Donald Trump should he be the Republican nominee. I understand why some people are supporting him (being fed up with establishment Washington) but I cannot, and will not, vote for him. Just can't do it.

I believe the only hope, barring a miracle, for Trump NOT to be the nominee is for him to fall short of getting the required number of delegates prior to the convention, and a deal being made there (a "brokered convention," which has not happened since 1976) to keep Trump out. Of course if that were to happen, Trump would likely launch a third-party effort and the GOP could end up in a shambles.

But what if it's Trump vs. Hillary? What will I do?

I believe you could find a blog entry here where I said something along the lines of pledging to never vote for a Clinton -- "not on this planet" is the terminology I used, I believe.

Will I sit it out? Will I vote for an obscure third-party candidate? Will I -- would I -- gulp, vote for Hillary?

Right now I couldn't tell you.

But I will not vote for Trump.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Last two "What I Know"

I don't talk about politics much on this blog, but I occasionally address the topic in my weekly column, from the point of view of an observer. For my last two, click on the links below:

Jan. 31

Feb. 7

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter did come

If you read my last post, you might remember that I talked about the prediction of snow last week and the mad rush at the grocery store.

That little snow event amounted to very little. There was a dusting, and enough early morning freezing to cause the cancellation of school for the day.

That was on Wednesday. The temperatures rose above freezing later in the day and the minor accumulation quickly melted off.

As I stated at the end of my last installment, more was scheduled for Friday.

Ho-hum. It didn't amount to much Wednesday so I didn't give much thought to Friday. I got up and went to a 5 a.m. spin class and planned to head downtown for a meeting about 8.

When my class was over at 6, the snow was beginning. I went back home and stayed there, as did most folks. By sundown we had about 5 inches at our house and in parts of Nashville, there was as much as 9 or 10 inches.

It was a beautiful snow and I loved watching it fall and I loved watching it pile up in the yard. Since I am entrusted with Older Son's pickup truck with 4-wheel drive, I also loved driving around in it.

But I will tell you this: it is a very sad thing to have snow and no children at home. Wife and I went out for a walk and we were giddy enough about it all, and she was kind enough to let me throw a couple of snowballs at her.

But still . . . it wasn't quite the same. Saturday morning I stood at one of our front windows and watched as a couple of neighborhood dads pushed their little ones on sleds.

I might or might not have had a big old lump in my throat.

Here's a picture of the back deck as it came down Friday. It's about all melted now, but this was a grand snow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snow day?

We are not accustomed to snow around here, not big amounts anyway. Every few years we might get some serious accumulation but a typical winter might find us getting a dusting or two. Even so, it's a HUGE deal when there is even the remotest possibility of the white stuff.

Scarcely a month ago, as we wore shorts and ran the air conditioning ON CHRISTMAS DAY (!), we wondered if we would have winter this year.

In January it has arrived, and there is snow in the forecast. So people, as usual, are going crazy.

I had a work-at-home day today and made a mid-day run to the grocery store at the request of Wife.

I wondered why the parking lot was so full and then it dawned on me, of course. The weather folks are predicting snow. And so many people around here seem to believe that also means they will STARVE, which means they go to the grocery store EN MASSE. And as I have previously stated, they buy bread and milk even if they don't eat bread or drink milk.

It's not really that they believe they will starve if it snows -- it's this mentality that we'll get snowed in for days and they'll go through everything in their pantry and won't be able to make it to the grocery store.

Never mind that, even though snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, it is supposed to get above freezing by noon, so driving should not be a problem.

And never mind that the city officials are really good about getting salt on the roads and getting the snow plows out so that, even if there is accumulation, it's very rare that we cannot get out and get to the places we need to go, including the grocery store.

No, as soon as we hear there's a forecast for winter weather, we're not taking any chances and we're stocking up on provisions. That's just the way it is.

I'm supposed to drive to Birmingham for work tomorrow and I don't anticipate that being a problem. I'm leaving early and driving south, and it's supposed to be a bit warmer down there.

We have plenty of food on hand and Wife should not go hungry for the couple of days I am gone, even in the unlikely event she finds herself stranded.

More snow is predicted for Friday so, should we get any accumulation tomorrow, the cautious among us should be able to get out Thursday and stock up again (that wont' be me). Can't take any chances for the weekend, you know.