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Incurable Insomniac





Updated: 2017-09-30T23:18:37.308-05:00

 



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2016-03-24T22:50:45.420-05:00

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Chop Chop

2015-03-29T01:03:06.996-05:00

I gave up performing my "folkish" music (accompanying myself on 12-string guitar) in 1984 when I began studying classical composition. Except for at parties, after having had too much to drink, I haven't done any real singing, or playing guitar for that matter. I just sort of quit after a career that spanned nearly 20 years. I couldn't perform anymore. I'd burned myself out and my confidence took a real nose dive due to some personal issues.

Now that I've decided to get back into it and maybe hit the house concert circuit, I've started rehearsing. I was afraid my voice would be unfamiliar to me due to the natural deepening that sometimes occurs as we age. My speaking voice has gotten a bit lower, so it was a natural assumption. In the past I was able to perform some pretty impressive vocal acrobatics, leaping octaves with ease and sliding around the blues. And I've always had a large range. I was fully prepared to transpose some of my more challenging songs to accommodate any changes to my voice, and I figured my vocal dexterity was a condition of my youth. There was no reason to think otherwise, because, when I did attempt to sing my old stuff, I was always in the house where I never felt confident enough to belt it out. Well, I recently cleared out a rehearsal space in the garage and when I first went out to there to practice, I found I was still able to really open up and SING with no holding back. Happily, I don't have to transpose anything, and guess what? My range is still there. It takes a little more support to hit the really high notes with ease, but it's coming along. By October when I'll give my "come-back" concert (ahem), I'll be able to sail over those notes like I used to.

Now if my guitar chops will just come back with as much ease. That's a whole 'nother issue!



My Kingdom For the Truth

2015-03-22T14:24:28.748-05:00

Today, the remains of Richard III are at last receiving their rightful due and are lying in state at Leicester Cathedral after being hidden under a parking lot for 527 years and undergoing strenuous testing the past three years.Born on 2 October, 1452, Richard III was King of England from 1483 until his death on 22 August, 1485 at the age of 32. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, where he was killed by a blow to the head, was the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, and marked the end of the Middle Ages in England.To be to the point, I believe he has been given a bum rap in history, incited largely by Shakespeare's portrayal in his play, Richard III, written over a hundred years after the fact. I'm not blaming the Immortal Bard, however. How else could he paint this king, this "son of York"? I don't imagine that as a Tudor, Elizabeth I would have been too keen on him being championed. Besides, Shakespeare wrote a theater piece, and theater pieces are very good at either vilifying or glorifying people who can't speak up for themselves to set the record straight. It is not my intent to do likewise. I didn't know the man, nor did I live under his reign. Did he covet the Crown? Of course he did. Did he do whatever he needed to do  to get it? Perhaps. Did he fight to keep it? Of course. But all of this could also be said about virtually every other human being born only one or two degrees from a throne. History is written by the winners. Some people are remembered as heroes and some as antiheroes, it all depends on who holds the pen and who's deciding the spin."There is no clear evidence that Richard was guilty or innocent of his so-called 'crimes', but historians, whether detractors or sympathisers, must work with the information derived from the sources and endeavour to present a balanced view of this controversial figure." - Wendy E.A. Moorhen (Richard III Society)Lord Chancellor Sir Francis Bacon, a contemporary, wrote of Richard that he was, "A good lawmaker for the ease and solace of the common people." He enacted anti-corruption and trade protection laws that benefited the common populace, and we all know how well that goes over with the upper 1%. There is nothing new under the sun, and politics never change. They never have. Whatever, I'm not going to debate (either pro or con) all that Richard III has been accused of. People far more educated on his life have already done that. I will go into his appearance, though.Niclas von Popplau, a knight who met Richard in 1484, wrote in his travel diary: "King Richard is… a high-born prince, three fingers taller than I, but a bit slimmer and not as thickset as I am, and much more lightly built; he has quite slender arms and thighs, and also a great heart."VSWilliam Shakespeare, in his play, Richard III, in 1592: "...A poisonous hunch-backed toad."But, as I say, can we take words from a theater piece as scripture? Even Shakespeare's? What is clear is that the descriptions of Richard grow more and more unfavorable as the years pass. The Countess of Desmond, who danced with the prince, wrote, "He was the handsomest man in the room except his brother Edward, and was very well made," while Polyfor Vergil, an Italian cleric commissioned by Henry VII wrote in 1534, "He was lyttle of stature, deformyd of body, thone showlder being higher than thother, a short and sowre cowntenance, which semyd to savor of mischief and utter evydently craft and deceyt."When you're commissioned by a living king to write about a dead, enemy king, and you wish to escape the Tower, you tend to give him what he wants to read.The latest findings, gathered from three years of DNA testing, reveal that Richard had blue eyes and blond hair, nothing like the dark-haired, steely dark-eyed man portrayed in posthumous portraits. He was not a "hunchback," but he did have idiopathic adolescent-onset scoliosis, which probably did not show from beneath his clothing. Y[...]



The Acceptance

2015-03-22T14:16:39.478-05:00

Back in 2008 or something like that, I wrote an entry about how blogging was about to undergo a radical change with the advent of social media. Well, time has proved me correct. Although many people read my blog (usually brought in by an update notice in Facebook and Twitter), precious few leave comments here. Instead, they leave their comments in those media sites.  I actually like this change, because my presences "over there" are protected and, personally, more liberating. I've been thinking lately that disabling comments might be a good thing, so that's what I'm doing.

Am I simply buying into the social media monster? Possibly, but I'm too busy with my life to think that's an actual problem. It's only the internet, after all, not the life I live here in the real world with my family and friends, and my work.


Psst...
The internet is an illusion;
nothing but smoke and mirrors.

It's the end of an era for me. Besides shaking the internet's Siren Song, I'm done with the trolls whose only purpose is to be unkind and hateful. But, mostly, no one seems to want to comment here anymore and I'm tired of fighting the current. I'm 63 for fucksake and life's too short to be concerned about all these immaterial ones and zeros.

Onward.



Getting Things in Hand

2015-03-10T11:51:10.531-05:00

It's been such a long time since I played a guitar every day of my life, my calluses have gotten a bit soft on me. They're still there, but they've been sleeping. This past week, I've rather called Reveille on them, however, and they're proudly rising to the occasion.

I'm not a believer in "Play until your fingers bleed!" In fact, unless you're onstage and it occurs from an especially robust session, it's pointless. When I was younger and first learning guitar, my grandmother, who was a musician and knew about these things. told me to soak my fingertips in vinegar before and after playing. It really worked, and I developed a healthy, durable set of calluses that can still be called on after 50 years. These days I'm giving Eric Clapton's advice a try by soaking them in rubbing alcohol instead of vinegar. So far, so good. It in fact seems to work more quickly than vinegar. I also think that the fact that I'm switching between 6-string and 12-string guitar is helpful, because doing so covers the entire fingertip pad; it may be a little more painful, but not as painful as playing a 6-string, exclusively.

Working on getting both my playing and singing chops back into shape is proving to be a real joy. It's just my memory where lyrics are concerned that's the challenge. My hands know what to do (good old muscle memory never fails!) so I don't give that a second thought. Remembering the words of 36 songs, however, is proving to be harder, not to mention that all of my music was lost back in 2001 and I'm having to dredge up my own song lyrics. Most of them have resurfaced, and those that just won't, I'm simply rewriting. What's the harm? Who's to know? They're my songs.

I have five months until my house concert (I've penciled in the date as October 9th), and there's plenty of time to get everything in hand, so to speak, calluses and lyrics, so I'm not worried in the least. Meanwhile, all of this is completely silencing the old stage fright beast, and that was the biggest challenge of all.



In-Home and Homegrown

2015-03-07T00:13:31.049-06:00

Years ago, from 1983-85, I was a member of a southern California group of folk musicians, patrons, and lovers of folk music that met for in-home concerts, camp-outs, and workshops. Nearly every weekend I was in someone's living room listening to a songwriter or folk group, and meeting them close-up. Even back then (or perhaps especially back then, during the heat of the Eighties) I found the experience enriching. Soon, I was performing at house concerts, too. After years of playing duets with bar blenders, and cocktail waitresses shouting out drink orders, I really took to the respect an artist feels when the audience is actually listening, not whooping and whistling. I'm afraid that if I were a well-known songwriter and was met with that crap, I'd leave off playing and say, "Look, you came here to hear me. I came here to play for you. Now, sit down and be quiet." I'm sure that wouldn't gain me any fans, but at least I'd have had my say. But you never know. Some major acts are demanding their audiences put their cell phones away during their concerts.

House concerts are great because they draw a listening audience—everyone is there for the express purpose of hearing the song. If you've never experienced live music in a true listening situation, then you need to.

"All of these things, we believe, set us apart from the usual large concert and bar experience, where sometimes the music winds up being secondary to the party atmosphere and worse yet, relegated to background music." - Scott Aycock, House Concerts Unlimited

I've decided to host my own house concert this year, here at Bookends Cottage. I miss performing, despite the crippling stage fright that started to appear around 1990 and grew to such epic proportions that I couldn't even sing for my family unless I was three sheets to the wind. Of course, that only exacerbated the problem, because I can't perform at peak with even so much as one drink in me. Invariably, I'd wake up the next morning, remember how shitty I sounded, and tell myself my performing days are over. Well, my days as an unabashed wino are gone, and I'm really itching to perform again.

So here I am relearning some of my old songs, learning my new ones, and brushing upon some favorite covers, and I'm finding that the planning process of this is having a calming effect on my stage fright. Well, that's how it works, isn't it? The better one knows one's material, the more confident one is. Who knows what this might lead to? I'm already planning to record an album this year, so maybe I'll get on the house concert circuit again. But sh! I'm not ready to start thinking beyond this one performance just yet.



Birth of the Blues

2015-02-28T13:25:18.260-06:00

One of the items on my 70 by 70 list is to stay at Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club for a weekend. Located at 0 Blues Alley in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the club celebrates the birthplace of the Delta Blues. With people like John Lee Hooker and Willie Brown as its native-borns, Clarksdale has a vibrant history, and the club is located beside the Delta Blues Museum.

Upstairs, the Delta Cotton Company has several rooms that are decorated in a retro style. If I stayed there, I'd choose the Good Midling room, not because it's the most expensive (none of the rooms are particularly expensive, actually), but because I like the colors and the fact that it overlooks the front of the building. The club itself naturally has live Blues Wednesday-Saturday nights, a full bar, and a great menu. I think it has great vibes, too!

Of course, right now is not a good time to us to go, what with the Mississippi KKK having issued a call-to-arms against people like Nettl and myself, but someday, maybe. Mr.Freeman certainly wouldn't mind, so I doubt his establish would either. It's just those men in hoods that's kind of off putting.



Our First Real Snow

2015-02-23T02:43:42.085-06:00

It was a good, low key weekend. I'm actually sort of enjoying the bi-polar personality the weather has taken on this winter. Saturday was like a spring day; it was in the 70's and the sun shone in a crystal blue sky. When we woke up on Sunday morning, however, there were several inches of snow on the ground and more coming down. I actually like snow, but that's probably because I no longer have to scrape the car windows or commute to a job 20 miles away. Snow's easy to like when you can spend the morning in a warm bed.

None of that for us, though. We'd already made plans to go to Brooklyn's for brunch. That was a very good idea. Strong coffee warmed us as we ordered their famous fried chicken and waffles. I have to tell you, I'd never tried this dish before even though I knew it would be good. Brooklyn's doesn't do anything ordinary, though. This dish was lightly dressed with a cranberry balsamic syrup, candied cranberries, and pralines.

So I move into a new week. With the recent web job completed, I'm free to get back to my book, although I never really left off working on it. The difference is, now I can dedicate all of my time to it. It's coming along nicely.

The photo is of Lowrider, who, when she came to the end of her little brick path, she looked at me like as if she expected me to shovel the snow for her.



Something New

2015-02-16T02:40:17.190-06:00

I opened a photoblog/nature journal. It's brand new, so there's not much there, but I remember when this place was new. Please be so kind as to pay a visit, comment, Follow, and do that voodoo that you do so well.

If you want to.



The Chaos Factor

2015-02-09T13:10:52.363-06:00

There's an awful lot of talk on the web about manifesting our heart's desire, of turning our dreams into reality. This is a subject I've been interested in since about 1977. Back then, it was called creative visualization, and I spent a lot of time practicing it. For nearly as long as I could remember, my dream was to be a rock star. Not a celebrity so much, but a standard of comparison among those I believed to be my peers. For me, fame was about gaining the friendship and respect of others in the business. I ate, drank and breathed this dream without having ever heard of following your bliss, manifestation, The Secret, or any of that. To me, it was about daring to dream, then working my ass off to make it come true. I was a hopeless dreamer, yes, but I also was an indefatigable worker, performing at every opportunity, and creating opportunities for myself where none existed. I was my own business manager/booking agent for many years, and I came awfully close to succeeding any number of times.When I heard people who'd made it say, "If you really believe, it'll happen," I believed them. Thirty years later, broke, hungry, burned out and disappointed, I gave up that dream. It's easy for those whose dreams have come true to say that anyone can achieve their heart's desire, but for every one of them I suspect there are thousands who have not and will not make it, no matter how much they dream and how hard they work.Lately, I'm thinking a lot about this, because there's a house Lynette and I are aching to buy (you may have already found the link I tucked away on this page). What I'm wondering is how to balance my feelings of unexplainable optimism with the very real possibility that somebody else could buy it at any moment. On the one hand, I don't want to sabotage the miraculous accomplishment of this dream by dwelling on the odds, but I likewise don't want to be shattered if it does sell to someone else. Mostly, I just don't want to lose hope. Life without hope of something is unbearable for me.I'm not a believer in fate, which sits on the other end of this see-saw. I don't believe we come here with our destiny set in cosmic concrete. I believe that somewhere in the middle is a fulcrum labeled The Luck Factor. Call it what you will: luck, serendipity,.. I prefer to call it The Chaos Factor."Que sera, sera,Whatever will be, will be..."Whatever it is, it acts as the balance. While some people of little talent crave the ego stroke, the wealth and the power, and accomplish that almost immediately with only a minimum of work, other people of great talent, who want only to be able to help others and leave the world a better place, slave away for years before succeeding. For some people, it never, ever happens. Them's the breaks.Of course, finding Nettl was one of these miraculous dreams come true, and that should be enough, I confess, my head hanging low. But before I leave this planet, I'd like to see the accomplishment of just one of my material dreams. It's not a lot to ask, and I'm willing to work my ass off. These days I have a simpler, less arbitrary dreams. To live a certain lifestyle, one that doesn't require fame or wealth. To live with nature in a modest house with the love of my life, and to check out knowing she and my eldest son are provided for. That's it.And that's a far cry from my earlier dreams of Grammys and gold records, and standing ovations at Madison Square Garden.[...]



He Turned Into a Lady

2015-02-03T10:21:36.602-06:00

I dreamed I was at Bob Dylan's house in Malibu, where I occupied a large recliner chair in the living room. I'd been there all day and, although I was with him and a number of other people, listening to music, drinking wine and talking, he didn't acknowledge me. He didn't ignore me, I was just one of the guests, no one important.

He put different albums on the stereo—all vinyl discs—but none of the music really registered on me. It was good background music, the kind that people talk over in small gatherings like this one. It was Dylan's music, of course, and, although I liked most of it, none of it stood out to me as being anything new or any different from anything he'd released over the years. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there, looking out at the Pacific Ocean while listening to Dylan and his friends talking, laughing, and feeling relaxed and mellow.

This went on for what felt like all night. Finally, this morning, right before I woke up, he put on a copy of an album he was about to release, what we used to call an acetate. It was zydeco inspired, unique, all Dylan, and it was amazing. One song in particular possessed my attention, one in a minor key. I told everyone to be quiet and listen, that this was something special, and we listened.

Toward the end of the recording Dylan stood up to leave the room and he came over to where I sat, took my hand in his, and walked behind me around the chair. When I looked up at him again, he'd turned into a Lady, refined, elegant, generous. I kissed his (her) hand in gratitude and the exchange of feelings between us was so tender, I was deeply moved. I felt as if he/she had bestowed on a me a pure and significant blessing.

The music is still in my head, and that's blessing enough.



Mood of Solitude

2015-01-30T13:42:11.687-06:00

I've always compared myself to a lone wildflower growing outside a rose bed. At least that's how I was raised.

Did I say raised? That's not quite true. My parents, being bohemian sorts, kind of tossed the seed out there, then stood back and said, "Let's see how she does!" They supplied me with some support against the wind, but, generally speaking, I was left to my own devices. It was good for me. I learned to dig my roots in deep when things got rough and I'm an old hand at turning my face to that one ray of sun when the storms set in. Did I turn out alright? I think so. Other people I've known, who grew up in the rose bed — tended, pruned and dosed with various "fertilizers" — have always been the ones who were most drawn to me.

I don't know what brought on this feeling of being alone, or set apart, this morning. After two weeks of feeling fully engaged, I woke up feeling a bit outside of it all. It's not bad. It's where I create from, and the weather has turned back to winter after a week of unexpected spring. I also haven't slept well all week, but I'm used to that, too. I'm going to be alone quite a bit this weekend so I welcome this mood of solitude — I'll spend my time working on my new book and reading some of those on my list over there ----->

My mother had a saying she used whenever I did something she neither approved of nor understood: "You're growing up like a weed!"

Perhaps, but a flowering one! And I wouldn't trade places with the most beautiful hybrid rose for all the world!

___________________

Photo Credit: Christine at Homesteading in the Burbs



Progress Report

2015-01-27T11:43:28.641-06:00

But First...You who have been coming here for any length of time are already used to my frequent template changes; as one who constantly reinvents herself, I like this blog to reflect my latest incarnation. Those of you who are new, well, get used to it. This is how I've rolled since I began blogging in 2002.Lately, I seem to be drawn to bolder, more vibrant colors, which is very different from my usual muted tones. I attribute this to my victory over depression, which I've been battling for over a decade. Ah, well. Who knows what lurks within any of us?Since our mini-holiday at Tenkiller Ferry Lake (that entry can be read here), I'm feeling more positive, refreshed and forward-looking than I have in many, many years. I suppose that's what vacations are supposed to do to us, but it's been so long, I guess I forgot what this feels like. Here's a little rundown:2000: Nettl and I left our blissful life in Denver, where I had a well-paying job and tons of credit, to live in Stillwater, where she was to finish her masters degree. Unable to land a job that paid what I needed to manage my financial health, I had to settle for the amount I'd made when I first started out in 1976. That's the economy here, folks. Just the two of us, we had plans for our future: to leave Stillwater and live either in Europe or California. In November, however, my mom had a stroke. She was in Denver at the time so we brought her to Stillwater to live with is, along with my son, Joel, who has Asperger's Syndrome. Doggedly positive, we set into more of a family life than we'd at first anticipated. Plans to move had to be shelved.2001: Nettl was thrown into a bitter custody battle over her three kids, ages 7-11.2002: Taking care of my mother began to eat at what financial reserves we had. Her health continued to decline and my depression started to raise its head. I was suddenly hit with chronic pain, probably exacerbated by having to lift my mom all day, as well as her heavy wheelchair whenever I had to take her somewhere in the car.2003: Many trips to the hospital with my mom, who got cancer and nearly died of a staph infection that turned gangrenous. Gee, thanks, hospital, for your cleanliness ethics. Nettl got custody of her three kids in an emergency court order. Seven people in a three-bedroom house. Fun...2004: Moved to a much larger house and began settling the kids into their new life. Mom died right before Christmas. Extreme financial issues set in and I began feeling grossly unwell.2005: Excitement surrounding a documentary in which we were featured. Ten-day whirlwind location shoot in Vienna and Salzburg. It was hectic and wonderful. I'd never call it a vacation, though. It played hell with my failing health and nearly killed me. Literally.2006: After experiencing sometimes daily mini-comas, I was diagnosed with advanced Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Began the THS merry-go-round. My son, Micah, moved in with us.2007: I don't remember anything about 2007; I was in a year-long Hashi stupor.2008: Finances continued to plummet, I attempted to work outside the home, but soon discovered I just couldn't hold up. Began writing Beyond The Bridge in fits and starts.2009: Realizing we needed to downsize, we moved to Bookends Cottage. All the kids (except my two sons) had moved out and the financial pressure relieved itself somewhat, although we still struggled due to the cessation of Nettl's child support income as well as my inherited annuities. Every penny had gone to basic survival.2010: Published Book One of Beyond The Bridge. This was our worst financial year. There were days when we just didn't eat. Friends stepped in to help when they could, but the stress sent me to my bed for the next two years. All of my writi[...]



Wallop!

2015-01-21T23:27:54.175-06:00

I have very little to complain about, really, and so much to be thankful for, but it's hard, sometimes, to see beyond the crap—the financial worries, ill health, the dust of dreams—to what's really important. Sometimes it takes a wallop upside the head to wake me up to all there is to be grateful for in my life. I hope you'll forgive me for those times when I have no vision and can see no reason to hope—and feel that you are entitled to listen to my beefing.

Lately, I've been thinking about this. About how I probably hold the good things away by dwelling on the not-so-good things, but our weekend at the lake really opened my eyes. I have three friends who aren't doing well. What's Hashimoto's compared to stage 4 lymphoma, kidney failure, or a stroke? It's nothing. While it tests and tries me, it's nothing compared to those things.

I'm ashamed of myself.

From now on I'll be more aware of my ingratitude for my 1st world problems and will nip it in the proverbial bud when I see it coming. I'll also quit being so hard on people in my mind. I'm a really critical person, although I keep it in check and seldom let it reveal itself. I'm now determined to let people off the hook and remind myself that when I judge others, I'm really only judging qualities I recognize in myself and am too chickenshit to face down. No more.

"Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass,
You know his faults, now let his foibles pass."
Sir Frank Crisp



A Sacred Space

2015-02-03T12:10:23.665-06:00

I had intended to post an entry about our long weekend at Tenkiller Ferry Lake as soon as we returned home (which was last evening), but I was hanging onto the feelings of the place and didn't want to intrude on my own bliss.What can I say about the place we stayed? We fell in love with it as well as the area in general. Since I came to Oklahoma on August 1, 2000, I have dedicated most of my thoughts and ambitions to getting out. Obviously, that never happened, but now I understand why. What we're seeking is always found in our own back yard, isn't it? Well, we found what we've been seeking at the lake and we decided that's where we want to retire. I know it's where I'm supposed to be, because I no longer feel the urge to look elsewhere. The search has ended. Below the jump are a few photos I took. Click to embiggiate.Lights in the house over the lane as evening approaches.An incoming jay prepares to land on the feeder.Trees reflected in our champagne.Playing with the reflected sunset.This is the view that greeted us every morning when we came out to make coffee.A beautiful setting even in winter. This property is for sale; how I wish we could buy it.It breaks my heart that we can't, especially as it's so affordable.Red door.Nigel even made friends with the neighbor's dog, Cookie, who came to see himevery morning and take him out for a walk around the neighborhood.Warm tootsies by the fire.Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.[...]



Far From the Madding Crowd

2015-01-15T10:22:44.548-06:00

After days and days of grey, sullen weather, the sun has finally shown his face. It's still cold, of course, but the weekend forecast predicts it shall be "Sunny and delightful".

Tell that to my feet. I usually have my Rocket Dogs on, but they're in the wash so that they'll be nice and snug over our upcoming weekend at the lake house. Meantime, my favorite throw and warm socks do the trick.

I'm really looking forward to the long weekend (we're leaving Friday morning and won't be back until Monday evening). The lake house, which has been so generously opened to us by our friend, Amanda, is at Tenkiller Ferry Lake, about a two-hour drive east from here in a deserted, wooded area. There are other houses nearby, but Amanda tells us no one's out there this time of year. Silly us. But we're packing our favorite throws, board games, my guitar, books, wine and snacks, and are looking forward to being all alone, far from humanity both in actual life and on the internet. (There is no internet at the lake house, no cable, and spotty cell phone reception, and that's fine by us.) We can take Nigel out on walks without his lead, hopefully to the water's edge and all around the dusty lane. Of course, I'll take a lot of pictures.

I'm not sure if I'll be making another entry or not before then, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very enjoyable weekend. Enjoy the sunshine, if you have it!



Black & White, 5 of 5

2015-01-15T11:06:25.070-06:00

For my last installment of the Black & White photo challenge, I reached back to last year when I went out on highway 177 just north of here, where I'd previously passed an abandoned gas station and trailer park. I liked the windswept look of it, the tall grasses, and the rock facade of the building. It had a sort of post-apocalyptic feel about it that moved me. How many pickups pulled in to fill up before going on to the MerCruiser or Armstrong plant? How many kids walked over to the food and supplies store on hot summer afternoons to get a Coke or a Slurpee? How many mothers pushed their baby strollers over to pick up milk? If you click "Read More" below, you'll see my favorite photo from the series, one that I titled "Gash".



Finding this on the north side of the building was startling, like walking into a crime scene.

This challenge was fun! Anyone know of any others?



Black & White, 4 of 5

2015-01-15T11:06:41.415-06:00

Photo #4. This is pretty self-explanatory; guitars and dog toys. I call it, "Artist's Life".



Black & White, 3 of 5

2015-01-15T11:06:52.789-06:00

This is the third of my five images as per Hilary's Facebook photo challenge. This is a collection of old books that sits atop a tall barrister bookcase in our living room. I used to spend my Saturdays in used bookshops in search of old editions. I've found some good books this way, but I can't seem to find any good sellers here.

My favorite in this pile? The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott. This particular edition was published in 1923. It's the wee book on the very top of the stack. There's nothing like cracked leather and musty paper to make me want to read whatever's printed inside!



Black & White, 2 of 5

2015-01-15T11:07:06.864-06:00

Last spring, a tiny sprig of Virginia Creeper began finding its way across the ceiling of our front porch. By the end of summer it had covered quite a bit of it only to be stopped in its tracks when the cold set in. This is it now as it lies dormant, waiting for spring to bring it back to life.



Black & White, 1 of 5

2015-01-15T11:07:23.723-06:00

Hilary, the author of The Smitten Image blog, has challenged her Facebook friends to post one black and white photo a day for five days. I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you're at all interested in doing likewise, please feel free to join in. This is the first of my five images.

This is L'il Mozie peaking out from under the chair beside the piano. Click to embiggiate.



On to 2015!

2015-01-01T21:40:45.209-06:00

We've chosen to spend a quiet New Year's Eve at home this year, probably only the second or third time for me since 1989. I have to admit, it's nice and it allows me a little time to reflect on 2014 and how I want to do some things differently. Something tells me 2015 is going to be very different than any year so far.

Thank you for continuing to read my posts, and may your year ahead be absolutely grand!



Christmas Polar Bear Cake

2014-12-21T15:39:17.751-06:00

(image) In my web searches this holiday season, I found a cake that's similar to this and thought, "Hey, I can make that!" Inside, though, I was afraid it might turn out like those awful Pinterest "Nailed it!" fails that people post in Facebook. I thought I'd give it a try anyway and this is the outcome. I opted for snowflakes instead of polka dots and a round shape instead of square. It was a lot easier than I anticipated. Although I'd never worked with fondant before, I'm really pleased with the outcome! So much, in fact, I'm going to make more cakes in 2015. Watch out, friends and family, when your birthday comes around!

Guess I should add that the cake itself is a gingerbread cake with seedless strawberry jam between the layers.



We'll Phone You

2014-12-22T08:43:19.515-06:00

I love how my worst nightmares about the holiday season aren't coming true this year. Since about 2002 the prospect of gift and feast buying has sent me into a cold sweat, but things are, as they say, looking up and I'm ready for the hoopla that is Christmas. The house is festive with decorations, the pantry is full with the ingredients for various holiday treats, gifts are beginning to appear beneath the tree, and we're looking forward to the arrival of our two daughters from NYC and Memphis, respectively. The only unhappy thing is that our son, Nathan, can't join us this year. As a chef at Chicago's Fairmont Hotel, he's sort of up to his neck in preparing meals for other people (we have yet to receive the benefit of his culinary expertise).

Dare I say it? Things are great and there's a certain vibe in the air that this is just the beginning of even better things to come. Does this mean we passed the audition?



Cottage Cats

2015-01-07T20:49:16.029-06:00

Lowrider & MozieWe have two cats here at Bookends Cottage. Lowrider has been with us since 2007 when she was given to us by a neighbor at St. Michael's and Mozie, a kitten we adopted during the summer of 2012. Actually, Lowrider adopted Mozie after he was orphaned at the wee age of about five weeks. She was a good stepmother for a long time, but now she can't stand him and I think she regrets having taken him in. I took over the job of taming him, which took about two weeks of constant coaxing with food and the blinky eye cat thing, and now he's the most affectionate cat I've ever had the pleasure to know. At least with our family. As soon as anyone else appears, he's out the cat flap. Both of our cats are what I call "indoor-outdoor" cats as both of them were born feral."It's 5 o'clock. Feed me."One of Lowrider's quirks is that she wants to be outside most of the time, regardless of the weather. She comes in only at dinner time after sitting on the little table outside the large kitchen window, staring in as if to say, "It's 5 o'clock. Feed me." Daylight savings time doesn't seem to faze her; she always there at five, sharp. She even prefers to sleep outside, even on the coldest nights, but I have no idea where. I always leave one of the garage doors cracked so that she can get in out of the cold, and she knows where the cat flap is and how to use it. Still, she stays outside unless it's raining, when she comes in, begrudgingly, to sleep on the counter in the master bathroom. Silly cat. There is soft, cozy furniture in our house. Before Mozie joined our family, Lowrider slept on the bed with us nearly every night during the cold months. Why his appearance should change this I don't know, because he doesn't sleep with us.Mozie sleeps in the house most of the day, moving from the window seat in our bedroom to the leather chair beside the piano and then to the antique chair in the living room. After dinner, he begins his sprint in and out the cat flap, sometimes using it as often as every five or ten minutes. In, out, in out... I can't image what hell life would be if I hadn't installed that lifesaver. He finally settles in the antique chair about 2am when Nigel can be relieved from his duties as Cat Flap Sentry. Having decided he's too grown up for his crate, Nigel now sleeps in the maroon wing back.Feel free to add your own captionAnd lest you think these pictures are evidence that I'm a cruel cat mom because I kept the cats outside in the cold, they wanted to be there. I let them in a number of times, but they always wanted back out. And they do have a cat flap, after all. Silly cats.[...]