Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

2017.

Some year.

A lot happened.

I became a pastor again, I grew old, and my mom died. My wife and I acquired a new dog.

As much as I hate to admit it, being a church member only was not good for my soul. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. No studying when I didn't feel like it. No worrying about what to preach every Sunday. No waking up under that pressure. Instead, I sat in the pew, listened, and wrote haiku about sheep and coyotes. It was fun. It was easy. It was too easy.

Little Centerville asked me to be their pastor, and my wife and I began our ministry there the first Sunday of April. This has been a good thing for us. We no longer feel displaced, I am forced out of my laziness, and once more I have to pray, think, and study. On the negative side, however, I no longer write twelve to fifteen haiku per Sunday because I am preaching instead of composing.

I grew old in 2017, but not before first swimming for sixteen straight hours without stopping. The Chicot Challenge VI was the highlight of my athletic career. Justin Nunnery (pilot) and MJ Staples (official observer) joined Team Centerville in helping me make the 23.5 mile swim supporting the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. It was a great experience for me, one I will cherish the rest of my life. However, I am not sure I will ever do it again. I hope, pray, and will work hard to get back, but looking from the bottom of the pit, the view is not too favorable.

Gerald and me late in Chicot Challenge VI

I came out of the water with a left shoulder giving me some pain. With the help of my cousin, Shay, and his lovely wife, Shelly, I recovered nicely in three weeks. On the fourth week, however, I injured the right shoulder twice in one day. Now over six months later, the injury is worse than ever, I need surgery, and my prospect for marathon swimming are not too favorable. I have trouble combing my hair, putting my shirt on, shaving. 

Part of my doubt comes from the list of injuries the MRI revealed. I promise, I never thought my swimming was in any way harming my body. And although the doctor did not say as much, I really don't believe a tendinitis that last for six months and counting happened in a single day. That is just one of the issues I face. Now I better understand Gordon Grindly's retirement from marathon swimming (See 1,000th post published on 12/17). He had two shoulder surgeries, and I guess he saw the wall on the writing, the wall that would eventually force him to stop. Now he plays ping pong. I'm not taking up ping pong or badminton. 

Sigh.

Not only that, but in November of 2016, I hurt my left knee. I have not run since. I didn't think a whole lot about running while I was tearing up the water, but now that the swimming is gone also, I have gained a huge amount of weight, I feel bad, look worse, and hate the idea of acting my age. It's like I grew old all at once. That's what my body is telling me, but my mind still refuses to accept it. My 83 year old Aunt Mary recently told me that she was "not ready to play old yet." Well heck, neither am I.

Sigh.

Chicot Challenge will continue in 2018 thanks to a hero who has stepped forth to stand in the gap. Praise be to God. I'll identify him early in the new year and will write several posts in his praise and concerning his efforts. For now, I take some solace in the idea that the swim and its fund raising efforts will go on for at least one more year, and maybe I can work the other side of a swim for a change. That's not a bad thought.

Mom's death was a hard hit. It did not come as a surprise, of course, and my grief started well before her passing. Only later have I realized that for the past two years whenever I spoke of her, I did so in the past tense. She had been dying for several years. But losing your Mom is not easy and the worst thing about it was the quality of life she had to endure. She was always upbeat about whatever came her way, and my sister, Carol, made sure she had the best possible care. But in the end, all we could do for her was hold her hand and watch her die. Just typing those words brought a torrent of tears. She was a good Mom and a noble person, selfless and giving beyond measure. Her gentle spirit was uncommon and her intelligence and creativity were unbelievable.

Forrest singing to his grandmother a
dozen hours before she died.

In February, we took custody of a little runt of a dog named Pee Wee. His origin remains a mystery as does his makeup, but I am now convinced he is a Mountain Feist. Around here, most people call rat terriers feists. But real feists are a little larger and have a heavier head and neck. Pee Wee is twenty six pounds of desperate drive. He runs and barks and bites and trails and hunts with a joy and push that has to be seen to be truly believed. He has taken up some of the slack in my proclivity to move around, to be active. He will tree and occasionally does. However, we are not treeing as often as he should. I think he spends most of the time we are in the field silent trailing deer. He will bark when the trail becomes red hot. But when he does bark (I can tell the difference between a deer bark and a tree bark), he comes back within minutes. Is he seeking a reward? Often I see him, nose to the ground, moving along at ten to fifteen miles per hours. He goes this way until he is out of sight and he comes back ten minutes later with his tongue hanging low and panting like he just chased a cat out of the country. He's not after squirrels when he does that.

Pee Wee on a tree where I saw the squirrel.

But if he never makes a polished squirrel dog, he has a home as well as a hunting partner for the rest of his life. Recently on one of our hunts, I discovered the cave which has pushed me into looking back over my earlier life and trying to explain some mysteries that tie it to the cave. Another consequence of the cave is a new writing project I am enjoying. What will 2018 bring? Maybe I'll speculate in another post.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ray 2

It was growing dark and Ray had already lit a lantern when I got out of the truck, grabbed the raccoon from the back, and walked apprehensively to his front porch. Ray was wielding a sharp knife on his left hand and a blank stare on his young face. I was amazed at his youth, not more than twenty-five from my judgment. I'll tell you more about that later. He took the coon and laid him, belly up, on an unlevel, homemade table, that looked like some warped 2 X 4s and some old scrap boards nailed together with a bad hammer in a big hurry. 

"How would you do it?" he asked.

"I'd cut him here, and here, and here," I said pointing, "and then skin him out from there."

He didn't say anything. He just started skinning him a different way, and I asked a few questions while he worded. Being as shy as I was, I didn't ask near about as many things as were on my mind, though. I found out his name was Rhouga Azel. I wondered what kind of name that was, but I didn't ask. I wanted to know what happened to his daddy, but I didn't ask. I wanted to know how he made a living, but I didn't ask. 

"How come people call you Ray?" I did ask. He said folks first started calling him R.A., short for Rhouga Azel, and then it changed to Ray. When I asked him did he want me to call him Rhouga or Ray, he said, "Folks been calling me Ray for more'n 150 years." He would say stuff like that every now and then, but I just figured it was talk, that it didn't mean anything. I didn't ask.

He made one cut that I would have made and then it was all another method. In short, he started with a cut from the back legs to the anus, he got the bone out of the tail, then he hung him by the back legs and skinned him down just like you do a deer. When he came to the ears, he showed me how to make the cut so not to have a big hole in the hide. He showed me how to do the eyes and the mouth. When he finished, he tossed me the hide and said, "That's called 'casing' him. Put that in the freezer and when the fur buyer stops in over there on Humphrey Highway the first Saturday of the month, you can get some good money for that."

I asked him how long he had lived here. He said that he remembered when that-- he pointed to the road-- was an Indian trail. I didn't believe him, of course, but that's what he said, and I didn't ask more questions about that.

He noticed me looking at the snares hanging on a nail in a rafter on the porch.

"Gotta know what you're doing to use those."

Then he noticed me eyeing the steel traps that hung from a nail in a log in the front wall.

"I'll teach you," he said. "Needs to get a little colder first." 

He asked me if I'd be staying for supper. It was totally dark now, and for the first time I was pretty much at ease. I wasn't scared, wasn't nervous, wasn't on edge to cut and run if he came at me with that knife. I told him I had to go home. He didn't say anything else, and I awkwardly walked off, got in my truck, and drove away. That was the beginning, the start of a long friendship between me and Ray Azel. I'll tell you about it. Like the cave, though, if you don't believe, keep it to yourself.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

His Name Was Ray (Cave)

Dad always told me to stay away from him, said he was a squatter, a thief, a poacher. Said he was no good and lived like white trash. He was a ne'er-do-well, his bread wasn't done, and he might even be dangerous. There was something about an unsolved decapitation in Coila, many years ago. Some people said he did it. There was something about some moon shining, something about some shots fired at a game warden, something about some burglaries, some arson, a bunch of runs ins with the law. I never heard a single good word about him, never, not one. But when I got a little older, I formed my own opinion on him and on a few other things as well. 

It was 1971, and I had just acquired my driver's license. Not only that, but I had the green light to hunt all I wanted to, and I wanted to a lot. With the keys to Dad's yellow 1969 Chevy pick up truck and an unlimited supply of shotgun shells, I became an expert squirrel hunter that year. "Just stay away from Crazy Ray," Dad had warned me. Why worry? I had heard so much stuff about Ray that I was terrified at the idea of ever running into him anywhere anytime. I even had bad dreams where Ray would suddenly appear out of nowhere and give me a stare down, his eyes going all the way through me and reading my fear like an accountant reads numbers off his ledger books. In those dreams, I always knew Ray was about to murder me, and I awoke in the middle of the night with my heart racing away in terror.

He lived in a small, ancient, badly-leaning log cabin that looked like it was searching for an excuse to fall down. His habitation straddled Dad's property line on Steen Hill Road--more about the property line later-- a matter which caused my dad a huge amount of consternation. His presence caused me some concern for hunting out there, but in the daylight in the safety of my bedroom, I would imagine running into Ray in the woods or on the road, and in my mind I was tough enough to take care of myself. I could box; I could shoot; I even carried a knife. He better not mess with me. In the dark, however, in my dreams, he still haunted me like a terrifying monster in a scary movie.

I had been cautious that whole October afternoon as I stalked through the woods off Steen Hill Road and shot squirrels out of the tops of tall trees. I knew Ray could hear my gunfire, but I was armed, I was aware. My eyes were everywhere, and my ears picked up every sound. I heard squirrel toe nails gripping bark; I picked up the rhythm of acorn shells hitting the leaved-floor of the forest under feeding squirrels. I heard the jay birds yell, the wind rustle through branches. I heard the chipmunks stir softly in the deep leaves. I knew the sounds of the woods, and Ray was not moving out there. I would have known if he was.

As the sun crept down, I tipped towards the truck, slowly, looking and listening, saving myself enough daylight so I could clearly see if Ray was on the road when I got there. When I drew within sight of the truck, my eyes did their work looking back and forth, back and forth. My ears joined the search. The coast was clear. The only place I couldn't see was the other side of the truck where he could be crouching, waiting for me so he could cut off me head.

I eased out onto the dirt road and looked around one more time. Four squirrels filled my game bag, and I carried a medium sized raccoon in my left hand. My right hand toted my trusty twenty gauged shotgun. Then, just like magic, just like in my bad dreams, there he was. I was standing at the tailgate of the truck and suddenly Ray was a few feet away staring me down like he did in my nightmares. My heart rate skyrocketed. My legs wobbled. I was terrified and not only that but it showed as I shook and that added a layer of embarrassment on top of my terror.

"I ain't gunna hurt you, boy," he said in a voice that wasn't deep or threatening or spooky. In fact it sounded young and kinda high pitched. Gentle, disarming. I tossed the raccoon into the bed of the truck, trying to act nonchalant, like I wasn't afraid. 

"I know that," I answered, my voice cracking in fear.

"You know how to skin that coon?" he asked.

"Of course," I boasted. Then, still trying to bluff some ease, I began to unload my shotgun, only I left one shell in. 

He noticed.

"Better get um all out, boy. Folks shoot themselves with unloaded guns."

So I ejected the third shell, went to the driver's door, opened it, and placed the shotgun on the gun rack. That's how we carried our long arms back then, on a gun rack at the back window. After that, I leaned over the truck bed to steady myself, and I looked right at Ray. His eyes were not the piercing-brown Charlie Manson eyes of my dreams but were light blue, non-threatening. My fear was fading, but I was still nervous and trying to collect myself.

"You know how to skin that so you get the most money from the fur buyer?"

Before I could answer, he turned and began to walk away in the direction my tailgate was pointed, toward his cabin.

"If you wanna know, bring him down here." And just like that, he was gone.

I climbed into the truck and took a few deep breaths. That initial shock and fright had been so strong that it was taking a while to recover from it. I put the keys into the ignition and cranked the engine. Dad had taught me always to park with truck in reverse gear. With my foot on the clutch, my left leg still shook a little. I thought I could just snatch the gear shift straight down into first, spin out of here and be gone. But I didn't. Even now, I can't explain why I did what I did, but my hands stayed on the steering wheel as I let out the clutch sending the pickup backing up towards Ray's cabin.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

1,000th Post

Who would a thunk it? When I started this blog in July of 2012, I had no idea that I would enjoy it this much or do it this long. I did not even know blogs existed until 2004, but once I discovered them, I became an avid reader, and a  diligent searcher in quest for the perfect cyberspace serial. I found it a few times only to be disappointed after becoming enthralled with my discovery. Usually the writer quit, just stopped posting with no warning, no explanation, no apology. Or even more frequently, he or she slowed her production to a snail's pace thus frustrating my efforts to enjoy the literary output of a mind I found fascinating.

Slowly I have changed to the point where now I find writing more fun than reading, although I do still read. For bloggers in general, I think the opposite must be true. Do your own research. Look at their archives. I have noticed a pattern, even among the long-lived ones. The pattern is that the blogger's production peaks in his or her second or third full year of the writing adventure and then declines until an eventual halt. This is true at least with the genre of the bloggers I read, people who write about their athletic exploits and adventures. Not so with my little slice of cyber space, however. A quick glance at my archive reveals something different. Look below at the numbers recording my posts.

2012 - 74 (began in July)
2013 - 107 (first full year)
2014 - 125
2015 - 190
2016 - 216
2017 - 288 (as of this posting)

It is not that I am attempting to see how much I can write and how often I can post. It is that I enjoy composing words now more than ever so I write more frequently. Also factored into that is the fact that on my job I teach more English Composition courses than in the past. Often I have my students write in class. While they write, I write. I try to preach what I practice. Sometimes I open up a page and simply start pecking and a strange thing will often happen. I wind up writing something I even like myself, a Poot story, a plan, a recounting of a day in my life. Writing has become fun to me in addition to being therapeutic, cathartic.

I have already written about what I look for in blogs. I look for people who write often, write well, and are interesting. Of course, what I find interesting has changed over the past few years. I once had saved the addresses of about thirty female triathletes. Female because they were the ones writing about that topic. Triathletes because that was what I was interested in at the time. But now, not so much. It is not triathlon that piques my interest so much now as it is marathon swimming. Sadly, I find few people who write often on this latter sweet subject. 

Currently, my favorite blog is Jill Outside. You can find this one on my Blog List in the right hand margin of my blog page. If you read EndangeredSwimmer from a cell phone, you may have never seen my blog list unless you scroll to the bottom of the page. It will look like this.



See "View web version" at the bottom? Click that. Then the page will change and look this this.



You will have to expand the page to read anything on your phone. It is much easier on a computer, however. See the "Blog List" under the picture of Team Centerville and me in our safety orange T-shirts? These are the blogs I read regularly, or at least I used to.



One of these, Gord's Swim Log, was my favorite for a couple of years. Then he, still a fairly young man, retired from marathon swimming on May 24, 2016. Gord swam a lot, a whole lot. He did MIMS, the Catalina Channel, and the English Channel. He turned out huge yardage in the pool five or six days a week Not only that, but he was an avid swimmer of and evangelist for the Great Salt Lake swimming it all four season of the year. Furthermore, he posted often, and I read his writing with relish. Then he announced his retirement and stated that he was dedicating himself to ping pong. What?!?!? I thought that had to be a joke, but if it was, he hasn't given us the punch line in over two years. Who woulda thunk it?

So now my favorite is Jill Outside. Why? She writes well, writes often, and is interesting (see my post of this title from November 6, 2014). Her writing is the best I have encountered in the blogging world, of professional quality. In fact, she has published several books. Take a look at this little snippet from a recent post where she is describing taking a break on a bike ride at a giant, old tree.

This quiet grove is one of our favorite spots in the region. There's a reverence surrounding Old Tree, that unspoken wisdom of the ages extending beyond our meager lifetimes. I love touching the gnarled bark of Old Tree and imagining the centuries it has witnessed, the storms and fires and floods it has endured, and the unlikely way it survived the aggression with which humans reshaped this land. Sometimes I trick myself into the superstition that I can stand beneath this 300-foot-tall giant and absorb some of its power of rejuvenation — a kind of healing wish. Always I see in Old Tree some hope for the future, that even as everything changes, beauty endures. 
                              From Jill Outside, "Here's to my yesterday," December 11, 2017.

Not only does she write well, but the pictures she posts in her texts are also of a high quality and include mountain trail and vistas never seen by a Mississippi Delta boy. And of course, she is interesting. She writes about her athletic adventures, about cycling in Alaska and in the mountains of Colorado. She has that spirit of adventure and the innate desire to push herself, to test her endurance over and over. But even her outstanding blog is going through that decline in output I wrote about above. Once, she posted over 300 times in one year. As of this writing, she has posted 65 times in 2017.  What will 2018 bring from Jill Outside? My hope is that she doesn't stop writing altogether.

Not only have I written about what I look for in blogs, but I have also written about how this blog has changed over the years. First it was strictly an athletic journal. Slowly, I began to write a piece of fiction from time to time, then some poetry. Later I added essays and then the haiku. Unfortunately, the original aim of the blog, the athletic stuff focusing on open water swimming, has diminished in large part because of my health, my injuries which are preventing me from doing a lot of training. Sigh. One day, I hope, pray, and believe, it will all come back.

In the meantime, I keep amazing myself that I have anything to write at all. I don't have a notebook with long lists of subjects. I don't even have a mental garden of topics growing in my head that I want to tackle one day. But somehow, I continue to stumble over something to scribble. How long will it last? I have no clue, but I try to teach my students that life is much more interesting if you are a writer because your senses are more alive, your vision more acute, your brain more active. You are always looking for the next story, the next essay, the next character. And you are surprised and happily so when you find it or him or her.

Monday, December 18, 2017

12/11 - 12/17

This time I have a tiny bit of good news. A tiny bit.

Monday didn't start with a bang because I did no training then. What I did do was spend the day taking John to a couple of medical appointments in Jackson. I'm not complaining. But Tuesday, however, I got it cranked up with a 6.24 mile walk. Also, that night we did Painting with Friends, (the MDCC English Department and others) which was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and I created a masterpiece that I gifted to Centerville Baptist last night at our Christmas party.

Wednesday I took another nice walk with 6.36 miles. I have also been doing a few steps of shuffling in these longer strolls giving me some hope that one day I will be able to shuffle again. Give me one of them, God, running or swimming. Please. Actually, I want both, but one could keep me distracted enough that I won't whine a lot.

Thursday was a big walk day as I did a 6.56 miler, then had to walk to Mom's (.52), and after all that I took Pee Wee hunting and walked another 1.38. All of that gave me 8.46 for the day.

Friday, I was lazy all morning hanging out with the cats and drinking the coffee pot dry. Then Penny was off for the afternoon, and she wanted to go the French Camp to a store over there. I did my shopping in three minutes, and I knew Penny, who is much slower than me, would take another thirty minutes or more. So I went outside and sat in the cold. Went back inside and shopped another three minutes. Then I decided to boot my Garmin and take a walk. I got in another 1.14 miles before she wanted to change stores.

Saturday, Gerald and I took Pee Wee and Bear to Hodge Ski Lodge. Unfortunately, we didn't tree, but we both had a pleasurable stroll and it is always a joy to watch the little dog run. The Garmin read 1.62 miles at the end of the hunt.

For the week, I walked 23.42 miles, and shuffled .8. Did you see it? I shuffled .8. That, by the way, is my total running for the year. Maybe that is the start of something. Thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Cave Again

Honest, I had determined not to go back without a well-armed party of people who were equipped and competent in the outdoors. But peer pressure is real, effective, and dangerous. It happened like this.

We, my wife, children, and grandchildren, go to Hillbilly Heaven, Ellis Roberts' 300 acres of Carroll County, for Thanksgiving lunch. We always have. Andrea, our daughter, had already texted me early Thursday morning and asked it I would take a walk with her. Of course I said yes since I had the same concern about eating too much and gaining weight.

So not long after our meal and a little lounging to let it settle, Andrea started in on me, not just to walk but to go to the cave (see "It Happened," 11/23/2017). I kept telling her we were not going to the cave, but she started saying I was a "fraidy cat" and teasing me and laughing out loud and all like that. At first I stood up to it pretty well, but then the grandchildren started in on me and after a few minutes some of the adults began to rib me as well. I told them I would draw them a map and they could knock themselves out, but the grand kids were staying with me. They were relentless and finally I said, "Show me some guns." Eventually, we had laid out on a table a twelve gauge shotgun, a .357 magnum revolver, an unscoped .30/.30 rifle, and a machete. Grudgingly, I relented. We would go, but we had to come up with some rules and everyone had to follow them.

Since everybody agreed and since Hodge Ski Lodge (where the cave is) is only a mere mile from Hillbilly Heaven, we set out on foot, all eight of us. When it was all said and done that day, the adults who carried the weapons absolutely forbade me to use their names in the account. Talk about fraidy cats. I guess they fear getting some ribbing of their own. 

So we set out. If you remember, the day was grand with sunny skies and a bit chilly but not too cold. Everybody was happy, and a jovial jive followed us as we walked the road headed on a grand adventure. Zane, our grandson, skipped and sang and threw rocks. He was the one who I most distrusted to stay with the group. He has no fear. Seriously. This boy has been catching snakes and frogs since he could walk. By the grace of God he is still alive.

When we got to the entrance to the Hodge land, I was surprised to see that the gate was shut and locked. If you remember, it had only been two days when I left driving fast having forgotten to shut the gate and refusing to go back. Of course being on foot, we had no difficulty negotiating that. I just wondered who shut and locked the gate behind me.

A half mile more of walking brought us to the levee of the pond and now we were a mere 100 yards or so from the gully. This is where I had fired, in fear, two shots from my twenty gauge only two days before. Here is where I heard the yells, and the dogs had fought to sit on my shoes. Now the group with me was having a jolly good time, but inside my stomach churned, and I had some real misgivings. 

I pointed ahead and slightly to our left. "The cave is over there," I said, "but the sides are too steep. We need to go up stream a bit, go to the bottom, and walk back." And that's what we did.

It was a slow process getting everyone into the gully. We headed downstream after we did. I knew the cave should not be far, but this is not how I had found it before, so I was worried about getting there, worried about the kids, and worried about what we might find. But like I thought, we only made a turn or three downstream before it was there. I stopped and pointed up.

"There it is, ladies and gentlemen."

I enjoyed the look on my daughter's face, on everybody's face. They were genuinely surprised. I felt like a winner, like I had delivered. Then I looked up and Zane was at the mouth of the cave!



"ZANE, GET DOWN! GET DOWN! GET DOWN! ZANE, GET DOWN NOW! GET DOWN NOW! ZANE, GET DOWN! GET DOWN!!" 

I yelled as loud as I could until it felt like my vocal chords were going to go sailing out of my throat. 

He slowly slid down while I almost hyperventilated. When his feet hit the bottom of the gully, he was crying and Andrea was looking at me like I was the worst sort of trash that ever walked the face of the earth. Nobody took it seriously, and they all thought I was out of line.

"Zane," I said grabbing his shoulders. 'I'm sorry for yelling at you, but you broke the rules. You were not supposed to do that."

The tension and embarrassment we so thick it seemed like you could reach out and touch it. Then his mom, trying to lighten the mood, I suppose, asked him if he had seen anything.

"There's dead bones inside," he said still sobbing some. 

Andrea giggle a little at that. "All bones are dead," she said.

"They have blood on them. And they stink," Zane added.

The grin on Andrea's face faded.

"And something's in there. I heard it."

We left. When we climbed out, I had one armed adult go up first and stand guard, and I had another armed adult to be the last one out. We walked back to Hillbilly Heaven mostly in silence. Back at the house, Andrea pulled up the picture she took of Zane at the mouth of the cave.

"Dad, come look at this. Do you see what I see?" she somberly asked.

She handed me her phone. At first it simply seemed to be a picture of Zane at the cave. Then I noticed something in the darkness behind him. I expanded the photo to get a better look.

"Good gosh almighty! It's him!"

"Who? Who is it?" she implored.

I was in such shock I had to sit down.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Our First Score

And I almost didn't go. As I often do, I grew a little lazy after lunch as I lounged, napped, and hung out with CC and Baby Kitty. But I also wanted to get Bear and Pee Wee back to the woods. To make a short story long, we didn't get out of the truck until 3:30, but we were there, ready to ramble in the trees and fields of Hodge Ski Lodge. 
Nothing is going to cross that road
without Pee Wee seeing it.

Pee Wee starts every hunt with an eruption of energy that I have only seen in bird dogs. He hunts too wide and too fast, and he really doesn't even know what we are hunting, but he hunts. He runs deer, roots for field mice, barks when birds rise in front of him and looks up trees, sniffs on trees, and occasionally barks up trees. He is raw. But he has the stuff. He has the stuff.

When we turned out Thursday afternoon, he made a twenty-five mile per hour blaze across a field and into the trees. I thought, this is going to be our day. On all our other hunts, there were too many leaves on the trees. Now, along with the leaves, the acorns are on the ground also. The squirrels move down with them.

We headed down towards the little pond. I usually make a couple of swings by there because the area has some good trees around it and I like to give Pee Wee a chance to drink. Bear rarely moves enough to get thirsty, but he has himself a nice time out there rolling in leaves and protecting me. Pee Wee rared up on the side of a tree, but he did not bark and he did not stay. I gave the tree a good look over and saw nothing. But my eyes ain't what they used to be. There could have been a donkey up there for all I know.


Pee Wee then hit the grass patch near the pond and tried to see how fast he could get across it and into the trees on the other side. After that, we headed up a little path Dad made. On top of the next rise, Pee Wee started trailing something. He worked the track quickly and was soon out of sight. Bear and I eased along and a little later Pee Wee popped up on the next rise, looking back at us. Despite his wide-range hunting, he makes an effort to stay with me, to go my direction. He is not out doing his own thing, but he hunts with Bear and me.

We, Bear and I, eased down towards the gully while Pee Wee tore through the woods like his tail was on fire. When we got to the gully, he was in the bottom in nothing flat. I kept easing down to find a way across when I saw it. A squirrel shot up the slope on the far side, flew up a sapling, and make his way into a huge oak on the other side. Pee Wee was right behind him, and as I slide down into the gully, I was yelling, "Get him, Pee Wee. Get him Pee Wee." He barked one time, and he did stay there until I made it across and started scanning the tree. I couldn't find our quarry, and Pee Wee drifted off. We missed a good chance, I thought, a good chance.

We made a loop up towards Steen Road then headed back to the gully. At the edge of the ravine, Peer Wee went over the side like there was a huge magnet at the bottom and was a piece of metal. I walked up and looked over only to be horrified. There was a steep steep slope for about twenty feet followed by a straight drop off of another ten to fifteen feet. Pee Wee was at the bottom looking up. Thankfully he did not appear to be injured. Then he shocked me even more when he took a running start and cleared the straight drop off and scrambled up the steep part to just below the rim I was standing on to an overhang under a giant oak. He disappeared under the overhang. I could hear him snooting around and he stayed under there long enough for me to think, he likes something in there. 

I went to the other side of the tree to see if I could peer over and get a glimpse of him. When I did, my peripheral vision caught movement. A squirrel leaped over the lip of the overhang, scrambled up and small tree, and made his way into another large oak. I didn't wait on Pee Wee but started scanning the tree. I saw a little bump that I though was interesting so I let the twenty gauge test it out. Bingo. He ran farther up the limb only for me to reach out and bring him down.

When the squirrel hit the forest floor, I yelled for Pee Wee who came running up. At first he just gazed down at the creature then he grabbed it. I goosed him up, and he became really excited, shook the rodent, and wanted to take him off. It took a bit to get our prey out of the dog's mouth. Every one was now happy, except the squirrel, of course, and Bear was sort of nonchalant about the whole thing. Bear is simply not a hunter but he does enjoy these outings.

After our score, we crossed the gully and headed towards the truck. Pee Wee seemed to slow and keep his nose a little closer to the ground. Didn't he or was that just wishful thinking on my part? I like to think this taught him what we are hunting when we go out, but I am not so sure. On our drive home, two deer crossed the road  when we got to Hillbilly Heaven. Poor Pee Wee about tore the truck up wanting out.

I cleaned the squirrel when we got home, and Penny cooked it for my supper. This was the first one I ate in about fourteen years. Poor tree rats. If I didn't have this little dog, you would all be safe. Now, not so much.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

187 - 189

187
cold winds torture field,
flock huddles in sunshine
seeking warmth and grass

188
three deer cross road,
frozen ground below running
hooves. delight

189
two sheep butt heads,
some sleep on frozen grass,
eyes peer from woods

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And the Greatest of These

The doctor's visit got me to thinking, pondering a bit. You know, the appointment I wrote about Thursday the 7th. Musing about the shoulder some, but more about another topic altogether. After driving by our old home on Leflore Avenue, I shared with my sister the only memories I have of living there. Later, alone, I ran them through my mind once more and asked if there was any sense in those faded photographs of the brain or are they all just random echoes of recall that stuck in my memory without rhyme or reason.

To attempt an analyzation of these incidents, I decided first to write a short description of each one, and although I don't know their order-- which one was first-- I will rank them in the way I think they occurred. I will call them number one, number two, and . . . you get the picture.

Number one: Dad was playing with me on the sidewalk. The way I remember, it was on Mrs. Wells', our landlady's, walkway not ours. We, he, made a little bow and arrow out of tiny twigs and a short piece of string. We shot another little twig for an arrow.

Number two: Barry Tingle's sister pulled him across the street in a little red wagon and into Mrs. Well's driveway. There were some other people there, I think, but I only clearly remember her and Barry who was in diapers and couldn't have been but about a year old.

Number three: The huge black man who mowed the lawn cranked what I think was a Yazoo mower, and I ran like the wind. I wonder now how large he really was. Everything is big when you are little. I remember the yard as being giant. Two days ago when Carol and I drive my, I was struck by how small it actually is.

Number four: I sat beside Leflore Avenue and placed my right index finger on the pavement and waited for a car to run over it. Every time I tell this one, people ask "Why?" I don't know why, but if I had to guess, I bet Mom told me that if I touched that street a car would run over me.

Just writing this caused me to remember something else, or maybe I should say to be aware of something I don't remember. I have no sound stuck in my brains from that time, no voices, no birds chirping, nothing. Even the lawn mower incident is like a silent film as I watch it replayed between my ears. No doubt it was the noise that frightened me, but I can't recall that noise.

For the first time ever, I asked myself if these "brainshots" contained a message. Is there some meaning to the fact that I remember these and everything else is lost, or am I am overthinking all of this?  How could I know? To attempt an answer, I decided to tag the memories. By "tag" I mean apply a label, a summary, a word or phrase that wraps up each one. This is an old trick for studying the Bible I learned in seminary. Try it. You need a Bible without chapter titles and paragraph breaks. Then title the chapters you are studying using only one to three words. It makes you think and summarize, and you will be surprised how you begin to think new thoughts and gain an insight you never had before. At least that has been my experience with the technique.  I did that and here are the results.

For one the label is "love." There are a lot of ways love is displayed and possibly the least effective is with words although they are important also. For a young child, spending time in their world is the most efficacious way to show you really care. As a young dad, I learned early that the best way to get interaction with kids and cats is to lie down on the floor. The cats come around and the kids wind up on your chest. Dad got down on the sidewalk with me. That was my world: the sidewalk, the floor, the grass. Dad met me there and we did something so special I still remember it sixty years later. I have already said that I don't know which memory is the first, but I like to think this one is. I do know it is my first memory of my dad.

The tag for number two is "community." There were people there, people outside of my family. I only remember two of them, Barry and his sister. They were of a family but not mine. I know others were there also and that is why she pulled him across the street, to be with the other people. But I can't remember them. I do, however, remember a gathering and the gathering contained groups and the groups were of various ages.

Number three: "fear." That one was and is pretty simple. A lot of fear is hardwired into us for our own good. Much of it is learned later in life sometimes for good but often it is negative. On the negative side, it kills dreams, paralyzes people and separates family, friends, and groups. Over and over the Bible commands its heroes and us alike  to "Fear not." Faith and fear mix well about as well as oil and water. Fear, in fact, mixes well with little that is good.

And the fourth is "stupidity." There is no way to slice that apple of what I did that day beside Leflore Avenue as anything but stupid. I have done a lot-- stupid-- in life. In fact, much of my time for my first twenty years was occupied with seeing how outrageous and how unsmart I could be, how many rules I could smash, laws I could break. One of my friends and I used to ride around the Carroll County roads at night looking for cars to shoot. And we shot them and other things as well. In fact, the only things we didn't shoot with shotguns and .22 rifles were things that had not been invented yet. The Bible says, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction driveth it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).

Now take a look at these stacked up close together: love, community, fear, and stupidity. Those are huge categories that form major building blocks of our lives, our society, our world. They also fall into a dichotomy when we put love and community together opposed to fear and stupidity. We find this dichotomy in the Bible over and over. Jesus spoke of "the straight gate and the narrow way" as opposed to "the wide gate and broad way." The Book of Proverbs uses the term "way" or "path" at least 73 times to describe how we live, the road our lives are on. 

We all walk one of these paths. For much of my younger life it was the way of the stupid stuff, the outrageous, the sinful. Now I am on a different path. That change of roads happened by the grace of God which arrested me and showed me the error of my ways. What about you? Which road are you on? Are you trying to walk two at the same time. Is there a stirring in your heart to change your road? "Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation" (Hebrews 3:15). And again the Word says, "in a time accepted and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2. If God't tugs at your heart to change paths, don't resist. Call upon Jesus to place your feet on another path, his path. He will make it happen, and you will never regret it.

I thought that last paragraph was the conclusion, but then I thought again, I thought this. One more time: love, community, fear, and stupid. "And the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

12/4 - 12/10

Finally I had a week where I felt like I exercised. Monday started with .3 miles at work and 5.18 after I got off. Nice start. Tuesday, however, I failed to do anything. I think my inaction was related to my action. In other words, it had to do with finals week and the crazy busy I/we English teachers always have then. Sometimes I envy those teachers who can grade with a scantron. 

By Wednesday, however, things were starting to slow some, and I was able to get out for a 5.25 mile walk and some air squats. But Thursday, my first day off work? I don't remember. Yes I do. I went to the ortho and I drank a lot of coffee and petted cats and even wrote a bit, blogging some. I needed the rest.

Friday I got back in the game and walked 5.35 miles with more air squats. Also I did a bitty bit of shuffling. Hope for running in the future is coming back. Saturday I did my longest walk in months and went 6.13 miles with a few squats.

Now I am off work and hope to bust out some real work. Sadly, my weight is up another three pounds. I don't even have to eat the food any more to gain weight. If food is in my presence, I will weigh more the next day. Father God, please help me.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Leaf

I am a leaf blown across the road.
Having lost my green, I fell.
My body thinned and holes grew 
where the pavement scraped my sides.
I gather in a heap. Rain assaults me
and the sunlight that once gave me life
now contributes to my destruction.
Worms feed on my substance. They
pass me to the earth.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hope and Tears

About the time Mom passed, my shoulder took a downhill turn. With time, shots, and physical therapy, it had been improving, although it was never pain free nor did I have full range of motion after my injury on June 26th. But I had hope. Beginning in mid-October, however, that hope was tested, tried, and tortured by a surprising onslaught of pain and a diminishing ability to move my arm. 

Fast forward to December 1st. At my previous orthopedic appointment, Dr. Culpepper had told me I could get an MRI with a simple phone call. "Call me and I'll order it." So when I could no longer take a short swim, when I could no longer wash under my left arm, when I could no longer write notes on the board at school more than a few inches above my head, I thought knew the time had come. 

I had the MRI on December 1st and my appointment with Culpepper on December 7th. He said stuff like bicep tendinitis, arthritis of the acromion joint, a bone spur of that acromion joint, something about a bursa, and a partial rotator cuff tear. "Not a full thickness tear," he said, and that was good, that he saw lots of MRIs of shoulders that are much worse, and that it was still possible it could heal without surgery. But it looks more likely it will need some work. When I asked him why the bicep tendons were still inflamed after twenty-two weeks, he said they might never clear up. !!!!!! You could have knocked me over with a sneeze. But, he added, that could be fixed also.

"I'm not just another sixty-one year old man who wants to be able to wash out from under his arm," I threw in. "I'm an all-day swimmer. Can you get me back to that?"

My sister spoke. "But you're not going to be swimming twenty-three miles again are you?"  A nurse, she had made the appointment with me.

"Well, maybe twenty or at least fifteen," I answered looking at the doc in a pleading fashion.

"I can't guarantee that," Culpepper responded. "But that's what we will work for. That will be our aim."

Then he said he couldn't do anything to it until January anyway, so he suggested another shot, and I come back in four weeks and we go from there. I asked my sister what I should do, partly because I didn't want the shot.

"Get the shot," she said, "It might do the trick. Why not?"

"Because it costs 240 bucks," I said in exasperation. 

Carol looked at Culpepper as if to ask, "Really?" He shrugged and said, "He'd know that better than me," pointing my way.

"Well, you have to pay to play," she shot back at me.

"I never had to pay before."

"You do now. Get the shot. Why not?"

"I'm not sure it works," I answered, "and besides, I'm a sissy and it hurts."

"Get the shot. It's the most conservative thing we can do now and it just might work. If it doesn't then we know."

So my sister talked me into the shot, and what does she do?

"I'm not staying for that," she says and walks out leaving me alone with the needle. 

When it was all over, we strolled into the parking lot, and she was telling me what a good report that was, that now we had time to think, to plan the next move, maybe check with another orthopedist. It is not urgent to get a quick repair if it is "not a full thickness tear," she kept telling me, "not a full thickness tear." She is a nurse, retired but a nurse by training, calling, and nature. She had researched and was/is trying to help me. She is good like that. I was trying to wrap my head around it all, trying to believe. I guess hope is back or trying to return; I just have to be persuaded of it, to embrace it, to believe.

I suppose I am a bit disappointed. I was desirous of more certainty, yearning for a definite: 'This is what we have to do.' Now we are still stuck in that limbo stage where we have been for the past five months. But my sister is helping me now and that is a huge plus.

We left, in Mom's truck, and drove by our old residence, a duplex, at the corner of Leflore Avenue and Tenth Street. Carol was six months old when Roger Hodge moved us to 422 West Harding. She has no memories of living on Leflore. We rode by twice so I could show her where the four snapshot-like memories I have from then took place.

"Right there," I pointed at a spot beside the road. "I sat down and put my finger on the road and waited for a car to run over it." I was under three-years old. I have no explanation.

We made it to the bypass and headed back towards West Harding Street to Mom's where we both go almost every day.

"You do know you are not swimming this summer don't you?"

"Yes," I said somberly.

"You've accepted it?"

"Yes," I answered. But she didn't see the tears in my eyes.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday Morning

I had them all and it was great. Baby Kitty was curled and leaning on my left leg while CC draped herself over my right one. Their purring radiated up my body making my eyelids droop. I drifted in and out of napping despite the hot coffee that slid down my throat like a child slipping down a slide in the park. Jeff was at my left side adding some welcome warmth in a too chilly house. His rhythmic snoring had a further relaxing effect like the tick tock of a clock. Luvie was a foot away on his back, dreaming evidently, his twitching tail and shaking foot belying his sound sleep. 

For the first time I realized how CC likes to make eye contact. The other cats, not so much, but she is always looking me dead in the eye. What is she thinking? I mused. Does she remember me picking her up and putting her in the truck? Just like Luvie a few years before when we rescued him, she instantly knew she had a home and her thankfulness and approval were evident from that day to this one as is his. Cats are special like that.

"Life is good when you're living like you should" is a snatch of lyrics from the intro music to Alaska: The Last Frontier, the Discovery Channel's documentary about an extended family's adventures and struggles living off grid in the forty-ninth state. That's how I feel right now. One thing that always bugged me about that show, however, is the fact that there are no cats in any of the households or none that I ever saw. They seem to think they live in paradise, but how can life without cats be nirvana? I don't get it.

What I do get is that God gives us simple pleasures everyday if we take the time to look, listen, and feel. Look into the Bible daily. Read and let God minister to your soul from the pages He penned for you. Look into the eyes of a beloved pet and see the love God has placed there for you. Listen to their purrs, snores. When you go outside, listen to the birds that sing. Let heaven's gift sweeten your day. Feel the fur of your pets body, the cool air on your face when you step outdoors. Feel your chest as it rises and falls, each breath a testimony to the grace of God. Feel the coffee's warmth in your mouth, its tasted, its goodness. Enjoy it all, and thank God for it. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rainy Days and Crime

(Written in part yesterday and finished this morning)

It is one of those rainy days that makes me happy I no longer have to crawl under houses. I did that, crawled in the dirt and mud, for twenty-nine years. Precipitation takes on a whole new flavor when you are not forced to try to work outdoors in it. Instead of a problem, it becomes a welcome change up, making the sunny days, moderate temperature, and blue skies more enjoyable, more memorable, special.

There is also that warm fuzzy feeling one gets as the rain taps on the roof and the warm covers are plastered over with cats. Oh to be so lucky. It happens for me every now and then. Ever so often, I lounge late and the cats, Luvie, CC, and Baby Kitty, hang out with me enjoying the community of affection we share. Cats are like that. The mild movement their licking causes only adds to the relaxing mood. The purring, the most relaxing sound in the world, piles on another layer of comfort. And perchance a cat is leaning on a leg while doing that uniquely cat noise, and the vibrations enter the body-- there are no words. What joy, what simple pleasure, what gentle gifts from God.

Besides relaxing and hanging out with cats, this kind of weather is good for reading. Currently, I am working through a fascinating book titled Mississippi Mud by Edward Humes. While I was pecking at this, I forgot Humes' name so I did a quick Google search. Boy was I surprised. Seems like Mississippi Mud is a pretty popular title. There is a song by that name written in 1927 by Harry Barris and recorded by Bing Cosby. Who knew? Not only that, but there is a beer by that name produced in a brewery in-- are you ready for this?-- Utica, New York. Utica, New York?!?!?! My response precisely. Besides all that, Mississippi Mud is a color of house paint, a brand of pottery, and of course everyone has heard of the desserts. There is Mississippi Mud cake, Mississippi Mud pies, and Mississippi Mud cookies. Now I am thinking about renaming my blog, The Mississippi Mud Swimmer. What do you think? Back to Mississippi Mud the book.

David Hume's tome is about the Dixie Mafia and the Sherry murders that took place in Biloxi in 1987. For anyone who is not from around here, Biloxi is pronounced bi (as in bit) luhks (the "o" like in duh) ee (as in knee). Place names are notorious for having idiomatic pronunciations. Get it right, please. It is disrespectful not to. You might think we are dumb hicks for pronouncing it that way, but we think y'all are dumb Yankees for not doing so. I remember when this happened, and the shock I felt knowing a sitting judge and his wife, a mayoral candidate, had been assassinated in their home gangland style, still echoes in my inner man. It was years, four to be exact, before anyone was charged in the slayings, and no one was ever charged with murder. I am only 320 pages into 400 of the page turner, but it looks like the gunman was never positively identified. Several people were charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit murder but not murder itself. Investigators believe John Ransom, a known Dixie Mafia hitman, was the trigger man, but they didn't have the case to convict him or anyone for murder.

Update: I finished the book last night. Four years after the original trial, another round of indictments came down on the same players (minus John Ransom) and a couple of others (including the former mayor of Biloxi, Tom Halat). Still, the second round of charges all involved conspiracy to commit murder and some others. Halat went down and it came out that the actual trigger man was a guy out of Texas, Thomas Holcomb. The long case's resolution came after the FBI was finally able to flip the Gulf Coast Godfather, Mike Gillich, who was in prison, essentially for life, and was caught trying to bribe a witness in an additional case he incurred while incarcerated.

The whole story is stunning and shocking and is a cautionary tale about hanging out with the wrong folks. Remember your parents warning you about that?  Vincent Sherry, a lawyer and judge, was a clean man according to the outlaws, investigators, and his friends, family, and neighbors. But he had an attraction to the seamier side of the Gulf coast. He befriended and represented as a defense attorney, criminals of several stripes including Dixia Mafia members. Eventually, it cost him his life. And his wife, Margaret, was a crusader running for mayor and vowing to clean up the Coast. She may have even been the primary target of the hit. Update: Vince was the initial target, but Halat wanted Margaret killed also to protect business interest on the Coast and to clear the way for his own run for mayor. And all the gangsters thought she knew everything her husband did so they both had to go.

Why do I find this this kind or evil so interesting? Sometimes that worries me, makes me think I am a criminal at heart, just one who had a good upbringing and an aversion to jail time. Am I just like Vincent Sherry, wanting a peek behind the curtain to see how the other side lives? Yeah, I think that's correct. But I must not be the only one who finds criminal cases fascination because there are a lot of crime shows on television. I know because I watch them all.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday Night

Like last week, I started this one with a bang. Although the lazy bug hit hard when I made it home and started watching the Finebaum Show, by the grace of God I overcame it and hit the streets after dark for a nice leisurely walk. With the super moon above, a slight snap to the air, and Christmas lights everywhere, the nighttime stroll was delightful. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas/all over town." The quietness that still inhabits Greenwood, Mississippi invites relaxation, enjoyment. True, the nights aren't as quiet as they once were. But the occasional gunfire, thumping music, and police sirens aside, outside after dark can be blissful in our quaint little town. 

I stayed in the neighborhood most of the walk, but after finding myself on the Yazoo River levee, I crossed the Keesler Bridge and walked the lonely Front Street with all of the Viking buildings covered in white lights and looking like they belonged in a movie set. Greenwood is nice like that. Then I made my way out of downtown and back into the residential section by crossing south over the Popular Street Bridge. I know that one has a name, but I don't know it or never bothered to learn. The locals always called it "the new bridge" even though it has been there my whole life, and I have lived in the town sixty-one years. It may have been built when I was a very young boy. A lot of things like that are very fuzzy in my memory.

I love the anonymity of being on foot after dark. There is no embarrassment over pace or protruding belly, no  shame over tacky clothing. However, I wish desperately I could run. Slowly, I am attempting to get back to it. It has been a full year since I was able to do real shuffling. Little by little, though, I have been adding a few snippets of the old-man shuffle into my walks. Last night, I did eighty-five steps per leg. I didn't measure that, I just counted the steps. I am beginning to believe I will get the running back. I have to lose weight, a lot of it, or I will break down again.

I heard no wings, big wings last night. That's one of the things I like about Greenwood after dark, and it is also one way walking is a little better than running. I rarely hear large birds of prey while my feet scuff the pavement and my breathing is labored. But when walking . . . . Owls, a lot of them, work the night shift in the large trees and lightless skies of our little hamlet. I presume they live on the river and make their living in town like their human neighbors. Just an assumption. Sometimes I hear the giant feathers beating in the trees above. Once I heard a squirrel squeal as if he were being murdered. Another time one flew overhead so low that I ducked. The whistling his wings made sticks in my memory like a pretty woman's face or a young child's laugh. When can I have that again? Two weeks ago I saw a raccoon on Grand Blvd. A couple of times I have seen a grey fox. With a leash law in effect for a decade or two, the animals, the wild ones, have their run of the town.

I go out. Maybe God will give me owl wings or a coon face again or a fox. That's better than TV any day. Or night that is.

Monday, December 4, 2017

11/27 - 12/3

Monday started with a bang. I walked .3 miles at work then got off and walked 5.05 out Wade Road and back. Hot dog! Nothing like a good beginning to lead to a good ending. My weight started at 183, the same as the week before so this was my chance now that the flurry of the Big Eat Week was past.

Tuesday, I can't remember everything, but I did not do anything physical. I think I was swamped with grading papers, and running errands for John. Wednesday was the same: papers, papers, papers, and trips to the pharmacy for John. 

Thursday and Friday were a repeat of Tuesday and Wednesday. I ran errands to the pharmacy for John and graded papers. Yes, John has to have a pharmacy trip everyday. I did go in for the MRI early Friday. After I called the doctor's office and asked them to set it up, I sat down and cried. I know what it all means. By mid afternoon, I received a call from my doctor's office wanting me to come in at 8:00 Monday morning. Does that mean anything? I couldn't go in then so we set it up for Thursday at 12:45. I already know the shoulder is wrecked. It has gone downhill the last few weeks taking with it any hope that I had it might heal on its on. I have lost range of motion-- I am losing range of motion by the day-- and it hurts more and hurts more often than it has. I am pretty sure the corater tuff finished tearing, the biceps tendons are still giving me grief, and I would be shocked if that iS all.

I can't blame Saturday on John. He didn't need any drugs and the weather was perfect. I still had a few papers left but it's not like it was a load any more. But once the football started, I was glued to the TV. 

I am worthless.

Now I face Hades Week: final exams. Giving tests, grading tests, and entering grades will be my soul objective for the next several day. And then it will be over.

Jesus help me.

By the way, I can be a little critical at times so let me give some credit where credit is due. I am in my fourteenth year at MDCC. For the first time, we have an exam schedule that makes sense and is easy to remember. I don't have to refer to it constantly and apologize to people for missing an exam. Don't judge me.; you would too. I don't have to give an exam on one campus and then tear out smoking tires and be late for an exam on another campus. How did this happen? something in academia making sense? I am shocked. Pleasantly. Thank you Jesus.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Real Haiku

184
bare limbs wave in wind,
rain pelts soggy pasture,
sheep huddle with dog

185
eyes gaze woods edge,
brisk wind chills shepherd's face,
trusty dog at side

186
song birds are silent,
rain falls on forest and church,
inside they worship

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Good Start

I wanted to write something good because I have been posting so much whinny stuff and all the danger of finding the cave and the wild animals. Monday was a pretty good day in terms of work, exercise, and food consumption. At work, I graded some papers and recorded a bunch of grades in Canvas. This time of semester is always a particularly hard time for English profs. Papers come flooding in and exams are coming up next week and the race is on to stay off the bad list. Deadlines and not real. A four o'clock deadline for Thursday afternoon means you better have your grades in by ten that morning or you get on the list. The list is an email sent to everyone who works for the school, has worked for the school, has ever attended a class there, or who had driven by in a car. The list says, "These teachers have not submitted final grades." And then a list follows. I hate the list, and consequently I make a lot of errors in my rush to get the grades in before the real deadline which we really don't know when it is.

Besides a good day at work, I had a nice long walk. Of course "long" is a contextual word, as they all are, but it was my longest over the past several months. I hobbled 5.05 miles and then spent the rest of the evening grading papers and hanging out with the cats. What I did not do was eat. No, I didn't even take my protein shake but did without. This morning I awoke to the scales telling me I weighed 179.6. I know, I know, but I am in the fight and it is going right. That gives me a little kick in the pants that I desperately needed.

Today? I might take a ride on my mountain bike. Friday when we went to Jackson, I took the front wheel in to Indian Cycle and had it repaired. It was missing four spokes (!!!!) but now it's ready to ride. That will take some pressure off my knees and give me some variety in my activity. And then maybe Wednesday I can walk farther than Monday. God give me what I need to say no to excessive food. By the grace of God, I can do this.