Swingin’ into Spring

 

It’s spring in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…and rainy…and humid when it’s not rainy.  Thank a low-pressure system located somewhere in distant Florida.  The weather liars say five more days of this on and off and on-again rain.  We’ll see if they lie.  I walked this morning and the air was humid…as in I was drowning in my own sweat by nine in the AM humid.  I need to go out earlier but, in a month, it won’t matter, it will be humid no matter what time I walk.

I’m drowning tonight.  Drowning my aches and pains with a dark amber liquid.  Watching my bride swing on the front porch, a Jack Daniels in my left hand and a cigar in the right.  Jimmy Buffett croons softly in the background reminding me “if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane.”  If this is drowning, I’ll gladly go to my maker.  Swinging back and forth going nowhere, with nowhere to go.  The smooth bite of the brown liquor, the aroma of burning tobacco, and the rhythmic creaking of the swing chain keeping time to the music.  Telling stories to my love who has heard them all before.

The tree frogs must feel the humidity building with the clouds to the south.  They are singing at the top of their lungs.  Their high-frequency chirping must be calling the rain because it’s beginning to spit a bit.   I love their song, so comforting, so soothing…so “nature-all”…along with the cadence of the raindrops falling above my head.

I look out at in my Garden of Eden…make that the Wilderness of Linda, Linda my bride.  With her jumbled greenery, there are biting or stinging rascals hiding in the darkness just outside my front porch oasis.  The overhead fan stirs the smoke from the three citronella candles surrounding the porch.  Citronella must work, I haven’t been bitten yet… which is a false sense of prosperity.  The little vampires are lurking, buzzing about somewhere.  I don’t think mosquitoes ever really leave our little piece of heaven.

Oops!  I killed my first mosquito and lightning flashes are followed by a distant rumble.  A spring thunderstorm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Close enough to be concerned, close enough to drive us in.

There was a time, some thirty years ago, before we air-conditioned our ancient farmhouse.  We sat on the front porch to escape the heat that had built inside the house during the day.  Sat talking about our workday, the kids we taught or coached, the dreams we had until we had to go to bed, heat be damned, ceiling fans working on high.  Early beginnings to another work day were the cause.

Despite being retired with no schedule, and no alarm clock, it’s too easy to escape to the air conditioning, to the TV with hundreds of channels but no programming we want to watch…or to the laptop I use to write this.  Sometimes I miss those days when we were simply swingin’ into spring.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings or a book or six may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in romantic suspense, “mommy porn”, you might want to try Don Miller’s alter ego, Lena Christenson, at  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

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My Writing Sucks….

 

I’m absolutely at war with myself.  The problem is I’ve been reading when I should be writing…or cutting grass or weeding the garden.  Actually, I’ve done them all.  Anything to avoid writing.  I did cut grass and weeded the garden and I’ve read Roy Blount Jr., Julia Reed, Rick Bragg, and James Lee Burke…it’s Burke’s fault…and Jeri Lynn Wolfe Cooper.

I didn’t know I had the desire to write until my former student, Jeri Lynn, put a bug in my ear…or up my butt.  A burr under my saddle.  A bee in my bonnet…any others?  After twenty-five years we reconnected through another bane of my existence, social media.  She was Lynn Wolfe thirty years ago…she’s Lynn Cooper now but I liked the way Jeri Lynn rolled off the tongue of my Southern brain back then.  Still, do.

Wouldn’t you know it?  She’s a writer.  Anyway, my bad writing career is her fault.  “You always told great stories…you should write them down.”  I did…and try to force you to read them.

I studied other people’s writings, Lynn’s included.  I say  “Lynn’s included” because Lynn writes hot, romantic tales, something my wife says I know nothing about.  “Honey, I’m just taking notes for later.”  She didn’t buy it…I don’t guess I bought it either. ..but I still buy Lynn’s books.

Sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the sweet young woman who used to sit in my sociology class with the writer who pens scorching, passionate fiction.  Really scorching, real quality.  Her writing would be good even if it wasn’t sizzling.  I can reconcile it after all.

It’s the way Lynn’s words flow and roll off the page, the way she creates vividly erotic scenes without being graphic,  it’s her deeply painted descriptions of characters…my characters look like stick figures.

My excuse is that my last English class was over forty-five years ago.  I’m having to learn on the run…jog…walk.  The only creative writing course I took was exactly fifty years ago.  I remember writing about the sex life of a door knob…it was the “free love” Sixties but a daunting task for an eighteen-year-old virgin.  It’s all I remember about the course.

My writing experience involved forty-five years of creating lesson and practice plans with the occasional grocery list thrown in for good measure.  So, I’m struggling, and the Thesaurus is not my friend.  I’m in the “my writing sucks” frame of mind as I attempt to hammer out a thousand words…words someone might want to read.  Hmmm, “If it doesn’t fit use a bigger hammer.”  I don’t think that will work.

Since we seemed to have skipped spring this year, I picked up James Lee Burke’s latest to avoid the heat of the midday sun.  I had finished my weeding, and my potatoes and tomatoes are doing quite well.  I’m not going to say anything about my squash, I’m sure the squash bugs are listening and waiting to pounce.

Maybe I can get an idea, maybe I can learn something…maybe I can just enjoy Burke’s writing.  I learned I can study a dictionary from now until death takes me and I’ll never ever have anything near James Lee Burke’s vocabulary.  Should have picked up a “Dick and Jane” book instead.  ”See Spot run….”

James Lee Burke writes about pain and he describes it in a way you feel the pain like an abscessed tooth.  He writes about people and doesn’t just describe them, you become them.  Their pain and suffering is your pain and suffering.  He writes about the good and evil in man…sometimes contained in the same flawed person.  He paints with a vivid brush.  Oh, how I wish.

Okay back to the next great American novel…or I can wash my car.  My car really needs washing…

If you are interested in hot, romantic short stories and novellas you might wish to drop by Lynn’s author’s page at  https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Cooper/e/B00LPX4HGO

If you are interested in nonfiction or historical fiction you might try Don Miller’s page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in Don Miller writing romantic adventure as Lena Christenson, her page is at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19  My beloved still wonders what I might know about romance.  Well, I read books.

Image from https://allthatjazzblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/of-struggling-scribes-and-pain/

 

LIFE, BASEBALL, AND A TRANSISTOR RADIO

 

There was once a young boy who went to sleep listening to his small transistor radio.  The circular dial on its front was more than a tuner, it was the young boy’s window to a far away world…the destination depending upon atmospheric conditions.

AM radio, Amplitude Modulation,  is still iffy in perfect conditions and FM, Frequency Modulation, was the new-fangled, next big thing of the early Sixties.  AM radio stations blasting rock and roll so clearly during the daylight hours became impossible to pick up due to changes in the ionosphere or went off the air entirely.

Magically it seemed to the young boy,  AM transmitters bounced their signal off the charged layer of the atmosphere.  Honestly, the old man who replaced the young boy still believes it is magic.  The young boy knew none of the science, he just knew night time brought in far off places and in the summer, brought him baseball games played late into the night.

Just last night I was reminded of the young boy, now wrinkled and gray.  As I drove home in the early evening, my satellite radio brought in a far off, crystal-clear signal from somewhere on the left coast.  Not the crackling, fading in or out signal from his childhood.

The little transistor radio brought him games played by  “Mr. Sunshine”, Ernie Banks of the Cubbies or “The Killer”, Harmon Killebrew of the Twins…depending upon atmospheric condition.  Sometimes it brought games from southern climes with sportscasters speaking in an excited, rapid-fire language the young boy did not understand.  On very special nights, the atmospheric gods brought him the Detroit Tigers and their star outfielder Al Kaline.  I remember the young boy struggling to stay awake long enough to hear the last out recorded.

This was a time when baseball was the American Pastime…before the breakneck speed of our lives, the internet, iPhones, and interactive video games made baseball seem too slow.  This was a time when we built up our athletic idols instead of finding ways to tear them down.  A time before the designated hitter and performance-enhancing drugs.  It was an era when bases were bags and sandlots and playgrounds were filled with youth dreaming of being the next “Mick” or “Sandy” or “The Say Hey Kid.”  It was a time before life got in the way.

I listened to a broadcaster whose voice I didn’t recognize, announcing players I did not know, playing for a team that didn’t exist when the young boy listened to his transistor radio.  For a moment I was sad until I remembered the young boy.  The young boy grew up to play the game he loved and later coached it for a goodly part of his life.

Baseball may no longer be the American Pastime, but it still mimics life.  Life involves so much failure and successful people find ways to rise above their missteps.  Baseball is the same, a game built on failure.  A great hitter fails seventy percent of the time.  A hitter may do everything right and still get robbed, his line drive somehow finding a glove.  A pitcher may make the perfect pitch that ends with a “fourteen hopper” somehow finding its way through a drawn-in infield.  Baseball gives, and it takes away…just like life.

For more wit and witticisms from Don Miller  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of Ernie Banks from CBS News

Trippin’…Over a Root

 

At exactly one point three-three miles into my workout, according to my GPS app, I kicked a freakin’ root.  I wasn’t paying attention to the rock and root strewed path…I was paying attention to a half-dozen Canadian geese who were stopping by from…Canada?  When they landed I watched and tripped over the root banging my arthritic toe.  The geese didn’t stay long, instead, they took off to another part of the lake.  It might have been the loud cursing erupting from my mouth.

As I hobbled on and gazed heavenward contemplating my pain and the distance my expletives might have traveled heavenward, I kicked another root.  Same foot, same big toe…the big toe I’m trying put off surgery on until winter comes around again and I am worthless…ah, more worthless.

The second kick was even more solid than the first.  Mortar Forker!  This time I bent over, hands on knees, in agony and stood still, waiting for the pain exploding from my toe to ebb along with the tears the pain had brought.  I’m still waiting…sorta.  The neurons responsible for pain have abated from the torrent exiting through the top of my head to a trickle of electrical charges radiating outward and surrounding my forefoot.  Four hours later, the pain is still there letting me know…it is still there!

Did I mention, it’s cold.  Late March, less than a week from Easter.  A moist, northeastern wind makes it seem colder…not tongue stuck to a flagpole cold but it’s not helping the throbbing in my toe or the way I’m reacting to it.  No, I am not going to put an ice pack on it.  I just shivered.

Earlier in the story, just after I had kicked the second root, I finally straightened up and again looked heavenward.  I found myself peering, jaw slack and agape, at a hornet’s nest the size of a medium watermelon less than three feet from my face.  You might guess where this is going and it ain’t a good trip.

Despite knowing it was too cold for hornets, I backed up quickly…tripping over the initial root I had banged my toe on.  This time I went down hard on my butt, jarring my teeth, and decided to stay there.   As I sat, I contemplated…how badly was I injured and “Help I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!” briefly ran through my mind.

Mainly, I contemplated, how had the nest survived the winter and how had I not seen it?  What?  I’ve walked this trail a hundred times since last spring…why am I just now seeing this thing?  It’s hugeeeeeee!

I pondered on the pain the little suckers could have wreaked…and the providence that kept them from causing pain to me or the hundreds of kids attending the camp at Lookup Lodge.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the name of the camp instead of looking down at my feet…then that hadn’t worked out well when I watched the geese.  My thoughts didn’t help the pain in my foot but did take me down a pig trail memory.

On a very cool, late fall day during my early teaching career, I was startled when an entire class exited their room as if the devil himself were after them.  Kids yelling and screaming, slapping at themselves and each other.  Seems a “Little Johnny” had found a hornet’s nest and brought it to school for show and tell.  Probably should have waited until the hornets died.  As the room heated up so did they.  Ouch.  Some students were treated for stings, others for bruises caused by over exuberant classmates.  I laughed and laughed and laughed…until my toe reminded me of why I was sitting on my butt having the memory.  Fother Muck!

Image from http://goalorientedrunner.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post.html

For more of ravings from a mad Southerner https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

“Warm Biscuits on a Sunday….”

 

I absolutely love Kelly Clarkson, her voice, her sass, and her sense of humor.  If I were younger…and unmarried, I’d go to Nashville and camp out on her front doorstep…wait, she’s married?  To Reba McEntire’s son, you say?  Well, I’m not going to break up her marriage over something she said.

Southern and brazen,  with a voice as rich as Tennessee whiskey and biting as corn likker, Kelly likened a singer’s voice to “warm biscuits on a Sunday with butter drizzlin’ off of em’?”  How Southern is that!

An inner voice asked, “What does it mean?”

Another inner voice attempted to clarify, “Well…I guess…um…well…butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I don’t have a clue.”

I never heard that exclamation of surprise until I was an adult and I am not sure how authentic it is.  It does sound Southern.  “Buttah mah butt and call me ah biscuit.”  Yeah, rolls off of the tongue Southern but why would you wish your biscuit to fall out of your mouth?  That question came from the crazier of the voices in my head.  It does get crowded in there but never boring.

I’m not totally sure what Kelly meant.  I think it probably means “damn good” because biscuits drizzled in butter on a Sunday are “damn good” and, at least for me, a little bit poignant.

I love homemade biscuits and can’t think of anything better than a buttered, homemade biscuit on a Sunday…or any other day of the week for that matter.  Light, flaky, golden brown on the outside, light and soft on the inside.  Runnin’ in REAL butter, not the oleo stuff.  Just add a side of eggs for breakfast.  Slathered in King Syrup or honey for a dessert.  Stuffed with a slab of Neese’s liver mush for lunch.  Smothered with sawmill gravy for…heaven on a plate.  I assure you, biscuits and sawmill gravy are a heavenly meal unto themselves.  Never allow anyone to try and convince you otherwise.

We have several sayings from below the Mason Dixon involving biscuits…unless we stole em’ from somebody above it.  “A cat can have kittens in an oven, but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.”  Yankees may understand a derivation, “Just because you live in a garage, don’t make you a car.”  Here in the South, it might mean, just cause you’ve lived here for five generations and say Y’all don’t make you Southern.

We even express our undying affection with affirmations of love such as, “I could put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit.”  This is making me hungry and missin’ my grand momma.

I associate biscuits and love to my grandmother. Nannie was a somewhat stoic woman who had trouble overtly expressing her love.  I’m not sure I remember a time when I got an “I love you,” from my Nannie.  I was much more likely to get a whack on the ass than a pat on the back.  She did not abide foolishness.

I knew she loved me and the rest of the grandkids.  I knew it as well as I knew Nannie’s biscuits would be light and flaky.  Love was displayed by example, not expression.  Examples like buttered biscuits on a Wednesday…for lunch.  Her greatest expression of love was, “Donnie you’ve been a good boy, want another biscuit?”  This also explains why I have fought a war with my weight for most of my life…food was the language of love and of positive reinforcement.  She was the same with her peanut butter cookies…I loved them too.

As a small child, I remember watching her as she went about making her biscuits in the tiny kitchen of her home.  Standing in front of her window to the world, watching the birds in their domain,  she made her biscuits.  With me playing on the linoleum floor, she would be cutting in the lard and adding buttermilk to give it a bit of a tang.  She was careful not to overwork the dough to keep it light and flaky, before rolling it out and cutting rounds with her red handled biscuit cutter.  Rolling up the scraps into mini-biscuits, nothing was wasted, before painting the tops with melted butter.  She only glanced at her efforts and relied on feel as she watched “her” birds cavorting around her bird feeder.

Late in her life, I asked about her recipe.  She didn’t have one.  It was a little of this and a lot of that until it all came together, nothing exact.  You learn to make biscuits by making biscuits.  I must not make them enough.  Mine are not light and flaky, some so hard the puppies won’t eat them.  As I said in another essay, maybe it’s the lard…or the love.

Thank you, Kelly, for sending me down a lovely rabbit hole.

Coming soon “Cornfields and Cow Patties.”  Until then, check out Don at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don’t Let The Old Man In….

 

I didn’t recognize the face in the mirror.  It sorta looks like me.  Five in the morning is not the best time to look into the mirror but at my age, it’s better than seeing myself in the harsh sunlight.  The face wasn’t “the brown-eyed handsome man” that Chuck Berry sang about sixty-one years ago.  This face is cut by crevasses covered by a wild beard.  The brown eyes sit above “steamer trunks,” not bags.  What hair there is, is now more silver than brown…as is a beard that was once redder than white.  My eyes are still brown and, in my mind, behind those eyes, somewhere, is a young, “brown-eyed handsome man.”

I’m looking down the barrel at another birthday.  Can you tell?  One month from today.  Another year older.  The grim reaper another year closer.  Can it be another year already?  As I look back…into the mirror and the old gentleman looking back at me, I realize a time versus age graph would show a steeper line after the age of fifty than before.  Time flies when you are having fun…and growing old.  Yes, I know there is another alternative.

Looking back into the mirror I realize, “that old geezer wants to get at me.”  He wants to be me…or rather, he wants me to be him.  I refuse to invite him to do so.

I have always been a people watcher…particularly attractive female people, a kink in my sterling armor.  Recently I’ve begun to look at older people I know, OLD people my age.  I always think, “I don’t look that old do I?”  I even asked my best friend Hawk, “Do we look that old?”  He said no…but then he’s just a year younger than me.  Would he lie?

I hear a tap, tap, tap.  Is it the hot water line that needs to be tightened or the old man in the mirror?  He wants me to invite him in.  No, no, no!  I’m going to keep dancing badly until I die…even if it is dancing from the seat of a chair.  Maybe I won’t be able to run, but then I’ll walk, or I’ll crawl or do invisible snow angels in the middle of the floor….  Too many people die because they are afraid to live.  I will not invite that old coot in.

I awoke to the groans my father made, so many years ago…except they are coming from me.  Snap, crackle, pop go my joints as I try to get out of bed.  Once I get moving I do okay.  Is that the lesson from my ruminations this morning?

The “brown eyed handsome man” in my head thinks he can still do anything.  I’m listening to him.  I’m going to keep doing my thing…just a bit more slowly.  Like a wind-up toy, the spring will wind down or break sometimes, but sometime could be a long way off.

I just learned that a friend’s cancer has returned and invaded his esophagus. He has battled cancer for years, battled it with a joyous heart and a cheerful and exuberant attitude.   I hope and pray he is able to beat it but the cards are stacked against him. He has never let the old man in…for eighty-five years.

A piano player, he always reminded me of Hoagy Carmichael’s Cricket in “To Have and Have Not.”  I’ll bet Charlie will be playing the piano, cracking jokes, dancing or doing snow angels on the floor until they carry him out. I’ll miss him when he goes but I won’t mourn for him because he kept the old man out of his life.  Maybe I can get him to play “Am I Blue” one more time.

Yessir!  I’m going to be like Charlie.  I will never let that old man I see in the mirror in.

Video credit: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1vJ2Z8aI0

Photo credit:  Hoagy Carmichael and  Lauren Bacall                    https://indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow/rainbow-hits-ground-hoagy-carmichael-hollywood/

Don Miller’s writer’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller, writing as Kena Christenson, may be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

“Nom de Guerre” or “Nom de Plume”?  Whichever, it might have been a mistake.

 

Struggling writer…that’s me.  I really enjoy, metaphorically, taking pen in hand and putting my thoughts to paper.  Well, taking fingers to keyboard…I even have sounds imitating the old Royal I used in Mrs. Leopart’s typing class way back in the day.  Good thing I have a retirement to fall back on because while I am writing, I’m not selling…a thought, which caused my literary train to begin to run off my tracks.

A year or so ago, I decided I would use what had once been a fertile imagination to write historical fiction.  I wrote, I published, but I’m still not selling…much.  While I write for me, I WOULD like to sell occasionally just to know “There are people out there” and maybe that my writing ain’t that bad.  On a day I was feeling particularly vulnerable, I mentioned this to a friend and former student, Lynn Cooper.  She is also a writer…an author who began as a writer of children’s books and transitioned to erotic romance literature.

Erotic romance is not an easy subject to discuss with a former, female student…one I remember as a pretty, well put together brunette who sat in the front right of my classroom.  She was quite memorable.  I also haven’t seen her in twenty-five years so it’s all I have to go on.

I asked her, “You write quite well whatever your genre, but why the move to erotic literature?”

She answered simply, “I’m trying to make a living.”  Hum, it seems smut sells and hers is high-quality smut, well-written smut…it is actually well written, blazing hot romance literature. I admit  I have read her novellas…for educational value, wink, wink.

She suggested I might give it a try…writing romance.  “Maybe you should try to express your romantic side.”  I imagined her dark brown eyes, lashes fluttering…and a mocking grin on her face.

It was an interesting thought, one I almost immediately dismissed…almost dismissed.  Then I didn’t.  I wrote a contemporary romance with just a bit of…(gulp) eroticism.  A novella with not one but two sultry heroines, both of whom, I fell in love with.  A bit of adventure, a little of the paranormal and some  moments of “dirty mommy porn.”  Is that redundant? I was proud of my accomplishment…until my wife commented.  “What in the hell do you know about romance?”  I gotta do better on the home front.

Olivia sorta sold, a few here, a few there.  Some very good comments from those who read it until one reader pointed out, “An old, balding guy with a beard writing mommy porn?  Creepy.”  Was I creepy?  Please imagine a metallic rattle as my locomotive begins to derail.  I should have simply replied, “Creepy? You bought it.”

I will not be deterred!  If writing porn was good enough for Stephen King, it is good enough for me!  But I decided to create a nom de plume…nom de guerre…I don’t know which.  A pseudonym, an alter-ego.  BUT I HAD TO GO THE WHOLE HOG!  This was despite a suggestion of caution from my mentor, Lynn.  The rattles of my locomotive have been joined by bangs and clanks.

Why not create a whole new persona.?  One that is not creepy.  A young female, blond and beautiful.  A transplant from President Trump’s favorite country, Norway, now living somewhere on the Gulf Coast.  Lusty and sultry. herself, with cornsilk hair and sky blue eyes..its a completely fake author bio.  Maybe I am creepy.

I created social media pages…even an author’s page.  Remember, Don must devour the whole hog.  I  purchased the copyright for a picture of a sweet and pouty young woman to grace her different media sites and book covers.  I gave her a name.  Then I really went to work.  Rattle, rattle, bang, bang went the train.  I rewrote and rereleased Olivia under the name of Lena Christenson, my new pen name.   My new feminine side.

I HAVEN’T SOLD A COPY SINCE I DID IT!  “Hold her Newt, we’re headed for the pea patch.”

No, I haven’t sold a copy, but I have received three messages requesting “hook-ups” and today received a message from an Eastern European gentleman by the name of Yusif Tunar professing undying love and a proposal of matrimony…if I wire him airfare and traveling money.  The attached photograph shows he is quite dashing looking.  Dark and robust, six-pack abs covered in thick curly hair and Popeye forearms.  Biceps that can crack walnuts. What’s next? Penis pictures?  I don’t know whether to end the charade or “continue” to play them along.  Hum…If I play them along I may learn something.  Rattle, bang, crash!

If you are interested you can find Lena’s books at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

If you are really interested in good “mommy porn”, you can find Lynn’s books at https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-Cooper-Writes-Romances-386005534933638/

Oh, I almost forgot. Don Miller’s books may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM. They are downloadable or available in paperback.

[Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images]

Winter’s Deathly Grip….

Winter’s deathly grip is loosening.  Spring is right around the corner. I could feel it in the cold this morning. It has been warmer…and wetter than usual…until this morning.  It was still thirty-nine degrees, plenty cold for a walk in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, but there was a different feel to it. A feeling that the rebirth I associate with spring might be on the horizon. It is a feeling of change.  The brightening in the mornings chasing my depression away.  I know that winter will attempt to hang on, as will my depression but I am hopeful.

In this part of the world, March snowstorms are not uncommon and the last frost date is April fifteenth. BUT IT JUST FEELS DIFFERENT!

As a retired high school baseball coach, my feelings of change may be tied to major league pitchers and catchers reporting to camp or the reports of high school and college scrimmages with their opening dates just around the corner. I remember a game finished in a heavy sleet and another with a wind chill so low that both pitchers combined to pitch a one-hitter. I do not miss games in late February and early March. No, winter will hold on if it can, despite what a groundhog saw or didn’t see.

There are other harbingers. Crocus and buttercups have pushed up toward the sun. Scott’s Broom is blooming yellow and the quince pink.  My many forsythia bushes are putting off green leaves and a few yellow blossoms telling me my spring allergies are just around the corner.  I welcome them along with the work to come to reclaim and maintain my backyard.

I saw gold and purple finches at my feeder, feasting on the thistle they find there. The main herald is my beautiful red-tailed hawk. Well, she is not mine, but it is the third or fourth year she has made her nest in a dead oak tree on the hill above us. I hear her mating call and know there is a male somewhere about. It won’t be long until they will be training their little “branch hoppers” to fly and hunt.  One of my harbingers I haven’t seen yet are the turkeys.  There was thirteen last year, I hope there is more this year.  I’ve seen where they have been but not them.  I’m sure I’ll see them soon.

If weather trends continue as in the years before, there will be plenty of great days for baseball practice, a round of golf or even wetting a hook in late February.  Flowers and plants will green out and bloom, then March will come in like a lion with strong and mostly cold winds.  I hope my fig tree will survive.  I’m sure there will be a chance of snow to come before winter loosens its deathly grip but there is something about this cold.  It’s different…and it is welcomed.

For years before her death, my grandmother would seem to waste away during the winter months.  Her spirits would begin to rise when the seed catalogs began to arrive. She would recover during the spring and bloom like the spring flowers.  I’ve reached the age…and I understand.  I hope I am able to bloom one more time.

If you enjoyed this piece, please Like my author’s page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/

If you REALLY liked it visit my Amazon page and download one of my books at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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Olympic Lows….

I’ve enjoyed the Winter Olympics…not the actual Olympics but the backstories.  I’m not much into cold weather sports…or just cold weather.  I do enjoy the stories of what the athletes have overcome to get to where they are.  The Nigerian bobsled team, an American soldier who had to train for the bobsled while serving in the sands of a far-off land…you get the idea.  What I haven’t understood is the hatred directed at some of them.

My case in point is Lindsay Vonn.  I admit I haven’t really followed her career, hanging on her every run.  I did make note that she was a pretty, blonde haired girl who liked to go fast and live on the edge.  She reminded me of all the pretty blond girls who wouldn’t give me the time of day…back in the day.  I didn’t hold it against her and watched replays of her more memorable moments.

I held my breath watching some of her more cringe-worthy crashes.  A mutilated knee or a broken arm, being airlifted from the slopes.  Injuries that could have ended many careers but not hers.  She chose to work to overcome and compete in one more Olympic game…and dedicated it to her grandfather.  You would think people could cut her a little slack.

I admit to cringing, too, when it became newsworthy that she was dating Tiger Woods but then again, he is the Tiger.  I’ve made a few missteps when it came to affairs of the heart…I think.  At my age, it’s a bit hard to remember.  I do remember that none were newsworthy.

But oh my, she made the worst mistake of her life.  When asked a question, she told the truth.  “Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the President.”   She further went on to disparage the President by saying that she wouldn’t go to the White House if she won.  How bold and audacious…how completely unpatriotic, to tell the truth when asked the question.  She was racing for her country, herself and her recently deceased grandfather…but, not the President.

Can we not overlook a little faux pas?  Can we not overlook not racing for our President or visiting him if she won?  Can we not give her some thumbs up for standing by her beliefs even if we disagree with them?  Must we boycott or cry out for cancellation because someone doesn’t agree with our position?

Was it so egregious, we cannot give a pass to a woman who has been an inspiration to other young women…and men I would guess?  Can we not give her a participation trophy for doing her best?  Can we not just say “Thanks for the efforts?”  No, she was refusing to go to the White House, and for some reason, it is an unpatriotic travesty.  Many are happy…an ungrateful US athlete failed.

I wonder if any Olympic athlete woke up this morning and said to themselves, “This one’s for you Donnie T?”  Another question might be, “Should they?”  Are we so filled with hatred we must glorify OUR athletic failures for answering a question with truth?  Should all athletes just give up their First Amendment rights, just because they are athletes?  I would say our friendly Russian trolls have done their jobs well…or maybe they didn’t really have to.

Don Miller writes on varying subjects, not all are subjects that bother him so.  If interested you can find him at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Thoughts and Prayers….

PESSIMISM WARNING! I hate to pee in your Cheerios, but nothing will change. We are first in mass shootings, first in gun deaths, nearly half in suicides. More than any county of the “civilized” world, not at war. But nothing will change. We make it about anything other than intelligent gun control or an in-depth study of our violent culture and how we perpetuate it. We don’t want to spend money on education to lift up people, we would rather spend it on prisons. We would rather erect a wall than take a serious look at our own culture and its motivations and the dangers from within.

It must be about mental illness, and it is, even though we’ve made it easier for the mentally ill to possess guns. We put the killer under a microscope, scrutinize and debate race, or religion or immigration. If we can’t hang the murderer on one of those excuses we make it about politics or gun free zones or sanctuary cities or Mars ascending into Venus…when it should be about our culture. We offer our thoughts and prayers.

I consider myself a religious man, if not, a spiritual one, but our thoughts and prayers are wearing thin especially when it involves the same kind of kids and schools I taught in for forty-three years. The thinness is because I believe nothing will change. It is too much a part of our culture. We are a violent group, some with Bibles in one hand, AR-15s in the other. “Thou Shalt not Kill” should have an addendum. Thou Shalt not Kill unless it abridges my right to purchase and use an AR-15.

I probably shouldn’t be focused on the AR-15…although there is a good reason. From Aurora to Stoneman Douglas High, it seems to be the weapon of choice, whether due to popularity or ease of use, I don’t know. We’ve weaponized ourselves with all sorts of arms. I have two handguns and a shotgun myself…and a rock, car, butter knife and a fork.

There seems to be something about our manhood that goes hand in hand with a gun or rifle…and the violent tendencies we hold dear. Do they make a perfume “Ode de Gunpowder?” I’ll write about women just as soon as there is a female mass shooter. Why are our males more violent than females? They are not, women just like to inflict pain over a longer period…. Sorry.

Our country was forged on violence…from the very beginning and we glorify it. From an “Eye for an Eye,” to the cult of the warrior in the many wars we have fought, to the dubious history of the Western gunfighter. Our video games, television programs, and movies glorify violence and they have an effect. It is still about the Alpha male with the gun in one hand and the adoring, scantily clad female secured with the other. At least we’ve added movies with scantily clad, female superheroes. Hum…sex, and gunpowder….

So, as pessimistic as it sounds, I don’t think we will ever change. I believe we will continue to lead in categories we say we don’t want to lead in and continue to offer our thoughts and prayers instead of taking a meaningful look at our culture and what our culture breeds. Because we won’t take a meaningful look I expect the violence to increase…but I’m not sending any more thoughts and prayers.

Addendum

It is worse than I even thought it could be. I’m a retired teacher and coach…and a father and a grandfather. The Sandy Hooks, along with the dozens of mass shootings occurring in schools since then, hits me hard. One of the Florida school shooting victims is the son of a former student. That makes it personal. Not that anything will be done. If twenty dead first graders can’t affect change, nothing will. I would say our guns are more important than our children.