Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Labor Day Weekend from the King of the Slugs






















Yes, friends. By virtue of napping until 5:00 p.m. today (Sunday) I have earned the new title "King of the Slugs." Of course, I was up reading Gregor the Overlander until after midnight (thanks, Amanda--and I mean it). But isn't this what holiday weekends are for? I think so, and I hope all of you got a nap or at least enjoyed what you were doing today.

The pictures were taken on last evening's bike ride around Pinehurst. Above is the entrance to Fairwoods Pinehurst # 7 Golf Course (where the old World Golf Hall of Fame is, near the traffic circle).






















After free-wheeling through the entrance circle of the Carolina Hotel, I paused for the above shot of the grand old place. Diamondhead Corporation had once changed its name to the Pinehurst Hotel, but the current ownership, a more genteel and history-conscious bunch, reverted to its original moniker, The Carolina.





















Nearing dusk, I changed camera settings for this pic of the Sandhills Women's Exchange building. It is more than historic to our family. The building was actually the kitchen of the McKenzie family (Judy's great grandparents) in the late 19th century. The Tufts family who founded Pinehurst acquired this kitchen and had it moved here in the early days of the resort (around 1895) so that local women could display and demonstrate such crafts as spinning and weaving for a tourist population largely unacquainted with such things. Judy's Great Grandmother McKenzie demonstrated weaving at the nearby Carolina Hotel.

Biking is a great way to tour the village and "old town" of Pinehurst. The riding is level, leisurely, and safer than most county thoroughfares. Judy and I plan to put on a lot more miles up there during the fall. Come to think of it, when I think of all that pedaling yesterday, I don't feel like such a slug after all. How about "Slug Prince?"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What I miss . . . and don't miss

"Friends, I will remember you,
think of you, pray for you,
and when another day is through,
I'll still be friends with you."
". . . and the old giant hollered back,
'If you hit me one more time
I'll come back there and
smack the fire out-a you!"

The first week of school really breezed by. I could really blog for a long time about what it was like not to be an active part of it, but I think I'll limit myself to 5 things I missed and 5 things I didn't miss. Here goes:



I MISSED

  1. Reading the first Jack Tale, "Jack in the Giants' Newground."

  2. Playing "Poison River", where the children have to leap across an increasingly wider, more treacherous river, threatened by imaginary piranha, alligators, anacondas, and so forth.

  3. The first singalong, and teaching a new bunch of children "The Cat Came Back."

  4. Sharing before and after school with my colleagues. Those sharing times were far too limited by the nature of our job, but they were moments of empathy, support, and encouragement.

  5. The opportunity to ignite a love of learning and nurture a sense of purpose in a new group of children. As Dr. Purser aptly noted in some beginning-of-the-year remarks, teaching is one of the few professions that gets to start fresh each year. That's why I still loved teaching even when I chose to retire. In fact, the last year was one of the best!

I DON'T MISS

  1. Giving End-of-Grade Pretests to 3rd graders the first week of school.

  2. Having to sign up for committees that I knew were going to take me away from where my heart was.

  3. Having to implement practices or procedures I was philosophically against.

  4. Being taken out of my classroom for county inservice or group scoring sessions.

  5. Being deluged by e-mails from the county office that generally had little relevance to my mission, and often required a detailed, well-thought-out response, survey, or evaluation (there went my planning time again).

Many folks have asked me this week if I miss the children. YES! However, the children I miss are the ones I know. That's 45 4th and 5th graders that I was privileged to teach, PLUS Jessie! Not knowing who would have been in my class this year meant that I didn't have to break a bond. Because once I have a student for one day, the bond solidifies quickly and parting is painful. But very soon I will be back on campus, at least from time to time, doing the things I loved best. But not for a paycheck. More later. HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Post in Search of a Title

Greg and the Baghdad Bad Boys


I have no compelling topic to blog about today. I'm scared to title this "pots pourri" because if I blog for years this will probably be a recurring problem. So I'm just going to drop a few tidbits of what I've been doing the last couple of days.
  • Found a new home for the frogs (except the original--he dropped by to have Bible study with Judy last night) Thanks for all the helpful advice, blogmates!

  • Tuesday night was Greg's Jam at church and we had a good time. Ray went for the first time and made my old guitar sound better than I ever did!

  • Enjoyed Wednesday lunch with Amanda. She brought Italian Sausage Soup and Judy made cheese toast and coffee cinnamon bars--yum!
  • Thanked God for 3 and a half inches of rain (not just because it got me out of yardwork!). I was even more thankful that Georgia and western North Carolina got heavy rains. Their drought has been worse and more persistent than ours.

  • Enjoyed Wednesday night Bible Study. Finished up Ephesians with "the whole armor of God."

  • Began one of my periodic cleaning/reorganization efforts in the garage. With the woodpile 95% ready for winter, working in the garage is a never-ending task. But I love sorting and sifting through the stuff. I do get rid of some things, but just reorganizing and putting things in their proper place makes it worthwile. I turned on a box fan, listened to NPR's coverage of the Democratic convention, and kept cool as I worked. My main achievement was going through all my toolboxes and inventorying where everything was.

For my teacher friends, here's a Thursday 'Thought for the Day.'

Having a five-day week to start the year must be a mental drain on you as a teacher. With that in mind, put yourself in the place of your students. The length of the school day is exaggerated even more in their minds. And when teachers have pull-out, the kids are still in a learning situation. For those third graders who had to take the EOG Pre-test this week it's been a particular challenge, for certain. My point is, do something purely for fun Friday afternoon. It's a trade-off that reaps rich dividends. Just for the children to see that school is not all work, no play, encourages them and makes them more productive when it is worktime. Okay, okay, I know . . . you already had a video selected, didn't you! Well, you ALL deserve it! And just to show I mean it, there'll be no faculty meeting next Monday (ha,ha).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Holy Pharaoh! Plague of Blog Frogs Descends on Murdocksville


Don't know if it was this rain or if we made our friendly neighborhood frog a little too welcome. But suddenly, we are deluged with frogs. We assume they are the offspring of the one we met previously (see last Friday's blog) and an unknown friend. I would say this is an infestation of Biblical proportions, but they appear harmless. None have attempted to get into the house yet, and they do make our porch more colorful and inviting. I'm a little concerned about one jumping onto our food next time we eat out there, however. (We will not resort to grilling them as some of you have implied, even though these tight economic times call for culinary frugality and creative meal planning). Sorry, didn't mean to rant, but these amphibians have me a little on edge. One at a time is generally enough (as with snakes). But we're so thankful for the rain we'll gratefully accept the side effects. I'm sorry I called it a plague. They're actually quite charming.


Monday, August 25, 2008

The First Day of School, 2008-2009; Hopes and Dreams



Ah, the first day of school. The first time in 49 years I haven't been an active part of that. But part of me is there. I have nieces, close friends, and close family that are integrally involved in the new school year. Today I have some quotes on the importance of the sometimes mystical chemistry that brings forth amazing results within the halls of learning. These are for the encouragement and inspiration of teachers and learners alike. And if you embrace "life-long learning, " that means you!


"What was the duty of the teacher if not to inspire?"

Bharati Mukherjee

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

Albert Einstein

"Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself."

Chinese proverb

"A school should not be a preparation for life. A school should be life."

Elbert Hubbard

"All acts performed in the world begin as imagination."

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

"The best that the great teachers can do for us is to help us to discover what is already present in ourselves."

Irving Babbitt



On day one, "ground zero," classroom teachers are the last ones who will have even half a minute to read this blog. Children arrived earlier than required today. They entered their new rooms with understandable apprehension, perhaps unaware that the teachers are as nervous as they are. New beginnings, especially with such life-long consequences, are cause for first day jitters, but not of fear, but expectation. It will take days before the newness settles into routine, but that does not imply boring. If a teacher and student alike pour their whole being, heart and soul into 180 days, the end product is astonishing. Chronological growth of 1 year is nothing compared to the spiralling growth of the child's intellect and spirit, when lovingly nurtured. Teachers, diligently apply the pedagogical "Miracle-Gro" that you understand so well. Water, weed, stake, prune, and the harvest of your "kinder-garten" (not just the 5 year-olds, but ALL the children) will be abundant and rich. God bless you all today and all through the year!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Frog Who Came to Dinner (or It's Not Easy Being Green)

Can you spot the one that's not a vegetable?




Thursday night we grilled eggplant, zucchini, squash, and bell peppers, as well as a polish sausage. It was all delish. Tonight we dined on the front porch, with background music by Calliope Fair, featuring our friend Leah. Our dinner guest, in fact a regular on our porch, was small and green. Don't confuse him with the vegetables. I'm sneaking this post in on Friday night, but I've gotta go-- it's time for Monk.

Due to Circumstances Beyond My Control

I didn't set out to become a lazy blogger or a Mon-Wed-Fri blogger, but the way my computer's been acting, I'm blogging right now in case I don't get another chance--EVER! From lunchtime Wednesday until 4:30 p.m. Thursday we couldn't get a connection. I was so busy working on my "message" for Sunday night, I decided not to call Embarq for tech support until I was through studying for the day. That strategy worked well. I got my thoughts in print by mid-afternoon and spent the next 90 minutes going through system checks with a very patient and congenial techie in Pennsylvania. He said he was glad to get a call like mine because they were being deluged with Floridians who wanted their Internet connections back, but in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay it's taking some time. We finally got my connection back, but lo and behold, this morning, same problem. I went ahead and cut, split, and stacked firewood until lunch. During lunch I ran a system restore and got my Internet again. I think I've got some security issues, but for the moment I'm content to post at least this brief update and share my computer with some malevolent worm or virus. By the way, in regard to my Sunday night message at Beulah Hill Baptist, any of my local readers would be welcome. I promise to embarrass you. Service is at 7:00 p.m. (Choir practice at 6-- ha, ha). Daddy asked me how my "sermon" is coming along. Ray asked if I was ready for my "lecture." Arrrgggh (as Amanda would say). Those words are like the "kiss of death." So what do I call it? I dunno. But I'll let you know after the fact.

Let us not forget that today is the last workday for teachers. Monday is the real thing. Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers got rid of a few butterflies with this week's Back-to-School Night. I didn't always like those nights, but after a few years I realized it actually reduced the stress of the first real day because at least we weren't meeting for the first time. Monday, computer willing, I'll have some opening day words of encouragement for those embarking on the 180-day journey once again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Briefly

I may post again later today, but this is a brief update just in case I don't get a chance. I already missed blogging Tuesday. Tuesday consisted of stacking, hauling, and splitting wood from 8 to 11. Cleaning up, eating lunch, hauling garbage to the Carthage recycling center (dump) in Woody ('73 Mercury station wagon), getting my haircut by great friend Tom at Hillcrest, and playing the piano at the hospital.

Today, I took off from working on the woodpile for a more important endeavor. Pastor Barbery asked me to lead Sunday evening's service this week, and I knew my basic theme immediately. Developing it and organizing my thoughts is the harder part, and I've spent most of this morning studying every gospel reference to the word "truth." Things are coming together, but I have a lot more studying ahead before I'm ready to share.

Amanda's coming for lunch! Soup, cheese toast, and great company. So long for now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dedicated to the Educators


Here in Moore County teachers returned to school today. At least it was their first official workday. But most teachers I know were in workshops last week and have spent time in their classrooms off and on all summer. The first summer teachers were allowed to keep their keys, and I retired! Oh, well.

Today's blog is dedicated to all educators in general, but specifically to my former colleagues and dearest friends at Sandhills Farm Life Elementary. Under Miss McNeill's patient guidance SFL has continued to be true to the proven practices of the past while embracing the promise of new horizons. Staff, please remember that of all professions, only a handful rival that of the educator for far-reaching, life-changing impact on individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. NO ONE will work harder than you this year, but like exercise, if it were easy, you'd know you weren't doing it right.

Today, letters to students go in the mail. Tomorrow, with luck, most will know who their teacher is. Thursday is Back-to-School night, and Friday is catch-your-breath, final preparation day. Monday is live action, play for keeps. 180 grueling days, but yes it will be worth it. No one does more important work.

I'll keep you folks in my prayers and my blogs will pertain to education matters more than they have thus far. They should still be relevant to non-educators, because whether you're a parent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or mentor to someone younger, you're a teacher, too. Eyes are watching you, ears are listening.

Soon, I hope to be seeing a lot of you at school. A cub scout has already volunteered to assist me with Nature Trail upkeep. Fourth grade teachers say they will permit me to share my book once again ("Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace"). I hope to do Acey-Deucey at the Fall Festival and share some games and Jack Tales at other times as well.

Still, all in all, it's nice to be blogging instead of scrubbing desks (Forgive me)!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Youth Day at Glendon Christian Church


Chipper always likes "Top Billing."



Ken and Chipper present "Loyd Homeplace" to the church



Many of my readers may not know where Glendon is. If you're from Moore County, go north from Hardee's in Carthage, turn left on the Siler City Road, and left again on the Glendon-Putnam Road (near the old Glendon Pyrophyllite mine). I had the opportunity to speak to their youth group (pre-teens and teens) this morning as the kick-off for a Back-to-School/VBS/Youth Rally rolled into one. I was pleased to see some old friends I wasn't expecting: Wayne, Joyce, daughter Jamie, and new granddaughter Sarah.

I introduced my audience to Chipper the monkey, my old classroom mascot, and showed several of my favorite fake snakes: the baby rattler, sidewinder, coachwhip, and black racer (eraser). As I shared my more serious message I spoke to some of these themes:

  • When in doubt, PRAY. When not in doubt, PRAY. (Thanks for the T-shirt Amanda and Stephen)

  • Our lives must have a purpose, and that's not the same as "what will you be when you grow up." We can't fully understand our purpose until we have Jesus in our life.

  • Knowledge can come from man, but wisdom originates with God.

  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It's harder and harder to find truth in the world, but you can depend on God's unchanging truth.

  • A simple formula for life's purpose is "To know Him and to serve Him." (That's not an original motto by the way)

I donated a copy of my book Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace to their church library after giving a little background. My dedications always refer to finding life's true riches in God's Word. The youth were having hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and plenty of outdoor fun, including a dunking booth, later in the day. As I left, I was thankful for the invitation to share and meet some new friends as well as see a few old ones.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us!

The General Store's Spacious Stage
Very Inviting
Mural Facing the General Store
Welcome!

For our 32nd anniversary Thursday we headed to one of our new favorite restaurants-- The General Store Cafe in Pittsboro. We had checked their website to get their number for reservations a couple of days earlier and found we were lucky indeed. They were having live music, which we wanted but dared not hope for. Even better, it was a jazz trio. We were so close to Chapel Hill, we left early enough to go to Trader Joe's first, where Judy found bargains galore. That's her new favorite spot for organic food, but there's not one close by.



We got back to Pittsboro right on time for our 7:30 reservation. The food, like the music, was eclectic (of course). Our entree selections were:


Ken ~ Spinach Walnut Stuffed Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Sauce -- Locally made ravioli from Drakes Pasta in High Point NC stuffed with spinach and walnut and topped with roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda sauce and served with chef’s choice vegetables and organic bread. (I also had an appetizer: Seasoned Oven Fries w/Citrus Soy Mayo Dipping Sauce)

Judy ~ Shrimp and Grits GSC -- Gulf shrimp sautéed in butter and roasted garlic over creamy local organic yellow grits with roasted baby tomatoes and Prosciutto ham and served with chef’s choice vegetables and organic bread.



The trio started up just after 8 and we stayed to listen and sip tea or coffee well after we were finished with the wonderful meal. Their dinner prices were not outrageous considering the entertainment. We also inquired about other special events such as their Tuesday movie night when they have a $10 buffet. Pretty cool place. You can tell the atmosphere of Chapel Hill-Carrboro has now filtered into Chatham County. The drive home was less than an hour so it wasn't even such a late night. A truly memorable anniversary and we agreed we wouldn't wait for a special occasion to return to the General Store.
"Making Whoopie", sample of our Jazzy Evening
video

"I Love Nieces to Pieces"










All summer Judy and I have been trying to find the perfect time for our nieces, Emma and Jessie, to spend the night with us. Between all of our appointments and trips, we got all the way to August 13 before we were able to arrange it (you know 13 is my lucky number)! I brought them home after Wednesday evening Bible Study. Judy (Aunt Juju) was ready with a snack of chocolate chip cookies with milk or juice. We had a blast just chatting at the dining room table as we snacked. We talked about anything and everything. Since the girls had their piano books with them they were eager to play both our piano and keyboard. They are doing exceptionally well in their lessons and seem to love every minute of it as well. We had to stay up late since our evening got started late. We tried out a fun yard sale game called "Guess Where?" It was something like the familiar "Guess Who?", but none of us had played it before. Judy and I were astonished at the girls's photographic memories and astute guesses. After two games we got cozy in the living room to watch a Veggie Tales episode. We had at least ten to choose from and Emma utilized a special selection process to arrive at "Sumo of the Opera." I cannot reveal how late it was after that, but fortunately the girls had already spread their sleeping bags and gotten into pajamas, so after bedtime Bible story and nightlike checks, we settled in for a sound sleep.


Come morning, Emma made perfect pancakes, with Judy relinquishing her usual head chef role. Breakfast was purely dee-licious. We all built a miniature farm in the living room, played more games and more music, and as soon as the dew had dried a bit we headed out to the field. The girls swung on our "tire horse swing," did gymnastics on the swing set, and provided Uncle Ken plenty of exercise with roller coaster rides in the wood cart (that cart that Amanda, Stephen, Jennifer, and Matt gave me is SO cool it will get its own blog one day)! I rested between rides. While Juju wondered if Uncle Ken was up to it, Uncle Ken just relished the challenge. It would have made an interesting obituary, however. "Retired Teacher Has One Adventure Too Many."


Lunch was awesomely special. Picnic on the porch, with made-to-order sandwiches by Judy. With the ceiling fan, fresh air, and singing birds, it was ideal. It was soon time to pack up to deliver the girls back to Mom, but Judy had one more idea. We stopped at both Given Book Shop and the Sandhills Coalition and found Emma and Jessie some take-home books. I had promised Jessie last year that since I was retiring and wouldn't get to teach her, I'd have lots more time to be her "Uncle Ken." I enjoyed every minute and so did Judy. We won't wait till summer to do it again. It was WAY more fun than school!


video

video

*Sneak preview. A few of you know that Emma and Jessie's sleepover extended into my and Judy's 32nd anniversary, August 14. My next post will feature that momentous occasion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rainy Days and Memories

I'm not trying to cheat. This is a picture of Bridal Veil Falls, not rain.
I'm using it because I don't have a suitable photo of a rainy day.


There have been times in my life when rain ruined big plans, but for the most part I have positive associations with rainy days. When I was little, in Georgia's red clay country, a good rain meant you'd have puddles for wading or floating toy boats for several days. We had a large puddle beside the entrance to our driveway that rarely dried up before another rain came along to refill it. I got my first bicycle while living there, for my 6th or 7th birthday. Unfortunately, it rained for several days in succession, non-stop. My sympathetic and loving mother allowed me to ride my new red bike with training wheels inside the house! That was so sweet I never forgot it. Rainy days were also great for making indoor clubhouses using blankets, up-turned chairs, and card tables. We played games, read, and manufactured fun. We had a wonderful screen porch where we set up Fort Apache or World War II battlefields, played with our electric trains, or constructed with Lincoln Logs and domino towers.

When we moved a couple of miles away, we had a stream in our back yard. The house, where Mama and Daddy still live, was on the high ground above the stream and back yard, which was in a flood plain. When the days of rain came, we resorted to our old favorite indoor diversions, but would keep looking out the back windows to see if our stream had overflowed its banks yet. It took a lot of rain to accomplish this, but the raging torrents were a sign that with continued rain, our yard would eventually become a rice paddy. Even though we couldn't play there in those conditions, it never failed to take our breath away to see the Noah's Ark scenario unfolding.

During college years, all four of my summers were at Camp Cherokee near beautiful blue Lake Burton in north Georgia. It rained more there than anywhere I've resided before or since. In some ways, rainy days were harder work for the counselors because we had to use every ounce of ingenuity to entertain 50 active boys without letting anyone get bored. Instead of archery, riflery, skiing, and outdoor games, we substituted Hide Mr. Duck, Parson Parson, Community Sings, and impromptu dramatics down at the barn. Not that we had to stay indoors. We all went barefoot on rainy days (all pioneers know to keep their shoes dry!) and wore raincoats or ponchos. Many engaged in dam building as red clay rainwater gushed down gulleys and through ditches. Teams of muddy, happy campers used their hands, the abundant clay, large rocks, and camping shovels to try to control the roaring floods. And if there was no thunder and lightning we could sometimes persuade Jane Mac to let us play mud soccer on the grassy expanse of the A-field. Barefoot and in swimsuits, we played with a kickball, and sliding in the wet grass was more likely intentional than an effort to steal the ball. From a counselor's viewpoint, two of the best things were rest hour and bedtime. Rest hour was extended on those days, and boy did we need that catch-up time. And with rain on our cabins's tin roofs the boys didn't try to stay awake whispering--they couldn't hear each other! We may have taken white shorts and T-shirts to camp, but when we went home they were tinged with red clay stains forever--Tide XK or no Tide XK.

Camp also had the puddles that we in the Sandhills of North Carolina don't tend to see. Here at home, after a downpour of even the highest magnitude, most of the water soon seeps through the sandy soil (Do I like tongue twisters? Yes). Jennifer went to Camp Cherokee with me and Judy the summer before Amanda's birth, 1982. Shortly after we came home to the Sandhills we had a rainy day, and that night Jennifer called me back into her room after we'd said our prayers and turned out the lights. She had had an interesting realization. "Daddy (I hadn't become 'Dad' yet), it rained today and the mud didn't come out!"

Today was one of those steady, drippy days that I've come to love and appreciate. I did something I'd never tried before, which I think is environmentally wise in these days of frequent drought. My brother Buddy had mentioned washing his cars when it rains, and I proceeded to wash the '90 Toyota, '73 Mercury wagon, and Judy's Toyota Tacoma with the steady showers supplying the rinse. My bare feet relished the fond memories of when they had known such freedom in days gone by. Definitely, good memories.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Late, Late Show: Was it worth it?



YAWN. Judy and I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. We were outside at 10 p.m. looking to the northeast for meteors and didn't have much luck. She saw a couple of "confirmed" ones and I saw only "maybes." The grass was already damp with dew, but we spread our sleeping bag out and enjoyed the stars anyway. The night air was as chilly as fall and Judy went back to fetch a light blanket. I don't know my summer constellations as well as the winter ones, but there were no clouds to obscure the view, and the half-moon was behind trees at the edge of our field. Not getting instant gratification, we headed inside after 15 minutes (did you?) and set the alarm for 2:30 (did you?). The sky was noticeably darker then, with the moon below the western horizon, and we saw a handful of "shooting stars," but nothing spectacular. The news media had said the peak would be between 3 and 5, so I set the clock again for 4:30. But I didn't wait for that. I went back out at 3:45, promising Judy I'd report back if it was worth her losing even more sleep. She's a real trooper. Me, I'm just crazy. Anyway it was 30 minutes before I reported back. By then I'd seen 15 distinct meteors. One was truly special, leaving a wide trail with an afterglow of several seconds. I told Judy I was going back out since I didn't have to get up at any particular time this morning and she was welcome to join me, but the show had not been overwhelming. She sent me with her blessing. I stuck with it until my total was up to 30, including several really nice ones. The sky scene had changed a bit by that hour and I was able to identify Cassiopeia (Queen of Ethiopia). To her right were the Pleiades (Seven Sisters). And rising in the south was my favorite constellation, Orion. Between his feet, with the aid of a telescope I could have seen the not-so-famous star "Ken Loyd" (courtesy of Jennifer and Amanda many birthdays ago--ask them). It was 5:15 and I figured the peak was past so I headed back in for 2 more hours of precious sleep. Getting up wasn't as hard as I thought, but that's because I didn't have to go to school. I can nap if I need to. And yes, for those of you with inquiring minds, Judy and I are setting up our observation post again tonight. In star-gazing there are no guarantees, and maybe the unknown is part of the intrigue.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Shower Not to Miss


Hot showers, cold showers, spring showers, baby showers, bridal showers, meteor showers. These all have their place, but I did not want to delay in blogging about the Perseid Meteor Shower, which is taking place even as we speak. If you're reading this in the daytime, don't bother to go look. But the meteors would be there if we could see them in the bright daylight.

I was an adult before I learned (taught myself) about meteors, and I have found them to be a fascinating natural wonder. Every year the earth passes through a dozen major meteor showers as it orbits the sun. And only a small portion of them ever become visible, because only upon entry into the earth's atmosphere do they begin to glow and burn up, a result of high-speed friction. It's a little hard to visualize what's happening, but think of a child running through a sprinkler. Only a small percentage of water drops actually hit the child, but he/she still gets a thorough shower. And no meteor shower typically has more meteors enter our airspace than the Perseid.

You'll hear and read from various media sources that you need to observe this shower between 2 and 5 a.m. tonight (Monday night/Tuesday morning). That's not entirely accurate. That IS the PEAK period, but a lesser number of meteors will be visible well before midnight. There is some degree of unpredictability, but Judy and I have never failed to see at least a few meteors any time we looked, even at 9 or 10 p.m. So don't despair just because you can't afford to lose sleep tonight. In fact, this shower lasts up to three days, the period it takes Earth to exit the "target zone." So even Tuesday evening, a sky-viewer is likely to have success.

Now, for some tips on viewing for the most enjoyment.

1. Select a spot with the greatest 360 view and the least interference of city or neighborhood lights. The darker it is, the more your eyes will catch.
2. You'll persevere longer if you set up a viewing area so you can lie flat on your back for at least several minutes. Folks that go out in the yard, tilt their head back, and wait a couple of minutes are going to get a stiff neck and tire of this quickly. But if you spread out a sleeping bag or quilt on the ground and lie down you'll be able to totally relax and enjoy the night air and peacefulness even when no meteors are falling.
3. Once in a comfortable position, you DO NOT need binoculars or a telescope. Those are for viewing stationary heavenly bodies (NO, not your neighbor). Your eyes are all you'll need. Lying on your back very still your eyes will pick up any motion with peripheral vision. So you can just stare straight up until your brain detects motion in some other portion of the sky. Likely, you will see some meteors so faint, you won't know for sure if you saw anything. Don't worry about that. There will be enough certain sightings for you to feel successful. We've seen over 100 on one occasion, but even seeing a few is rewarding, and some of them are breath-taking.

So treat yourself to this free and awe-inspiring spectacle. If you miss it, or it's cloudy, don't worry. These showers will be back. A google search will probably give you a lot more info and dates for the other showers, or e-mail me. They're really fun on a winter night, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An-tic-i-pa-tion

"Anticipation" is a great song from Carly Simon's many great hits. It didn't even ruin it for me when they used it for Heinz ketchup advertisements. I like ketchup (and I know how to make it pour faster). But right now I'm full of anticipation of tomorrow's colonoscopy. My schedule was moved up a mere 1 hour which required me to start drinking the evil elixir today instead of Monday morning. I've already had four cups of the lemon-lime concoction. It's not as nasty as it could be, but it'll never replace Mello Yello or anything. It's a psychological battle, because when do you dring a GALLON of even your favorite beverage? Even when I have multiple refills of sweet tea, I don't think I approach a gallon.

In the days since I scheduled this almost everyone I mentioned it to said they had already had the experience (some of you younger ones may have years to wait). I got advice, I got sympathy, but nobody offered to take my place. Harold was eager to e-mail me a comic list of comments patients had supposedly made to their colonoscopy administrators. Here are a couple: No-- on second thought I don't want to get banned from blogspot after one month. Anyway, they're funny. Harold told me I'd crack up. My 94 year-old father was most encouraging, too. He told me his was done years ago without anesthesia and he thought he was going to die. They kept him for one hour, let him drive home, and he ate at Chic-Fil-a.

Well I just paused for my sixth 8 ounce drink in one hour. No results yet, but I am starting to feel full. Between potty breaks this evening, I hope to read, watch a little of the Olympics, and play cards. I'll leave you now to anticipate my next post. Personally, since I'm going to miss my next three meals, I'm going to begin thinking about my next solid food--Monday evening!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Welcome to Pinehurst! Er. . . Taylortown!?



Anytime we return from a trip from points westward, we come back in town on Highway 211. No matter how much we enjoy a trip, Judy and I both love coming back home. She misses washing clothes and mopping and I miss cutting grass and splitting firewood. There are some things you just can't do on vacation. I have recently discovered that I have a subliminal reason to perk up as we re-enter our home turf. It's all about three little signs on the roadside very near the Taylortown traffic light. Three well-known civic groups have had their signs posted there on 211 for years, welcoming folks to Pinehurst (or possibly Taylortown, which is technically right across the asphalt). The signs are for the Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Clubs. The subliminal angle applies to very few folks, but I am one. My full name is Kenton Russell Loyd, initials K R L. That's right, the same initials as the signs for those three illustrious community service clubs. The K and L are especially prominent. The Rotary sign doesn't have an R, but that's a minor technicality. So I believe that on all those trips when I have returned to Pinehurst/Taylortown, my subconscious was registering those signs, whether I knew it or not, and the message to me was personal: "Welcome home Kenton Russell Loyd!" Out of many civic organizations, the three with a message to me, even arranged in the proper order, are the ones that chose that location. Just chance? I don't think so. I couldn't have blogged on this topic if Pinehurst had an Oddfellows group. Funny, that's the one I probably would have joined.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jesus Was a Carpenter


I've always loved the simple but penetrating illustrations Jesus used to impart His truths to his disciples and other hearers. The fishermen understood "fishers of men," the shepherds identified with "the lost sheep of Israel," all were familiar with analogies about vineyards and sowing seeds. But Jesus Himself was a carpenter. In the last thirty years I have found it remarkable how many pastors I have known who were skilled at woodworking, most notably Rev. Max Gilmore, my first pastor here in Moore County. Whether these pastors made the connections or not, there are so many spiritual lessons to be found in wood, as in other commonplace things.


Though I am not a carpenter, I have been cutting firewood for thirty years now, and I rarely approach the woodpile with an ax or chainsaw without noting some object lesson. Today as I split my way through an imposing pile that included red oak, white oak, willow oak, hickory, poplar, gum, and more, I was reminded again of the distinguishing characteristics of each. In some ways they portray the qualities of people. Poplar splits easily, nice and straight with a light swing of the ax. But its soft wood burns up relatively quickly, flaming out before it should, and leaving no coals. In our woodstove we have to check poplar frequently and add to it before the stove becomes stone cold. It lacks the perseverance and steadfastness a Christian is called to exemplify. Hickory is heavy, hard, tough to split. It burns a long time, giving off its radiant heat, and even then, the coals remain for hours. That's like a Christian who can stand up to daily trials and claim the victory. Yet I don't think we're called to be like the hickory. It seems to have all the right "gifts" but can also be unyielding and stubborn. It goes its on way and relies on its own strength, which is ample. But I think one of the oak family provides the best balance. It's dense enough to burn hot, leaving some coals in reserve, but it is "submissive" enough to let itself be split for ready use without too much of a struggle. All of the trees (even Mimosa) have their positive qualities, but for a spiritual analogy, I'll choose oak. As Jane Mac said at Camp Cherokee in one of her devotionals, "Today's mighty oak is only yesterday's nut that stood its ground."

Have a favorite tree? I'm going to be writing some more about them. Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trees: Follow-up #1. Mimosas



I already had this in mind when I wrote about trees the other day. One of the trees I really don't hug is the Mimosa. There are actually two things I dislike about the Mimosa and only one thing I like.


Dislike # 1: The feathery leaves look too exotic or something. They're fine for botanical gardens and arboretums but they don't look natural growing alongside our pines, oaks, and hickories. It's not so much a dislike as a prejudice. I plead guilty to being prejudiced for a flimsy reason (but it's a flimsy leaf!). Even in my state of prejudice I acknowledge that it's pretty cool how Mimosa leaves exhibit nyctinastic movement (folding or closing of leaflets in response to heat, shaking, or touching). Try it next time you stroll past one. It's fun.


Dislike # 2: The pink flowers. Now I really have a confession to make. I am (probably for culturally ingrained gender-related reasons) also prejudiced against pink. I think I could like the yellow Mimosa I read about in Wikipedia. Or blue, purple, or red. I could take HOT pink, which I've started liking in some applications. But this is a wimpy, washed-out, faded looking pink. Like front lawn flamingoes (not my front lawn, mind you). I'm sure this shade is very functional, attracting whatever insects pollinate the Mimosa. But I'm not required to like it, and I respectfully decline to do so. By the way, while I'm confessing, I want to mention that Betty Lou figured out my pink prejudice some time ago. When I paper-clipped packets together for 3rd grade teammates I often used up my pinks, not caring if I ever saw them again. I saved the other colors for multiple re-uses. Betty Lou mentioned it then and I couldn't deny it. I'm working through this issue (now I don't have to share my paper clips with anyone).


LIKE # 1: The best thing I can say about the Mimosa is really a pretty strong argument in its favor. When mature, it can be a great climbing tree. It meets all the important criteria:

1) sturdy limbs of medium thickness, easy to hold on to or swing from.

2) limbs well-spaced with several close to the ground.

3) no stickers or spines to stab the climber or jab an eye.


You see, one of my grandmothers, Mama Gaddis, had a great Mimosa in her front yard in Cartersville, GA. Her neighbors had one that was even better. And when we visited, us kids could entertain ourselves in and around those trees for hours. We could play Tarzan, climb, or just find a cozy fork to nestle into. Until something traumatic happened. Mama Gaddis's neighbor had both trees cut. We were all crestfallen when we saw the stumps. But he had his reasons. He was sick of raking up a yard full of those feathery leaves and wimpy pink flowers.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Out and About: Retired Life

I planned a full but relaxed Monday, and it was. I stopped by the Senior Citizens Center to make an appointment for training on their fitness equipment. I can go Friday a.m. I headed to Phillips Ford in Carthage because they had my new tag and registration papers. Plus, I wanted them to order a trailer hitch for the bike rack I just acquired (thanks for those Wal-mart gift cards!) I headed over to Farm Life School to deliver a check which was donated so that I could buy some books for the school. I delivered a couple of copies of my own book, Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace, along the way. Saw some of my dearest friends while there. Sometimes in the summer there's almost nobody at school , so I was lucky. I came home with a cutesy tomato, a bell pepper, and a home-grown watermelon. Judy and I had lunch at Jack and Thelma's. Besides eating, I played the piano and read (not at the same time) while Judy and Thelma shelled a bunch of peas. Once home, I headed off to borrow a wood-splitter in preparation for splitting all the logs I've sawed since school got out, probably two cords. We had a wonderful supper and will go walking in a little while.

My outings resulted in me filling up my calendar for the rest of the week. I have places to be at 8 a.m. Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, 8 a.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. Saturday. See, that's why I had to retire!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Trees: To Hug or Not to Hug

Jack, Will, and Tom
Snuggle up to Jack, Will, and Tom and look skyward!
St. John, the Toilet Tree (use your imagination)

In general, I love trees. Growing up, about the only ones I knew were pine, oak, holly, and dogwood. But in high school biology I got really interested in leaf classification and the new hobby would serve me well as Nature Counselor at Camp Cherokee a few years later. Then, on our Sandhills Farm Life Nature Trail, I always enjoyed pointing out interesting trees. There were Jack, Will, and Tom, a poplar tree with three identical trunks orinating from one huge base. Jack, Will, and Tom were the three brothers in our popular Jack Tales. Students also loved St. John (the Toilet Tree), which had an interesting trunk that resembled a port-o-potty. Many looked forward to a snack from "Sourwood Sally," located in the Graveyard of the Pines. Most would at least try chewing up a leaf in the pioneer spirit, and some claimed to enjoy it.


All of these positive associations still do not make me claim to be a "tree hugger." I am thankful for trees, and consider them one of God's great multi-purpose blessings. They provide food and shelter for wildlife, oxygen for all, lumber, and firewood. Much better than a jungle gym for authentic climbing. And where else, praytell, would you locate a treehouse? With all that to love, what's NOT to love about trees? Stay tuned.