Living proof that the Universe has a sense of humor.

Finding my great-great grand uncle’s mountain at the Roanoke Kite Festival

Posted April 22, 2014 | My Family - Past & Present, Photos & Photo Galleries, Today I'm Grateful for..., Welcome to My Life | One Comment

Look! There's a tree growing out of my head!

“Look! Shopportunities! And there’s a tree growing out of my head!”
Photo by beloved spouse.

I love browsing through the wares of festival vendors, and at the kite festival I found a booth for Brent McGuirt Photography. It was teeming with photo prints and prints on canvas of landscapes in and around Virginia.

All those mountains and clouds and valleys! I was in heaven! I recognized quite a few of the scenes, but there was one in particular that struck me as familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I asked where it was taken, and after I found out that Brent is a “sky person,” too, he told me it was a picture of Roan Mountain in Tennessee.

This is how small the world is

My mother, Joann Wilder Shoaf, was born to Elizabeth Wilder Cure Shoaf, whose father was John Wilder Cure. John’s mother was Elizabeth Wilder Cure. Her brother, my grandmother’s great uncle, was John T. Wilder of Roan Mountain, Tennessee.

John T. Wilder had been a Confederate general in the Civil War, who, after the war was over, had built a hotel resort named Cloudland on top of Roan Mountain. It didn’t last long, what with being inaccessible a good part of the year, but he remained a respected member of the community. My grandmother, whose mother was Jennie Kate Hill of Skokan, Dutchess County, New York, was born in nearby Johnson City, Tennessee.

So here is this beautiful print on canvas with my two favorite landscape elements – clouds and mountains – and the mountain and I are somehow related. The patches of bright pink rhododendron are yet another connection: my grandmother was a known rhododendron junkie.

Do I buy it? Oh, yeah!

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Print on canvas by Brent McGuirt Photography.
www.brentmcguirtphotography.com | On Facebook: Brent McGuirt Photography

The picture is now hanging on the wall over my bed. The sky, the clouds, the mountains, and the rhododendron are all reminders of my lovely grandmother: her intelligence, her creativity, her gentleness, and her ability to get me to sleep as a baby when my mother couldn’t.

Many thanks to the Universe for bringing me a reminder of the one nearby relative who never, ever tried to make me into anything other than a happier version of who I was.

They went to fly kites. We went to take pictures.

Posted April 20, 2014 | Beloved Spouse, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life | Leave a Comment

Beloved spouse

Beloved spouse
takes his picture-taking
very seriously!

On a very pleasant spring day with just the right about of breeze, my beloved spouse and I took our cameras – cleverly disguised as cell phones – to the Annual Kite Festival at Green Hill Park.

“Go fly a kite” took on a whole new meaning, with people of all ages dotting the landscape and kites in all manner of shapes and sizes adding color to the gray sky. We had fun. It looked like the other people there had fun, too.

Thank you, Buffy, for a lovely day!

Click the photo to open in a larger window.
Click the back button to return to this page.

Beloved spouse

Beloved spouse without a camera phone in front of his face :-)

Kite Festival

Looks like a kite festival to me!

Kite Festival Panorama

I discover panorama mode on my phone’s camera.
(Or is that my camera’s phone?)

Kite Festival

Kites and mountains and clouds, oh my!


Easter with my mom

Posted April 18, 2014 | Caring for Elderly Parents, Cats, Holidays, My Family - Past & Present, Photos & Photo Galleries, Welcome to My Life | 3 Comments

Me & my mom, Easter 1961

Me & my mom
Easter, 1961

I don’t have a lot of photos of myself as a child, but I found this one in my “treasure trunk.” It was taken on Easter in 1961. Easter was on April 2nd that year, so I would have been just over 15 months old.

I’m sure my father took the picture; my mom looks like she’s being told how to pose and that she’s worried that dad will fuss at her is I don’t pose right, too. We’re also facing the sun – as my father always situated us for photographs – so I’m squinting, as I am in almost every picture he ever took of me.

We had moved to Richmond from Dayton, Virginia, shortly before. Mom had gotten me my first pair of hard-soled baby shoes at Thalhimer’s on Broad Street. I got my first pair of glasses three months after this pictures was taken, and my “little” brother Charlie (who went by “Charles” until he went to college) joined the family on March 16th, 1962.

Fast forward to Easter in 2009, April 12th. I’m 49. My mom is bedridden. She had sent one of her caregivers to CVS to buy an Easter present for me. I go back to her bedroom to see her, and she gives me two Russell Stover milk chocolate “bird’s nests” and a cute little stuffed sheep who I named, Sleep Sheep. The flowers I sent her for the holiday are on her bedside table.

Stripey & Sleep Sheep

Stripey & Sleep Sheep cuddle on the bed

I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last Easter – the last holiday – we would spend together. She died on April 30th.

I still have Sleep Sheep in my bedroom. Sometimes she sleeps on the bed with me and Stripey, and sometimes she sleeps in the cat tree with some of her stuffed friends. Every time I see Sleep Sheep, I think of you, Mom.

Thank you for the sweet memory of our last holiday together. I still miss you, and I love you {{{ t-h-i-s }}} much – and a little bit more.

The funniest flight attendant speech EVER.

Posted April 16, 2014 | Random Observations, Today I'm Grateful for..., Web Wisdom, What Someone Else Said | Leave a Comment

Marty, the Funniest Flight Attendant EVER

It would be worth going through airport security and getting a full body cavity search to get on an airplane to hear this.

If you don’t laugh out loud, go immediately to the nearest urgent care because there is something seriously wrong with you.

I subscribed to Marty SWV flight attendant’s YouTube channel, just on the off-chance she still has a job and will do this again.

My cat, the slavedriver

Posted March 25, 2014 | Cats, Having Your Own Business, Photos & Photo Galleries, Welcome to My Life, Working at Home | 3 Comments

The pretty part of the snow - without the buildings and parking lot.

When I woke up this morning, it was snowing, Documentation is required when a spring snow falls in Roanoke, so I had to get up so I could take pictures.

It’s mostly gone now, but at one point there was 5″ of the fluffy white stuff on the ground and cars.

Zippy in the Snow, March 25, 2014

“Zippy in the Snow”
He’s the second car from the left.

The pretty part of the snow - without the buildings and the parking lot.

The pretty part of the snow -
without the buildings and the parking lot.

If it had been a weekend, I’d have gone back to bed with a mug of coffee and my iPad, snuggling with Stripey and looking up at the snowfall between games of Words With Friends.

Stripey watches the snow from the comfort of the bed.

Stripey watches the snow from the comfort of the bed.
Note the front paw extended thusly.

However, as much as That Stripey Cat thought that bed was the best place for her today, she made me get to work after my second cup of coffee.

Okay, that was enough excitement.

“I’m ready for my after-breakfast nap.
You can get to work now.”

Stripey is such a slavedriver! I expect she wants to make sure I can continue to afford to keep her in cat food and kitty litter. We don’t talk about the veterinary bills.

I cheated, though. I left the shades open in the living room so I could look out the window once in a while. Stripey never knew; she stayed asleep on the bed for a good long while.

Cats are way smarter than people.

Guest blog post: Daisy up a tree
by Dan Smith

Posted March 24, 2014 | Cats, Guest Posts, What Someone Else Said | Leave a Comment

My hiking buddy Dan Smith sent me this essay because he knows I love cats and he, as he puts it, has “little use for sullen creatures of any kind, cat, bird, woman, child, aardvark, etc.” Because of his excellent insights into cat personalities and his willingness to admit that my Stripey girl is “a good cat,” I asked Dan if I could post this here, and he said yes. Thanks, Dan!  :-)


She rested at the intersection of the corkscrew willow’s trunk and lowest main branch, nestled in so snugly that it looked like she could pull the covers up and fluff the pillow at any minute.

But Daisy was up a tree again and we’d used up our good will with the fire department, failed with the basket-on-a-stick and the $215 extension ladder bought for this purpose alone and she all but laughed at the pitiful, pleading “Here, kitty, kitty.”

Daisy wanted to extract a slice of revenge for some real or imagined slight; perhaps a failure to have her meal prepared on time or a nearly-imperceptible movement in Christina’s midsection as Daisy slept on her lap.

Her most recent tree prank could have resulted in that playful attack by Moochie, her gregarious trickster of a housemate and a cat Daisy loathed in the way only a spoiled, rich-bitch, long-haired, manicured cat can loathe another being.

Or, most likely, Daisy was simply mortified by her latest trip to the vet; the one where she’d received her radical trim, a haircut made necessary by burrs and lumps of dried mud, leaves and stickers, hairballs the size and density of hockey pucks.

Daisy’s revenge for any and all of these indignities was to climb the corkscrew willow, a giant, elegant tree. It was impossible for a human to climb because of its brittleness, but easily accessible for a house cat, even one who’d spent her life like some desert-dwelling imperial potentate. Daisy had been there so often that when she went missing for an hour, Christina searched the tree first to save time. Daisy’d been there in the rain and snow, the heat and bitter cold. She’d been there for an hour and for four days on end, being given up for dead by both of us who saw no option but to wait her out and let nature take control.

Eventually, she’d shown up at the front door, hungry, scruffy, full of burrs and fleas, cold or hot, wet or dehydrated, but never, never, never regretful or remorseful. She’d die before giving even the slightest hint that she apologized and was rethinking her behavior. She was simply inconvenienced for the moment and needed sustenance and a soft bed for the night. Then she’d be back to her old self: sullen bitchiness.

And so why do we tolerate behavior in a cat that would get a kid whacked? We don’t. Christina does. Left to me, Daisy would have revisited the pound on a permanent basis months ago. I’m not much of a cat guy, though I have a great appreciation for Mooch’s playfulness, her athleticism and her sunny outlook. When I think of cats in general, the neurotic, petulant personality profile of Daisy most often comes to mind.

We brought home these cats from the pound a little over a year ago, shortly after the death of Pork Chop, our legendary Himalayan and the coolest cat of all. Pork had been whacked by a car, and, frankly, I missed him, so I was looking for a replacement. I was first attracted to Daisy because she was long-haired like the Porker, big-eyed and, frankly, with all that black hair, pretty. Mooch was an afterthought, a playmate for the elegant one. Boy, did I get that wrong.

Daisy with her "radical trim"

Daisy: Seussian Phase

Daisy was a grouch from the beginning. In fact, I wanted to name the cats “Grumpy” and “Dopey,” but Christina liked what we’d already chosen and we stayed with it.

Daisy showed evidence of sulky petulance from the beginning and Christina began speculating about the Dear One’s fractured childhood, one obviously in which she had been the center of attention of a mighty kingdom, but had it cruelly snatched from her for some inexplicable reason. I speculated that she was just a snot and that I didn’t like her.

Then came the tree gig. The first time up, Christina called the fire department as any sane person who’s watched TV all her life would. The fireguys reluctantly got Daisy down, but said, essentially, “Lady, this is not part of our job description. Don’t call again.” Afterwards, the challenge grew and even I got involved, buying the ladder, inventing tree removal gadgets and finally, both of us giving up.

She sits there now, thumbing her nose at me, looking at me as if I were a servant, smirking and silently swearing. And I’m thinking, “Dog catcher. Yeh, that’s one we haven’t tried. I can tell them she’s somebody else’s cat….” 

. . .

Dan Smith

Dan Smith
Man of Many Talents

Dan Smith is a long-time, award-winning journalist living in Roanoke, Virginia. A member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, he is an author, radio essayist, community activist, liberal voice, father of two, and grandfather of two. He’s the co-founder and former co-owner/editor of Valley Business FRONT magazine.

You can read about Dan and what he thinks about everything else on his blog at fromtheeditr.blogspot.com and buy his books (which I highly recommend) by clicking on the links below.

CLOG! in Paperback

Dan Smith
CreateSpace - An Amazon Company


Hike at Alta Mons: The rest of the story

Posted March 23, 2014 | Cool Stuff, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Today I'm Grateful for... | 2 Comments

My hiking buddy Dan Smith already said all there is to say about the wonderful hike we took yesterday at Camp Alta Mons in Montgomery County in his blog post: First Hike of Spring: Camp Alta Mons.

Dan posted his “best of” photos, but since he’s now just slightly envious of my new iPhone’s camera – as opposed to when he used to ask me when I was going to get a “real” camera – here are some of the ones I took. It’s nice to have a “real” camera that fits in my back pocket!

Note: I don’t have a fisheye lens, so I don’t have the cool effects that some of Dan’s photos have. On the other hand, no one will accuse me of having fish eyes, either ;-)

The mighty editr stalking his prey.

The mighty editr stalking his prey.

The mighty editr tinkering with his camera. Really.

The mighty editr tinkering with his camera. Really.

The mighty editr pays homage to the Moss Mound.

The mighty editr pays homage to the Moss Mound.

A profound lack of vegetation, but a very cool row of sticks.

A profound lack of vegetation, but a very cool row of sticks.

I take the high road; the mighty editr takes the low road.

I take the high road; the mighty editr takes the low road.

"I'm supposed to cross this?"

“I’m supposed to cross this?”

My favorite photo from the trip. I can almost hear the water rushing.

My favorite photo from the hike. I can almost hear the water rushing.

Downstream a bit.

Downstream a bit.

The rocks are a good thing. We'd have gotten mighty wet if these stepping stones hadn't been there.

The rocks are a good thing. We’d have gotten mighty wet if these stepping stones hadn’t been there.

The mighty editr navigates the rocks to arrive safely at the other side.

The mighty editr navigates the rocks to arrive safely at the other side.

A bit of sun and blue sky through the leafless trees.

A bit of sun and blue sky through the leafless trees.

Smooth trail, for a little while.

Smooth trail, for a little while.

The base of the falls. Hoping to go back for a swim in the summer.

The base of the falls. Hoping to go back for a swim in the summer.

Two and a half miles after we started, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Two and a half miles after we started, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The mighty editr (and hiker) rests before the trek back.

The mighty editr (and hiker) rests before the trek back.

"I have to put the camera up to my eye? How strange."

“I have to put the camera up to my eye? How strange.”

My first selfie

My first selfie, with “singing skies and dancing waters” in the background.

Selfie for two.

Selfie for two.

What a cool place for a flag!

What a cool place for a flag.

I’m very grateful to have the mighty editr as a “hiking buddy” and trail guide, and I’m very grateful to the Universe for providing such a lovely day and such glorious scenery between snows.

What a place sounds like

I couldn’t look through these pictures without a smile on my face and a song in my heart. The song? “Singing Skies and Dancing Waters” by John Denver. The lyrics are here.


Working for yourself puts the “social” in social media

Posted March 9, 2014 | Having Your Own Business, Lessons I've Learned, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life, Working at Home, Writing | Leave a Comment

Daily Routines of People Who Work for ThemselvesLast week I posted a request on Facebook for people who work for themselves to tell me about their daily routines:

“I’d like to write a blog post about the daily routines of people who work for themselves. You can do it in any format you like, whether general or specific, by day or type of day. I’d like to see what they have in common.”

I did this in large part because although I have had my own business for over 13 years, I have never developed a routine that I stuck with for any length of time. I was curious about whether other people had done so more successfully than I have.

The Respondents

I got more and lengthier replies than I had expected. Of course, many of my friends are freelance writers, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Other replies came from the owner of an advertising firm/magazine, a couple of real estate agents, a computer technician, and another website developer.

Given the volume and detail of response, I could write a whole series on this, but for now I’ll stick to what I started with:

What do the daily routines of people who
work for themselves have in common?

The use of computers for both work and socializing

Social Media Use by the Self-EmployedAcross all of the different careers, the one thing in common is regular use of the computer for communication for both job duties and socialization.

Obviously, the people who responded to my query use Facebook. I think that’s pretty common among people who work for themselves. If we don’t have the literal water cooler and co-workers at hand, working for yourself – even when you have a lot of contact with clients – can be an isolating experience. Social media seems to act as the “virtual” water cooler for people who don’t have co-workers.

Not wanting to have a “real” job


Cow graphic courtesty of www.clipartsfree.net.

It seems that once a person has control of his own (work) life, the idea of going back to a “regular” job become increasingly unappealing.

Some of us don’t have bosses or “cow-orkers” because we prefer not to get involved with dysfunctional people and/or organizations. The term cow-orker. which originated on Usenet and was popularized by Scott Adams the Dilbert comic strip, comes to mind because when I had a “real” job, I felt orked. A lot.


Routine vs. fire-fighting:
"Have you gotten my email yet?"

Is Your Computer on Fire?
Freelance writers tended to have more of a routine – a regular rhythm to their days – than those in occupations that require responding to clients’ urgent (and not so urgent) needs.

Working at home vs. being at home

Working at Home vs. Being Home

Again, writers, including the owner of the ad agency, tended to separate their work time and lives from their “non-work” time. Realtors, computer technicians, and website developers – those prone to have to talk people off cliffs – had a more difficult time doing this. [ Waving hand in air wildly. ] The writers, people with separate offices, people with children, and people who until recently worked in the “real world” placed more importance on spending time with their families, hobbies, and fitness activities.

Taking on the caregiving role:
"Since you don’t have a ‘real’ job”….

Work vs. CaretakingPeople of all occupations who had children, spouses, or friends who needed assistance were more likely to take on the responsibility of caregiving than people – specifically their siblings or spouses – who had “real” jobs. Sometimes this caused resentment, but most people in that situation found some satisfaction it.


I got so many fascinating (and well-written!) responses that I could write a book based only on one week’s worth of responses, but to summarize:

  • Self-employed people use the computer for socialization to prevent the feeling of isolation that can occur from working alone.
  • Self-employed people tend to want to remain self-employed.
  • The amount of routine and their a self-employed person has seems to vary with the extend of the job requirements related to immediate responsiveness. The greater that need – whether in personal matters or in client interactions – the less routine a person is able to maintain and the less he is able to separate work and the rest of his life.


There’s something about building a greenway trail near a sewage treatment plant

Posted March 2, 2014 | Lessons I've Learned, Products Mentions & Reviews, Today I'm Grateful for... | One Comment

Tinker Creek Greenway Scenery

Tinker Creek Greenway Scenery.
Photo credit: Anniston Star

Today my walking buddy Dan took me to a part of the Roanoke Greenway I’d never visited before. He called it “the Vinton trail.” It’s not a long hike, but there are lots of hills, so we got a good workout.

What Dan failed to mention – perhaps because his sense of smell isn’t quite as keen as mine – is that this section of the Roanoke Greenways, officially called the Tinker Creek Greenway (click here for a map of the Greenway trails), passes very close to the Roanoke sewage treatment plant and the “pond” thereby.

No, we did not take pictures, but I did manage to find the one above that I think adequately conveys visually what one experiences olfactorily when walking past.

What I Learned Today

Vicks VapoRub

This photo of Vicks VapoRub comes from diapers.com, which seems insanely appropriate.

I am very grateful to Dan for giving me an excuse to get out of my apartment and into the Big Blue Room. However, the next time he mentions the “Vinton trail,” I’m going to get him to stop at a drug store on the way over so I can get myself a big ol’ jar of Vicks VapoRub.

Hey, I’ve watched CSI enough to know that’s what coroners rub under their noses when they have to work with decomposing bodies. If it can cover up that smell, I’m betting it can deal with the odiferous accompaniment to what was otherwise a very pleasant walk.

As an aside

Roanoke Valley Resource Authority

“Like” the RVAR on Facebook. Or not.

On the way home, we got to drive by the Tinker Creek Transfer Station – the prettiest dump I’ve ever seen anywhere. However, it is apparently illegal to post a photo of a public waste disposal station on the Internet.  I was unable to find even one picture – not even on Google Maps – that showed the lovely brick building to its full advantage. In my search, however, I  discovered that the Roanoke Regional Resource Authority has a Facebook page. I’m still debating about whether to “like” it or not. I definitely would if that had a picture of its nice building.

Tinker Creek Transfer Station Interior

The interior of the Tinker Creek Transfer station as featured in Public Works magazine

I’ve been inside, and if you plan it right, you can stay in your vehicle and just fling your trash out the window without having to touch the floor. On my trip, I did not plan that well. Ewww.

But while I could find no photos of the outside of the station, I found several  of the inside. (This just seems wrong, but maybe that’s just me.)

Apparently the machinery that’s used to maneuver the trash from the floor to the ditch at the back of the building and into the rail cars is A Very Big Deal. There’s a whole article about it in Public Works magazine.

No shit. (Sorry; I couldn’t resist.)

Throwback Thursday: 
My father and his second family

Posted February 27, 2014 | My Family - Past & Present, My Kentucky Family, Photos & Photo Galleries, Random Observations, Welcome to My Life | 5 Comments

I don’t usually do “Throwback Thursday” posts, but the Universe – by way of Facebook – sent me a couple of signs that it was time for me to do one.

Yesterday my third cousin Amy posted a high school yearbook photo of my father, and today Facebook reminded me that this would have been my half-brother’s 30th birthday.

My father is #77

Sulphur High School Reserve Basketball Team, 1948.
My father is #77.

I didn’t find out until I was an adult that my father had played basketball in high school. When we moved to Roanoke, he put a basketball goal up in our driveway and taught me how to shoot layups. I was pretty good, too, but I couldn’t dribble or guard worth a darn, so no competitive basketball for me.

His father, my grandfather, played basketball at Sulphur, too, and flunked out because he played more than he studied. But he went on to business school after that and was a store manager at an A&P in Cincinnati, Ohio, when my father was born.

My half-sibs in 2008

My half-sibs, Allen & Adair in 2008

My parents divorced in 1977, and my father remarried on September 11th, 1980. He and his second wife had two children: my half-brother Allen, who was born when I was 24, and my half-sister Adair (who went by her first name, Ashley, until she went to college) when I was 26.

Their mother, only three years older than me, divorced my father when Allen was about 10. This sent Allen into a tailspin, since he and Dad were always very close.

When my father was dying, after me and my brother Charlie had done all the caretaking we could, it was Allen and Adair who went to visit him in the nursing home. When Dad died in July of 2005, it was Allen who took it the hardest.

Soon after Dad died, Allen started having gran mal seizures. He never went to a neurologist, and he wouldn’t take the anti-seizure medication his GP gave him because the seizures didn’t happen but three or four times a year.

Allen Hamilton Duvall, 1984-2010

Allen Hamilton Duvall, 1984-2010

However, in January, 2010, Allen had a seizure, came home, saw his mother who had just come back from a trip, and then took a nap. He got up in the night to take a shower, and apparently had another seizure. His girlfriend found him early the next morning, dead on the bathroom floor with the water in the shower running, less than a month before his 26th birthday.

Happy birthday, Allen. It makes me feel better knowing that you’re with Dad.

keep looking »
  • More Specifically….

  • Archives

  • Why am I here?

    JanesonA common position: Tinkering with my iPhone at Starbucks

    You'd think that with all the time I spend working on the computer, I'd pick another way to spend my time. Alas, that is not the case. I've noticed - in my advancing age - that my brain is getting full. Since I don't want to take the chance of forgetting anything interesting (if only to myself), I thought it might be nice to have a place to offload the stories and minutiae that are filling it up so I can make room for more stuff.

    Since you've found your way here, I hope that you find something that's interesting to you, too.

    Visit my profile on about.me Friend Me on Facebook Friend me on Goodreads Connect with me on Google+ Connect with me on LinkedIn Follow me on Pinterest Tumblr Follow Me On Twitter Subscribe to my channel on YouTube

    Google Authorship

  • Special Bonus Code

    Reading my stories here gives you a pass on having to hear them in person. Use code word BLOG to activate :-)

  • Keeping My Sanity One E-cigarette at a Time

  • Awesome People Who Follow Me on Networked Blogs

  • %d bloggers like this: