Category Archives: family

Happy Father’s Day: Tough Portah as Lexie’s Tender Daddy

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A real man can be strong and tough and still be gentle, providing consoling hugs, kisses to heal boo-boos and  offering comforting, tender words for those he loves.

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Richard Armitage does a brilliant job of making John Porter believable as not just a tough, kick-ass SAS hunk, but as a loving dad, desperate to maintain a relationship with his little girl after his world falls apart. A dad who thinks of her when it looks like he may not get out of the latest adventure alive. A dad who cries with her even though they are thousands of miles apart . . .

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Look at how he so fully embraces her, at the contented smile on his face. How can you not believe? And love him just a little bit more.

The Power of a Character: Thorin conquers the world

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Richard smouldering into the camera during the shooting of the scene where he confronts the very-much-not-dead Pale Orc.

I’ve been reading the comments left over at DJ’s blog, Heirs of Durin, on a guest post by Anjy Roemelt celebrating the brotherhood and spirit of Thorin and his company of dwarves. I admit I especially enjoy the comments that pay homage to Thorin and to his Creator, Richard Armitage (yes, I know you are totally surprised at that).

I continue to be delighted over the impact this ChaRActer, and ultimately, the Creator, is having on people of all ages around the world.  Richard’s majestic presence, his use of body language and those mesmerizing eyes through which he is able to express so much about his character, not to mention that amazing, deep, rich voice–which simply cannot be replicated by dubbing actors, sorry.

Here’s what a German-speaking fan and mother of young children had to say. These comments are as written; I have italicized some passages.

(Melian commenting at Heirs of Durin on post “What’s So Special About These Dwarves?)

“I was in fear about the changing of Thorins character in part 3 when I started to deal with his character deeper but now I am not. To come closer to Thorins character made my understanding of his deeds and the reasons for as big that I cant imagine now to turn away from him because of his acts in the last part. I will feel with him and will be sorry and sad but I will not judge him, I am very sure of it

. What you told about perfection is the same I also think. Aragorn is perfect to adore him but too perfect to identify with him, he is a hero almost without faults and thats impossible to be. Another character in another movie told once a quote fitting well to that fact: “There are no perfect human beeings…only perfect intensions” (Azeem out of “Robin Hood, King of Thieves” Thats why we love Thorin: He is not as perfect, he has the same fault like we have, he does the same mistakes we do, he makes the same wrong decisions we make sometimes…and thats why he is our hero , a character so close to ours that we can see us in him…

I had to smile reading about your sons obsession….I have a son of now 8 and a daughter of 5…and both are infected with her mothers Hobbit-obsession, to the eyerolling amusement of my husband too. My son get read the book when he was 5 and he felt the end is sad and unfair…now he is reading the Hobbit himself…as the first book he will read ever….other children learn to reads with a fairy-tale maybe…..my son with Tolkien….lol….and he never forgot about the end!

After more than 2 years he remembered and brought up that subject again….and so his little sister realized about too…she was also crying then and telling thats terrible sad and unfair. I have to say both saw the movie (except the war-scenes I wiped out of course) and both loved it…they know most of the english scenes and the whole movie in German…although they cant speak english they understand all scenes and can speak in German what is happen in english…every evening they want to see some scenes…and want to speak about it.

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Both of them love Thorin…my daughter likes another figure every week but Thorin stays on the top…..and often she ask me about that end…WHY??? Knowing nothing about psychology, seeing a grumpy and harsh Thorin in the movie they even understand his essence…only by feeling… ..I found your part about the translation very good…they may use the right words but it is not the same!

First is that no German speaker is able to copy the deepth and expression of Richards voice…its not his fault because its simply impossible to reach….but some scenes have a totally changed atmosphere in German compared with the original, as Thorin and the Goblinking, the scene with the map and Elrond in Rivendell or even the Carrock-scene.

Since I saw it first time in english I adore Richard even more…his voice for acting is extraordinary like Freddy Mercury`s was for singing…nearly nobody could reach that score…It makes the beautiful parts even more beautiful …but the sad parts more sad too…”

A portion of Misty’s comment:

 ” . . . This is not the little story I expected, but something stunning, mesmerizing,
amazing, awesome.

Except that at the beginning, when Thorin entered at Bag End,
I thought, my goodness, this is a KING, with capital letters and with all what
it means, but then the way he talked to Bilbo looking down on him, disappointed
me for a few minutes and I thought that the much he looks awesome the arrogant
he is and if I have to be watching this guy for almost three hours I would go
mad.

And then came the scene when he says “I would take each and every one of
these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills” and that he had no choice, only
to make me realize that I have never been so wrong in all my life, and to be
angry with myself for judging by first impression.

And of course by the end of the film I was obsessed. And still I am.

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As much as I have never been with any
character in all my life and as much as I myself would have never expected. And
as you say, no sign of cooling down.

And this obsession is not only due to a handsome face (though it would of course

be foolish to deny that it adds a good deal). It is more due to Thorin’s character.

We do not fall in love with Aragorn
(or at least I never did – though of course liked him). Because he is so
‘perfect’, judging by human standards.

We fall in love with Thorin. Because he is not so ‘perfect’ by Aragorn’s standards.

But he is perfect for us. Because he is more HUMAN.

With all the nobility and flaws going with it. And HUMAN also
means having flaws, making mistakes sometimes, reacting to situations not always
in the best manner or as others would expect us… That is why he is so close to
us. And I think he can be loved even more for those.

He can be loved because he proved himself to deserve and be worth to be loved.

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So let me put it this way: I
would risk to take it even this far (and I have made a similar comment elsewhere
on the site): ‘king’ is a title, in the sense of ranks.

But primarily he is a person, just like you or me.

And are there any persons who never make mistakes?
And if your answer is no (I guess it is), then why criticize Thorin for making
mistakes?
I would not dare to quote what my husband says about all this,
especially now that my six-year-old (OK, almost seven) son has also become a
massive fan.

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He himself has seen the film at least three times (and me… I do not
even know now, how many times) and is still begging me to see it even more. And
he also asked me to read out the book for him. And he often comes up to me
saying: ‘Mom, let us talk about The Hobbit.’ And I try my best to explain him
things and he remembers them the next day, in three days time, in a week’s
time….

Of course after the film I could not wait to purchase the book and read
it both in the original and on my mother tongue. Imagine me, I did not know
before the film made me dig deep into the issue what the end of the story would
be, and I was totally shocked when I found out.

And imagine my son, when he
found out that they would die, he cried for like twenty minutes. And sometimes
he still asks me whether I was sure that it has to be this way, whether the film
could end differently…
After having seen the film in my mother tongue (of
course it was in Hungarian in the cinema) I could not wait either to watch in
the original, to hear the original voices (Richard’s is just mesmerizing), and
also to find out about the original words used, as sometimes they are not
properly translated or even if they are, I mean the words used in the
translation are correct, still they cannot reflect the same feeling (and I did
detect some).

My son, who does not speak English (yet – only a few words),
watched the film in Hungarian, but then he also watched it with me in English as
well, just to be part of the original.”

There are many more interesting comments at the blog, which is linked here:http://thorinoakenshield.net/2013/05/13/whats-so-special-about-these-dwarves/

I look at the growth in the fan base, seen through comments such as these, along with new FB pages, blogs and other social media devoted to Thorin Oakenshield, and I know that Richard’s dream of bringing this character to life on screen has been resoundingly successful.  I hope the newly obsessed will also go on to discover his work in earlier roles, to study Porter and North, Thornton and Gisborne, and outstanding turns in supporting roles such as John Standring in Sparkhouse, Ricky Deeming in George Gently and Percy Courtney in Marie Lloyd. Oh, such wealth there is to discover, my friends!

The Songwriter in Liberty Overalls: ‘Baptized into Music’

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A feature story written by yours truly that originally ran in Camellia Magazine, a publication of The Greenville Advocate.  My cousin is quite a talented fellow and good raconteur.  He gave my family a large collection of albums given to him by RCA early in his music career, when he was still concentrating on folk singing. As a small child, I listened to everything from Bing Crosby to the Ink Spots, the Chuckwagon Gang and Lester Lanin’s Orchestra “Waltzing on the Continent,” all thanks to Arthur Lloyd’s gift of music. I still have eclectic musical tastes . . . and some very interesting relatives.

 

The Songwriter in Liberty Overalls: ‘Baptized into Music’

Like the man himself, Butler County native Arthur Lloyd “Rock” Killough’s favorite pair of Liberty overalls has a story to tell.

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There’s a well-rubbed spot on the left pants leg of the faded blue fabric, a spot made by the body of his guitar resting there during an untold number of jam sessions, rehearsals and concerts.

Check out the musician and songwriter’s guitar and you’ll find a corresponding spot rubbed on the wood.

“I reckon I’ve had this pair of overalls for, oh – a good twenty-five years. They became my trademark. People expected to see me in them when I performed,” Killough says with a smile.

There’s a twinkle in his blue eyes when he talks about the subject that has dominated his life for six decades and counting: music.

“Mama always had the radio on at our house. I started singing in a trio with my parents when I was just seven or eight,” he recalls.

Killough and his dad Arthur Lloyd Sr., also known by the nickname “Rock,” and mother, Lurline, harmonized together at funerals, church singings, school events and more venues across Butler County and even further afield (the Killoughs were also a part of a group known as the Greenville Singers who performed on local radio stations).

“I liked singing the uptempo songs with Mama and Daddy, like ‘I’ll Fly Away.’ I liked the kickers. But I grew out of that,” Killough, who considers himself first and foremost a balladeer, recalls.

During the years Killough’s family lived in the country near his grandfather L.A. Killough’s big farm east of Greenville, he recalls walking to the home of a black couple, Tut and Celestine Marsh, to hear the “Game of the Week” on the radio.

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The old cotton barn on Rock’s grandfather’s farm, which became his Uncle Joe’s farm. Rock loved spending time with his aunt and uncle, and after moving to town, would tell his mother he had to “get his farmin’ britches on” to pay them a visit. “Aunt Ovie,” he said, “looked just like a movie star,” adding, “I just adored that woman.”

“It was usually the Brooklyn Dodgers playing – and they had some great black players on their team –  so folks would come from all around to listen, drink and talk. Some of them would bring their guitars, too, and play and sing together. That’s the first place I ever saw a slide guitar,” Killough says.

He pauses to lift his Auburn cap and run a hand over his close-shaven salt-and-pepper hair, a head once covered with dark curls.

“I guess you would have to say I was baptized into all kinds of music as a kid – gospel, big band, bluegrass, the blues, country. And I decided all I wanted to do was play and write my songs.”

He discovered songwriters like Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael . But it was that lanky local songwriter in the cowboy hat who struck a special chord in his heart.

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The legendary Hank Williams Sr., a native of Garland, Ala. Yours truly has sung live on the same stage where Hank debuted his new band, the Drifting Cowboys–the Ga-Ana Theatre.

“Here was Hank Williams, this guy from the woods, without a lot of formal education, and he was able to write songs that captured what ordinary people felt like. Guys like Porter and Mercer wrote about high society, and they were great. But Hank’s the one most people could relate to.”

He shrugs. “If I could have written songs like Johnny Mercer, I would have done it. But that wasn’t meant to be.”

Instead, Killough focused on penning country tunes, infused with touches of blues, gospel and even a little rock and roll along the way.

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The cover of Rock’s “Rusty Plows” album.

By the time he was “discovered” by Hall of Fame songwriter Hank Cochran, Killough was already a seasoned tunesmith.

“I was 33 when Hank took me with him to Nashville. They loved what I did and kept me there for ten years . . . but I never really felt I found a home for my music. So I hit the road,” he says.

And he loved performing live.

Songwriting, he says, is “a real kick. It’s better than a psychologist.” Killough nods.

“Songwriting is great.” He smiles with glee beneath his brushy white mustache as he throws his arms open wide.

“But actually being out there and playing for people – now, that is the real deal.”

Killough estimates he logged in more than one million miles traveling over a good chunk of the U.S.

One of the places he became a regular was the famed Flora-Bama Lounge, located on the Florida/Alabama line in Perdido Keys. It’s a musical partnership that started in the late 1980s.

“I got invited to come down there to the 3rd Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. I went and performed a couple of songs . . . the owner of the Flora-Bama, Joe Gilchrist, was someone I knew from college. I’ve been to every one since then,” Killough recalls.

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Almost leveled in a hurricane a few years ago, the Flora-Bama was rebuilt and is as popular as ever, still the home of the World Famous Mullet Toss.

“I told Joe I’d come down and play for him, and that’s where my band the Dixie Flyers came together. The Flora-Bama has never had a house band as such, but we played there as regularly as anybody.”

Killough discovered what it was like to hit it really big when he toured as the opening act for Willie Nelson in 1980.

“We traveled all over, playing at Madison Square Gardens, state fairs, you name it. That experience convinced me I did not want to be an artist, but a songwriter . . . there were fans everywhere wanting to meet Willie,” he says.

“Even at the hotels, the employees would be lined up with menus and napkins and what have you for him to sign. Sometimes he would stay holed up in his room just to get some peace.”

He pauses for a moment, lost in thought. “The difference is, Hank Williams could have gone anywhere, a restaurant, a movie theater, and nobody would have known who he was except in Nashville. I don’t think Willie could even go to the bathroom in peace.”

Killough pats his chest, shaking his head adamantly.

“I couldn’t live like that.”

And while he didn’t earn great fame and fortune in his musical career, Killough says he has no regrets.

“I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world. Not everybody gets to do what I’ve done, to earn a living using the talent God gave me. I got to meet great people along the way, like James Garner. Stayed at his house when Willie was filming ‘Honeysuckle Rose.’” Killough gestures toward the doorway.

“Garner is a big guy, as big as that doorway – but just the nicest fellow. I found out the bigger the stars, the nicer they usually are.” He peers over the tops of his wire-rimmed spectacles.

“It’s the ones on the way up that are so difficult.”

Killough chuckles. “One day I am gonna write a book, but I’ve got to wait for a few more folks to die first.”

When asked to name his favorites among the songs he’s written, he stops to think.

“Well – I do love ballads. ‘Still Loving You.’ ‘Absence of Love.’ Those are songs with stories, messages. And kids love ‘The Lord Will Provide,’ but I just arranged that one, I didn’t write it,” he says.

These days, the man who traversed the country playing his songs, who performed on “Austin City Limits” and had songs recorded by musical luminaries like the Oak Ridge Boys, Hank, Jr., Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Carole King and Sammy Kershaw, among other, is now a happy “house husband” with his wife of 25 years, Kandys, and also serves part-time as a bank courier.

“Now, if Kandys wants me to perform for the humane society, or something like that, fine. But my gigging days are over,” he says firmly.

Killough may not have pots of money, but he says he’s made a lot of friends during his life-long musical odyssey.

“There’s a good part of this country where I know I can travel and never have to pay for a hotel room or buy a meal. I’m one of the richest guys I know of. I’ve had a good life.”



Randy Travis performing a song written by my cousin.

Friday Diary on a Saturday: Canines, cotton barns, porches and–have you ever seen one of these?

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Friday was another beautiful if chilly day here in Lower Alabama. Our guests were still with us, as you can see.  They seem quite at home.

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Puppy continued to share those looks. Geez, they don’t call them “puppy dog eyes” for nothing, do they? Time for our walkies, boys (and girl)!

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The new grass, kelly green, that has sprouted in the recent rains, heralds the coming spring. That old barn, once used to store cotton from my grandfather’s vast fields, later to store wood shavings for the family’s poultry houses, is now a sort of large-scale dog house for the family canines. Weather-proof, it shields from rain and wind and provides a cozy bed courtesy of those same shavings.  Puppy just had to explore!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the brick front porch of the old farmhouse, which will be 75 years old in 2014. The house was built in the late 30s following a fire that destroyed the rambling two-story Victorian in which my daddy’s large family had grown up.  The fire (of mysterious origins. Arson was suspected but never proven) also took one of several barns and a shed with vehicles. My dad was in his teens when all this happened. A fear of fire never left him.

Even though the family was downsizing (most of the ten living children now adults and on their own) my grandfather still took the blueprints for the new house and had all the rooms enlarged and extra closets added–the Victorian house possessing a distinct lack of said conveniences.  And while the new farmhouse lacked the elegant wrap-around veranda of its predecessor, it did have three porches, one of them accessible from two of the house’s bedrooms (including my own).

Later, my father built a rather rustic wooden back porch. What it lacked in eye candy appeal,  it made up for in convenience. It was a perfect place for shelling peas and beans from the garden, dressing chickens from the poultry houses, and enjoying homemade ice cream and salted slices of watermelons plucked from the big deep freeze.

When my mother was still alive, our dogs used to enjoy commuting between the two houses, spending some time lounging on the cool bricks of the front porch on hot summer days.  My parents had a small ceiling fan installed years earlier to make it more comfortable for humans and canines alike.

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Rascal (he of the soulful cinnamon brown eyes) still enjoys stretching out on the farmhouse’s brick porch.

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I used to stretch out on this very–pillar?–what do you call the porch portions flanking the steps?–as a girl on summer Saturdays.  Armed with a Popeye fruit-flavored frozen treat and a good book, I would let the sun dry my freshly shampooed waist-length tresses.  My lips turned some peculiar shades of orange or purple as I lost myself in an engaging story . . .

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Elvis–who ain’t nothing but a hound dog. Well, one-quarter bloodhound and who knows what else! 😉

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As I said, it was another beautiful day!

But here’s the thing I am wondering if you’ve ever seen before . . .

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Yep, a genuine outhouse. This is located behind the chicken coop, the one where my grandmother once collected eggs ( I have her basket atop my kitchen cabinets). The coop is now the storage shed for the riding lawnmower.

I have no idea how far back this outhouse dates, but judging by the concrete pad for it and the toilet itself, it’s a more upscale 20th century form of privy.  The chicken coop is adjacent to what is known as the cook’s house or little house, so I am guessing it was built in the 2os or 30s when that house was constructed (a bathroom was added to a side porch at some point).

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For a short time after their marriage, my parents lived in the little house, which is built shotgun style, each room backing onto another. If you shot a gun through the front door, it would go straight through into the back door (or wall, in this case).  Meanwhile, back to the privy!

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The seat bears a plate stating it’s “odorless” and was manufactured in Andalusia, Ala. I didn’t lift the seat to test things out.

And yes, the farmhouse where I grew up had indoor plumbing, although my mom always wished for a second bathroom, what with three girls and periodic guests. 😉

Oh, Mama and her son are ready to move on!

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Catnap, anyone??

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My kitties had no trouble taking a nap this afternoon. Not that they have much trouble taking naps any old time.  Right now I’ve got Callie between the laptop and my chest. Hope she’s more comfy than I am. 😉  You will notice a couple of characters decided to snooze with them . . . on the unfolded laundry on bed. Well, a little cat hair hasn’t killed me yet!

 

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All in the (Dwarf) family

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Forget Grumpy, Sneezy and Dopey. We prefer Middle-earth’s fierce and gorgeous breed of vertically-challenged fellas.  Give us that breathtaking Uncle Thorin, the King Under the Mountain, and his two adorable sister-sons, Kili and Fili.

 

 

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As a new year approaches . . .

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New Year‘s Eve is almost here in LA, and it’s already arrived for some of you. And I am hoping you all have a wonderful beginning to the new year, and a wonderful year to come.

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Party animals that we aren’t, we plan a quiet one here, probably cuddled together, watching the countdown on TV. When we were growing up, Sister S and I used to pilfer a little of our dad’s Christmas libations to celebrate the New Year (Mogen David kosher wine, concord grape, was the drink of choice for this Southern Baptist, who largely limited his imbibing to a little Christmas cheer and a cold beer or two during haybaling season each summer).

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We’d pour it in a couple of our parents’ crystal champagne glasses and feel terribly elegant and slightly wicked. When the clock struck twelve, S and I would toast one another and clink our glasses together ever so carefully, just to hear that lovely ring.

Many people here in the South believe you have to start the new year off with the right foods. Traditionally, black-eyed peas and howl jowls (aka pork cheek) are believed to bring you good luck in the year to come. Add in some type of greens–collard greens the most typical choice–for prosperity. It IS the color of money here in the U.S. And you’ll likely want to add some cornbread. Not for good luck or riches. Just because peas practically demand it. 😀

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Left: A sign sighted in North Carolina. Right: A plate promising prosperity and luck in the new year, with black-eyed peas, cornbread, and greens.

I have a confession to make. I don’t really like black-eyed peas all that much. No, I don’t have to turn in my official GRITS (Girl Raised in the South) card. I love peas–I just prefer a different variety. Mama and Daddy raised pink-eyed purple-hulled peas every year in our garden, and these, firmer and slightly sweeter than the black-eyed variety, were, and are, my field peas of choice. Are these peas and ham or bacon any more or less lucky than their black-eyed, hog-jowled counterparts? I don’t know. I just prefer the way they taste.

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Above, the afore-mentioned purple-hulled peas, the photo courtesy of Alabama’s own Auburn University. NOT the school I support. 😉

Anyway, this year will soon be gone into the annals of history. Christmas is over and Santa is back at home, resting up after his oh-so-busy night. And he, like many of us, has a few companions who enjoy cuddling with him. I don’t think it’s too late to share this charming image with you:

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What a waste.

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A clammy sort of coldness settled in today, with a very good chance of more rain and thunder showers tonight. I’ve had a hard time staying warm and comfortable and my FMS is flared up.

My husband’s uncle, the one he has been helping look after, had to be transported to a larger hospital in Montgomery today. It appears a stent that was put in earlier may have become infected. Thankfully his only son has come down from Ohio so everything is not longer on Benny’s shoulders.  They are broad and sturdy shoulders, but they get tired, too.

Earlier I received news that a cousin had passed away this week. Ironically, we had just been discussing Cousin the weekend before Christmas during our holiday family time together.

In his youth, Cousin was one of most handsome men I’ve ever seen. Movie star handsome. Shining blonde hair with a smile that could have been used to sell toothpaste. Think young Robert Redford. Gorgeous, smart, charming, artistically gifted just like our grandmother. So much going for him.

Then came the drugs. And the descent.

Several years ago I saw him for the first time in years. Hollow-eyed, sunken-cheeked, gaunt. Long, untidy silver-white hair and a scruffy beard. Those once-beautiful eyes were unfocused, his speech, largely a near-incoherent mumble, something a little “off” about that once dazzling smile. Where had the promising young man with the stellar good looks gone?  He looked like a street person.

Cousin was considerably older than I am and we were not close. But I cannot help but cry a little tonight as I think of that wasted life.

And I am thankful that another clever, beautiful, talented man has not chosen to waste his life in the same way.

That thought somehow gives me hope.

Choccie, hugs, and pressies: Fedoralady’s Christmas 2012

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Got my replacement card reader today and thought I would share a few photos from the family Christmas in Birmingham. Some of this offers proof we share the same DNA.  Entered into evidence, these photos of my great-niece A licking the bowl after her auntie SB  finishes whipping up something chocolatey.

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Thirty-plus years ago, a little blonde-haired toddler absolutely adored her youngest aunt’s boyfriend. She couldn’t quite manage to pronounce his name, so she called him “Ben-jie.” And now that little blonde is all grown up and her little girl also adores that tall man with the sweet smile. Maybe one day, that dark-haired little girl’s child will feel the very same–although I am not sure “Ben-jie” will still  be able to lift the little one to touch the ceiling .

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Our lovely sixteen-year-old H seems very pleased with those Amazon and Target giftcards.

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We are all just a bunch of hams.

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Hope you all had wonderful Christmases with those near and dear to you.

I will not abjure from my Armitage avidity: TAE Words For the Day

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(Or abjure from alliteration, it appears.)

Yes, folks, it’s the day after Christmas and you get not one, but TWO words for the day here at The Armitage Effect.

Abjure: (verb, tr.) 1. to avoid or to abstain from. 2. to renounce under oath.

Avidity (noun) 1. enthusiasm or dedication. 2. eagerness; greediness.

Being without electricity for several hours due to the nasty storms that moved through last night, I was forced to abjure from any Richarding online (in the sense of being forced by circumstances beyond my control to abstain from it).

I certainly never seem to purposefully avoid Richarding. And if Richarding were made illegal–oh, don’t even go there!–and I was asked to renounce all Richarding–

Well. As I said, I do not even want to go there.

Avidity for Armitage? Oh yes, that I will gladly claim.  I am an enthusiastic, eager, dedicated and ardent Armitage aficionado.

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I try very hard not to be greedy about it. But when we are in the midst of a long drought, one does long for anything–a new pic or an old one that’s been unearthed; a snippet from an interview, a fresh quote about him from one of his fellow cast or crew members.

Of course, we’ve been inundated in recent weeks with Armitage goodies–so much I admit I haven’t kept up at times. And, not wanting too many spoilers for the film, I started avoiding (abjuring!) watching the new Hobbit spots.  At times I feel a tad overwhelmed–but I am not complaining. I will simply stretch out my enjoyment.

But I can never stay away from Mr. Armitage’s many charms–his talent, charisma, beauty, humor, sex appeal, sweetness–and the chance to share them and discuss them with fellow aficionados for very long.

I just can’t abjure from my Armitage avidity, it seems.

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Christmas Greetings from our Furry Friends

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BeFunky_Impressionist_2christalliebrown  Pictured above is our beautiful, sweet and slightly skittish Calico, Callie. She showed up at our house one day several years ago,  a half-feral kitten, hungry but not very trusting of humans. Over time we gained that trust. Today,  she is one very contented and affectionate (if slightly nervous) house cat–currently snuggled up next to her mom, purring softly.

All our pets over the years have been rescue animals, either adopted from an animal shelter or taken in as strays. May I encourage anyone considering adding a pet to their home in 2013 to consider finding a “fur-ever friend” through a shelter or rescue group.  There are rescue groups devoted to certain breeds, so if a Bassett Hound or  a French Poodle is your preference,  there’s likely a pure-bred friend out there waiting for you if you are willing to go to a bit of time and trouble to adopt.

And trust me–blended friends like Elvis, the hounddog mix seen below, make great pets, too. And please spay and neuter your cats and dogs to help fight against pet overpopulation problems in our country!

(PS Our German Sheperd (Alsatian) mix Rascal was too busy trying to greet his mom with kisses to pose for a photo . . .)

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Yes, we occasionally do get snow in LA. This was shot in February 2010. Our three dogs at the time had never before seen the white stuff.

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Thumper Cat, the three-legged, roly-poly tuxedo cat with a Hitler mustache is grateful for photo editing. No being forced by Mom to wear a miniature Santa hat! Thumper nearly lost her life as a tiny kitten after being mauled by a dog. She lost that leg, but not her spirit. We’ve had her now for close to 12 years. From our furry family members to yours, a very Merry Christmas and a 2013 full of hope, joy and love.

My Homely, Homey, Home-Made Sort of Christmas Tree . . .

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First thing this morning, streaks of pink and orange crossing the sky, a touch of frost on the grass. It’s cold and I am bleary-eyed from too little sleep.

Time to go and fetch a Christmas tree, a real one for the first time in years, and the first real tree that wasn’t purchased for charitable support of some sort. Nothing shipped in from a Christmas tree farm. Just a home-grown number.

I pull on a lightweight sweater and my jeans and put on my Elf Shoes Version 2.0.–red hi-top Nikes with one glittery green lace and one green-and-white-striped lace. I grab my newly washed red fleece cape with the hood–yes, call me Not-so-Little Red Riding Hood. I’m still cold so I grab my sequined Santa hat and pop it on my head. My husband walks by as I adjust it in front of the bathroom mirror and gives me a look.

“You don’t have to get glammed up for this, you know.”

“I know. Got to wear something. Figured I might as well look festive. ‘Tis the season and all that.”

My Glitzy Santa Cap, perfect for a bit of Christmas tree hunting, yes?

My Glitzy Santa Cap, perfect for a bit of Christmas tree hunting, yes?

Even with the cape, I am chilled. I grab a sweater. Of course, it is a Christmas cardigan, with festive appliques and embroidery. You can’t see it under the cape, but I know it’s there.  I tug on my black knit gloves with the soft chenille cuffs and I am ready to go.

We drive up and down the dirt road in our Jeep, windows rolled down to check out what’s available, heater blasting to take the edge of the morning chill.  We’re looking for a cedar.

“Too tall.”

“Right size–oh, really lop-sided.”

Benny points and grins. “How about that one?”

It’s a sprout. A little better than a Charlie Brown tree, but not much.

Pig Pen and Charlie with his homely little tree.

Pig Pen and Charlie with his homely little tree.

“I think we can do better than that.”

“This one’s nice.” We get out to inspect it. It’s full–very full. Not sure it will fit into the alloted space in the living room. And I honestly don’t want something as big as our artificial tree. FMS body is demanding I scale back.

Back into the Jeep, our eyes peeled for other candidates. Finally, we decide on one. It’s not perfect, but it will work, its size much more manageable for me. Benny cuts it down with an old hand saw. I hold the saw for him as he lifts the tree to place it on the rack atop the Jeep.

“This was Daddy’s, wasn’t it?” He nods in the affirmative as we tie it down with a bungee cord.

I remember hunting for Christmas trees back in my childhood and smile as I look at the saw with its slightly rusted handle.”Daddy never cut down the tree we chose. He knew better . . .  and there was always a huge bald spot. Never failed.”

Fast forward about 12 hours. Benny helps me sort through the lights and find working strands. I’d always gone for white lights in the early days of our marriage. But Benny recalled the colored lights of our childhoods so warmly and wistfully.  I’d bought colored lights a few years ago–and one strand of genuine Noma Bubble Lights just for him to enjoy.  Very retro.

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We have–lots of ornaments. I love Christmas and collecting Christmas items of all sorts. We’ve had a 7 1/2 foot artificial tree in the past, very full, with lots of branches.

Everything won’t fit on this smaller, wispier tree. And with its slightly assymetrical look, its homeliness and fewer, more delicate branches, it seems to me myfaceted beaded garlands, opalescent glass spheres, delicate angels and other breakable ornaments should stay put in their boxes. They are made for a showier tree.

This year it will be starched white crochet snowflakes, comical clothespin reindeer, cross-stitched ornaments made by yours truly, Olde Worlde cloth-covered styrofoam balls, handkerchief angels . . . a homey, homely, handmade sort of Christmas.

Well, except for one thing. We cannot find our angel tree topper. We try out one of our old-fashioned Santa figures but it’s just too heavy.

What to do?

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Just had to glam it up a little, you know. ‘Tis the season, y’all. And now my tired old body begs for a hot shower with some lavender vanilla body wash to help me relax. Hoping for sweet dReAms.

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Now I wouldn’t leave you without some Armitage beauty, either.  ‘Tis always the season for THAT.

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