Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tennessee Woman Gives Birth to 7 Pound Tomato

I am including a photo of the newspaper article that tells about the first-ever birth of a tomato to a human female.  If I didn't include the article from today's Knoxville News-Sentinel, no one would believe me.  Hells bells---I scarcely can believe it myself.
Click to Enlarge
Yes, a Rutledge, Tennessee woman, Jessica Stokes, 25, gave birth to a 7 pound, 2 ounce bouncing baby tomato at 2:34 PM Saturday.  Apparently, both mother and tomato are healthy and resting comfortably following the delivery.

Doctors are at a loss to explain how a tomato was born to a human being.  University of Tennessee botany professor Jenny Ramos is quoted as saying, "In the wild, tomatoes originally required cross-pollination.  They later developed the ability to self-fertilize.  Usually this happens in soil, though."  Hmmm.

Ironically, Stokes and her husband, Daniel were attending the Grainger County Tomato Festival when she began experiencing contractions.  They have named their new baby "Noah".  Noah is the first known piece of fruit born to a human in the state of Tennessee.

Stokes says that "He poops, he cries, he sleeps---so far he's a pretty typical kid, except for the tomato thing."

Friday, July 29, 2011


I was reading from Thomas Wolfe's 1932 collection of short stories, "From Death To Morning" last night.  What an incredible writer he was!   His stories always have some deeper meaning---themes that haunt me and make me think for days and even months following my reading of them.

The story I read yesterday was entitled "Death the Proud Brother".   It is a story that deals with death, and how it is such an important and ubiquitous part of life.  It is not something to be feared or repressed.  It should be accepted.  After all, it is something that we diverse human beings all have in common.  We may think we are very different in color, weight, height, culture, faith, and so on; but we are all going to eventually pass on through the silent halls of death.  Our final moments may come with a crawl or a pounce, but death is unavoidable and natural.

It got me to thinking about those close to me whose deaths I have experienced---my dad, my grandparents, and a few others.  Looking back on those experiences, with the 20/20 hindsight of time, I can say that, while their deaths were a sad time, I realized deep down that it was all part of God's plan.

Of course, I never experienced a death of a loved one that was tragically sudden and unexpected.  That kind of death would necessarily require a longer and more intense period of grieving.

In my dad's case, he was 81 when he died in a hospital bed, his immediate family gathered around.  He had been ill for months, his condition deteriorating daily, until the final moments occurred.

My mom stood at the head of his bed, stroking his brow and speaking soft, loving words.  My brother and I and our wives stood watching, tears slowly falling.  After we heard his last breath, a doctor came to the room to pronounce him dead.  After examining him, she asked, "Would you like me to summon a preacher for you?"

Everyone in the group shook their heads---no.  Except me, that is.  I said I thought it would be helpful to hear some words of faith.

My Mom and Dad, Circa 1943
The man of God appeared a few minutes later.  He asked about dad's life and what kind of man he was.  Then, we all joined hands and the man of God said a meaningful prayer of comfort.  We all agreed later that the man of God had been very helpful to our emotional states.  
My Dad and His Sister, Circa 1940
Death is a proud brother, says Thomas Wolf.  It is a brother of sleep.  It is with us always.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is Home?

A few days ago I posted a blog about a visit to my mom's retirement home.  I mentioned that she does not consider her little apartment there to be "home" in the traditional sense.  She says it is a pleasant and safe place to live out her days, but that she thinks of home as where she and my dad spent their years raising their family.

It got me to thinkin'.  There are many ways of thinking of "home". 

It could be a place you lived as a child, where your memories are warm and where your thoughts come alive when you picture it in your mind.

It could be visions of your loved ones---where they are at any particular time is where you consider "home".

It could be where you exist at any time on this earth.

It could be a specific time frame of your life---one that you consider the most nurturing and formative.

It could be that "home" is the final spot reserved for you in the next life.

What is "home" to you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strokes and High Blood Pressure.......

My friend Sara G, at Survivable Life, has prompted me to write today's post on my experience with a potentially life-threatening issue---hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Take a look at Sara's blog.  She suffered a devastating stroke because of high blood pressure.  She is making a courageous recovery, but not without much suffering and pain to herself and her family. 

Seventeen years ago, I applied for life insurance.  The life insurance company sent a nurse out to my home to get a medical history and take my blood pressure as part of the application process.

My health has always been excellent.  Good genes, I guess.  My blood pressure had always been lower than the recommended 120/80.  So, I had no worries about the exam at all.

It was like a thunderbolt when the nurse informed me that my blood pressure was 185/115.  I didn't believe it.  I made her take another reading.  Same result.  She advised me to "get to a doctor now!"

I did.  And thus began my education regarding hypertension. 
First of all, I thought the doctor would be able to tell me WHY my BP was suddenly so high.  After all, there was no history of this in my family.  But, after a thorough examination, he could not say why.  He explained that there are many, many factors involved.  Although I was not particularly overweight at the time, he advised me to lose ten or fifteen pounds.  He advised me to get daily exercise.  He started me out on a mild BP drug.

I returned to see him six weeks later.  I had lost ten pounds and was exercising and was taking my meds.  My BP was then 160/98.  The treatment was not working.

He put me on a stronger med.  A month later my BP was 150/92.  Still, not nearly good enough. 

Then, I took matters into my own hands and went to a cardiologist, who prescribed a combination drug that dropped my pressure to 128/84.  That was more like it!  All of this time, I was worried about suddenly having a stroke.  Basically, what happens with untreated hypertension is that the constant high pressure eventually causes a blood vessel to burst in the brain (stroke) and this results in all kinds of things from paralysis to death.  You definitely want to avoid this!

The good news is that hypertension can be easily managed with no side effects with the proper meds.  The bad news is that many folks just avoid going to the doctor.  Either they do not know they have high BP, or they think their high BP is really no problem because they "feel" fine.  Either one of those bad choices can get you paralyzed or dead.

A few times a week, I check my BP at home using my $50 Omron BP meter.  It takes 30 seconds.  For the past 15 years or so, my BP has been running pretty constant at 138/78.

My friends, if you are not aware of your BP, please check it---and get treated if it is high.  You do not want a stroke.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Deep Thoughts About Old Folks.......

Front:  Mom.  Back Row (L--R) Cindy, Me, Grandson Clint
Clint and Daughter Diane
Good Monday morning, gentle readers.  I have been away this  weekend with Cindy, visiting my mom in her retirement community near Atlanta.  We departed Knoxville on Friday afternoon and returned home yesterday evening.

Grandson Clint and Son-In-Law Ron
While visiting, my daughter, Diane came to spend a few hours with us, as well on Saturday.  My grandson, Clint, and Diane's husband, Ron, were also in attendance---and we had a blast. 

Had a nice lunch in the formal dining room of the facility, and then repaired to mom's apartment for more convo before Diane and her brood headed back to Augusta, a short 2-hour jaunt to the east.

Las Vegas Night at The Ole Retirement Center!!!
Saturday evening, mom's social calendar included a "Las Vegas/Casino Night" for the elderly residents.  The poster that advertised this event read "What happens here, STAYS HERE!"  Ha.  I certainly hope so, since most of the residents are in their 80s and 90s.  My mom is 88 going on 24.
Cindy (3d From Left) Tries Her Luck at Blackjack

And the Food Was Superb
As the gala night progressed, with wonderful food, gaming tables, and live music featuring Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson impersonators, my thoughts began to turn inward and the realization began to settle in that retirement villages such as this one are remarkable places---and for more reasons than one.

"I Lost Her To the Summer Wind..."

"Wise Men Say Only Fools Rush In...."

"I Just Can't Wait to Get on The Road Again..."

First of all, virtually all of the residents know very well that this is most certainly their last "home" on this earth.  My mom says she could never think of it as "home" though.  She says it is a wonderful, comfortable place to live out her days, but she thinks of "home" as the house we lived in for 30-something years as a family, with my dad, brother and me, and all our pets and friends over the years.

These old folks are a strong bunch.  Most of them are single, having lost a beloved spouse years ago.  Some live there as couples, nurturing each other through difficult and illness/afflicted old age.

And yet, with the knowledge that life's end is near and the future uncertain, there is a strength and inner peace to these remarkable people that causes me to admire and marvel.

There is humor, too---if you can call it that---in the daily face of death.

When my mom was notified recently that her friend, "K" had passed away in her apartment at the age of 92, she said:

"Ohhh, no!....I loved "K".  Awww....what a shame". 

Then, after a pause of deep thought, she added this:  "Oh well...that does free up a parking space...."

On the first floor of the facility is a table.   On this small and very important table there is news of the day.  When one of the residents dies (which happens very often in a place like this), a single rose is placed on the table in honor of the deceased.  With the rose, a small obituary is included.  Needless to say, the table is visited by the residents daily as they strive to keep up with the latest passings of their friends.

Recently, a mistake was made.  A bad mistake.  However, in the scheme of things it has been laughed about by everyone.  It seems that management of the facility placed a rose and an obituary column on the table---but the male resident they announced was dead was actually still very much alive.  When news of his passing reached him and his wife, they were pretty shocked.  It was also kind of cool, they said, when his wife began receiving condolence cards from their friends.  Ha.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Huh? Say What? Hmmm....Government Must Be Involved........

One of my favorite esteemed bloggers, Texwis Girl of Run-A-Round Ranch Report , often reports on the multitude of wildlife denizens that frequent her ranch.  One of my favorites is the Barred Owl.  Lovely creature.
Barred Owl
But now comes word that our government is considering shooting  these majestic birds in California's Muir Woods.  Yes, pointy headed scientists have determined that they are encroaching on the habitat of Spotted Owls; and Spotted Owls, you see dear reader, are an endangered species.  Yes, you heard me right---Spotted Owls are not losing range to logging interests; they are losing it to another owl.  And, like all birds of prey, both Barred and Spotted owls are protected by ...... you guessed it---federal law.  The government giveth and the government taketh away.
Spotted Owl
Oh---rest easy, gentle readers.  The government assures us that the Barred Owls will not be shot.  They will be subjected to "on-site lethal removal".  Gosh, I feel better about this already. 

Kinda' like when feral hogs were being removed from the Great Smoky Mountains.  The government assured us ignorant citizens that the hogs would not be left in the fields to rot.  No, they would be "recycled by natural processes."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wisdom is Where You Find It.......

Before I get to my topic today, I want to say thanks to everyone who expressed support for my case of poison ivy.  My visit to the doc yesterday was special.  Of course, this was the first time I had  been to this clinic, and my new doctor and I seemed to really hit it off.  We both play guitar and sing.  We both write songs.  We both love history.  We are both Christians.   We spent 2 minutes talking about my poison ivy affliction and 40 minutes discussing the stuff we both love.  Then, he gave me a prescription for Prednisone, and it is already kicking the H out of my problem.  Praise the Lord.

On to the main topic of today's blog.......

I got to my workout facility this morning at 6:00.  I was mindlessly lifting weights when I slowly became aware of the radio station DJ talking between songs.  Usually, the workout music and the comments of the DJ are nothing more than unconscious noise to my ears.  But today, the DJ's words took on true meaning for me:

---Do you ever feel like you are unappreciated?  What do you do during those times?  Do you sulk?  Do you become depressed?  Do you get down on yourself?  Are you hard to get along with?

---In my life, I have exhibited all of those negative traits when I feel others are not appreciating me.

---But it finally occurred to me that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  And I found that when I give appreciation to others, it actually fulfills my need for appreciation.  Sounds crazy, but it works like magic.

---I compare it to Christmas time, when the joy of giving to others makes me feel so much better than receiving gifts for myself.

Wow.  I've been thinking about that, and it makes a lot of sense.  I guess all of us feel down about things from time to time.  I think I'll take this DJ's advice, and begin to consciously combat my negative feelings by giving more support to others.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Poison Ivy.......

Happier Times---Pickin' Blackberries on July 5
On July 5, as regular readers of this blog may recall, I wrote of my giddy experience of picking blackberries in my back yard.  Oh, what a wonderful cobbler we enjoyed!
Poison Ivy's Distinctive Leaves are Grouped in Threes, With Each Leaf Featuring a Notch
But, on July7, two days later, a small but tell-tale rash appeared on my right arm.  And, although the rash was only a single and seemingly inconsequential bump, I knew from experience that it was a harbinger of very nasty things to come.
My Right Forearm Today
I foolishly put off going to the doc, hoping that my body could just "fight it off".   But, apparently, when the good Lord made poison ivy, He had no intention of it being a harmless little plant.  In fact, it can cause misery like you wouldn't believe.
My Left Arm Has Just Begun to Show Involvement
Well, here we are 15 days later, and my body is hurtin'.  My right arm is covered up with the rash, which has now spread to other parts of my body, and there is no end in sight.
This Is a Shot From Google Showing What CAN OCCUR if Left Untreated
Since we just moved here, I do not have a doctor, nor do I know of any.  So, yesterday I got on-line and located one who is near our home.  I have an appointment for this afternoon. I know that Prednisone will knock this stuff  out quickly, so I can't wait to get a prescription and have it filled.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gatlinburg, The Crown Jewel of the Great Smoky Mountains.......

The Great Smoky Mountains at Dusk

Gatlinburg is Nestled Between Ridges and Peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains

Last Sunday was a lazy least until I unexpectedly (even to myself) blurted out at 9:00 AM, "Let's go to Gatlinburg today!"
Chapman Highway Scene---Kudzu Covers All
You never saw such a hustle and bustle of excitement from Cindy!
Chapman Highway Scene---The Smokies Loom Ahead!
We love spur-of-the-moment trips!  And, with the beautiful mountain town of Gatlinburg only an hour and a half away, it is a wonderful getaway for the day.
We Passed Dolly Parton's Theme Park

The Titanic Sails Again in Pigeon Forge
We loaded our small ice chest, stocked with Gatorade, water and diet 7-up (no absinthe!), binoculars, cameras and a few snacks and headed south on I-75, following the storied Chapman Highway to Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, past Dollywood and over country roads to the Great Smoky Mountains Park and its crown jewel---Gatlinburg.

The Little Pigeon River Tumbles Through Gatlinburg
We arrived around noon, and Gatlinburg was open for business. The Little Pigeon River sang its gurgling, babbling song to us as we entered the town.  The burg was packed with summer vacationers.  The many lodges, hotels, inns and B and Bs were crammed.  The sidewalks were alive with the nation's tourists---after all, the Great Smoky Mountains make up the country's largest and most visited national park.
You See Many Strange Folks on the Streets
The Cinderoo and I cruised the main drag and finally found a parking space at the far end of town.  Time for some serious walking!
Pullin' Taffy at a Street Candy
Makin' Moonshine!  Cindy Had a Taste and Said "HI-DEE-HO!!!"
It was hot---93 degrees.  And yet, we were in our heaven.  For five hours we made our way up one side of the main street to the end and then navigated our way back down the other side.  We went inside many shops.  I bought a leather hat that I intend to perform in at my concerts.  Cindy got some things for her hair.

I Tried To Fool Around When Cindy Wasn't Lookin'.   Note the .38 Special in Her Right Hand
We stopped at one of the restaurants and ate a light repast.  We were tired and sweaty. 

I'm Tired!
But the lure of the old Smoky Mountains had called, and we had answered.  That night, visions of rushing mountain streams, jagged peaks, black bears, moonshine, the Cherokee, and Appalachia filled our heads as we slept.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweepin' Up.......

A few nights back, around 1:15 AM, Cindy was having trouble sleeping and got up to do some reading.  I briefly awoke, and within about a minute I was again half asleep.  It was then that an explosion rocked our house...BOOOM!!!

I thought, in my decreased mental function, that the blast came from within the house...that Cindy had somehow blown up the living room.

Before I could react, she came rushing into the bedroom, very excited, saying that a gun blast had gone off in our back yard.  She said she heard a woman scream as the blast occurred.

She called 911.  The cops came out and prowled around in the dark and, of course, could find nothing at all. 

I expected to find a body of a woman in our back yard the next morning, but nada, zip, nuthin'.  A mystery.

Then, yesterday, I thought I smelled that distinctive odor of natural gas in the master bedroom.  Cindy smelled it, too.  We had never experienced that odor before in this home, so we did what we had to do---called the KUB gas company that provides service to our area.  We called the emergency number; but, of course there was no answer.  Can you believe that?  An emergency number that has no answer.  Well, I guess nothing surprises me any more.

OK---called 911 again.  They sent the fire department out to investigate.  They brought two trucks and four firemen.  Sirens blaring, air horns honking...they were not subtle in their approach.
Firemen Discuss the Situation in Our Front Yard
The firemen entered our home at 9:00 PM and stayed 10 minutes inside before going outside and exploring around the house for gas leaks.  They detected no gas leaks.  Nada, zip, nuthin'.

They advised us to go get a gas/carbon monoxide detector (we have multiple smoke detectors in place) immediately.

We went to Wal-Mart last night at 10:00 and purchased one.  So far, although we continue to smell a faint odor of natural gas, the detector has had nothing to say on the matter.  We have not detected this smell before yesterday, so we cannot imagine why we smell it now while the detector does not.  Sigh.

TOMORROW---Gatlinburg, The Crown Jewel of the Great Smoky Mountains

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two Things.......

Ponder this.......


** Pythagorean theorem: .................................................... 24 words.

** Lord's prayer:.....................................................................66 words.

** Archimedes' Principle: ................................................... 67 words.

** 10 Commandments: ...................................................... 179 words.

** Gettysburg address: ...................................................... 286 words.

** Declaration of Independence : ....................................1,300 words.

** US Constitution with all 27 Amendments : ................... 7,818 words

** US Government regulations on sale of cabbage: ....... 26,911 words.

And this.......


An interesting letter in the Australian Shooter Magazine which I quote:

"If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the past 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

"The firearm death rate in Washington, DC is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period.

“That means you are about 25 percent more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. capital, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the U.S., than you are in Iraq

Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Absinthe Before and After.......

So many of my devoted friends have asked me how the absinthe (the topic of yesterday's blog) turned out.
Me Before Drinking Absinthe
Well, Cindy and I decided to try it yesterday before dinner.  She  had a small glass of the stuff; but I decided to really try it.  While Cindy had a petite little flute full, Clint poured a man-sized 60 ounces or so.  I'll show a woman how to drink.
My 60 OZ Vat of the Potion and Cindy's Puny Little Glass
Cindy Prepares to Taste Absinthe For the First Time
I guess I didn't read my own blog about the potency of the wormwood plant and the extremely high alcoholic content of the magical elixir. 
My First Taste of Absinthe

You talk about hallucinating.  You talk about out-of-body experience.  You talk about trips to Mars.
Me After Drinking Absinthe
Of course, I remember little of it.  Woman tells me I recited all of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and was able to correctly figure square roots in my head and give her the answer within 3 seconds.

Unfortunately, she took a few pics to prove that I had been severely transformed during this episode.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Yesterday, Cindy presented me with a bottle of Absinthe.  This lore-laden potion has an incredible history---filled with tales of extra-sensory experiences, other-worldly bad trips and warnings of ghostly premonitions.

Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic (45%---74%) beverage.  It is an anise flavored spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia Absinthium, or "Grande Wormwood", together with green anise and sweet fennel.
It is sometimes mistakenly called a liquer, but since it is not bottled with added sugar it is therefore properly referred to as a "spirit".

Absinthe achieved its greatest popularity in late 19th and early 20th century France, especially among writers and artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire and many others.

Absinthe has been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug.  By 1915, it was banned in the United States and most of Europe.  By 1995, it had been removed as a banned substance in most countries, recognizing that it is no more dangerous than ordinary alcoholic beverages.

The partaking of absinthe is often a fun, ritual-filled event involving specially made spoons and drinking glasses, sugar cubes and cold water for preparation.  Enjoy!

Prepared in a Special Glass, With Special Spoon, Sugar Cube and Cold Water