Lemons or Lemonade?

I’m sure you have all heard the expression, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  The meaning behind that old adage is that being a victim of any given circumstance is often a choice.  For example, let’s say you win $1000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket and before you can blow that money on something fun, your car breaks down and it costs $989 to repair it.  There are two ways to look at this…

  1. We can play the victim and react with a negative attitude of, “Every time I get a little extra money, something breaks!” or…
  2. We be thankful and react with a grateful attitude of, “Every time something breaks, I get a little extra money!”

See the difference? 


Life has served us a big dump truck of lemons recently and we’re having to make a whole lot of lemonade with it.  We had some water damage to the hardwood floors around an interior chimney.  This damage occurred in a small room that we never use.  The floors were covered with a large area rug, so we did not know the extent of the damage until we moved all the furniture out and rolled up the rug.  It was bad.  

Years ago, we had the underside of our floors sprayed with closed-cell foam.  The guys who sprayed the foam on the bottom of the floor also sprayed it on the brick surface of this interior chimney, from the floor all the way down to the foundation.  This plugged up all weep holes and effectively sealed the masonry structure so that water could not escape.  Over time, water accumulated in the structure and had no where to escape until it reached the top of the foam.  Then it had an escape path over the top of the foam, beneath our floors. 

To shorten this story a LOT, suffice it to say that Nationwide sent an engineer down to determine the entry point of the water and his ridiculous claim is that our crawlspace is excessively damp and this “dampness” somehow managed to penetrate through 6 inches of closed-cell foam and a layer of asphalt roofing paper to warp our hardwoods and rot the subfloor beneath them.  This “engineer” never even examined our crawlspace, but none-the-less, Nationwide has denied our claim based on his report which has led me to hire my own engineer and a lawyer.  We will settle this in court, but until then, I must make these repairs myself and pay for these expenses out-of-pocket.  How much?  I don’t know, but ServePro, who specializes in water damage repairs, estimated the costs at approximately $23,000.  That’s a LOT of lemons!!!!

So how do we make lemonade from that?  It would be so easy to despair and very difficult to view this as anything but a major catastrophe but, it’s quite simple.  Changing one word does the trick….

From:  This is a major catastrophe.

To:  This is a major remodel.


For years my wife has been wanting to open the den up to the adjacent room by tearing out a built-in entertainment center and bookcase.  Sounds simple but doing this would require tearing out existing crown molding, patching the ceiling, re-routing electrical wires and HVAC ductwork, tearing out baseboard and existing hardwood floors, patching sheetrock, putting trim back up, putting new floors down, and repainting everything.  This was a job I did not want to undertake, not only because of the costs involved, but also because of the time and effort.  But now I must do it, so we are shopping for new floors, picking out new colors, new rugs, and new curtains.  We are planning on whitewashing the brick and building a floor-to-ceiling mantle in the den as well as hanging a new exterior door to boot!

The point of this story is that this “tragedy” that should have brought us “despair” has turned into an “opportunity” that is bringing us “joy”.  You know what month this is?  That’s right!  It’s November and you know what holiday we celebrate in November?  This year, count your blessings.  Look for something positive in everything life throws your way.  Choose to be thankful and grateful.  They are the two key ingredients in the recipe for happiness.


“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude.  It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”  ~ Anonymous



October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came –
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples, 
And leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.
Then, in rustic hollow,
At hide-and-seek they played,
The party closed at sundown,
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly “hands around.”

~ George Cooper


Hometown Happy

I love my hometown of Pickens.  Whenever I checkout at Walgreens, Doris always greets me with, “Well hey Dale!  How are you doing?”  I tell her I’m doing fine and then I inquire how she is faring.  She tells me what’s going on in her life and then she asks, “How’s Willie doing?”  (Willie is my dad)

I leave there and run by Bee Well Natural Market to get some coffee or deliver some eggs.  Adrian always me asks about Mister Boone, my oldest son’s miniature schnauzer.  I ask her about her recent family hikes she’s posted on Instagram.  We chit chat for a while and more often than not I leave with a free coffee which, by the way, is brewed from beans that are woodfire roasted in small batches by Trey, a super nice guy who works for the forestry service down the road in Pumpkin Town.  His coffee business is called Silva Coffee.  Look them up.  Their coffee is hands down the best I’ve ever had.

General Store

Anyhow, you get the gist.  Small hometown, everyone knows everyone.  Well, almost.  The town is growing by leaps and bounds and becoming more “artsy” every year.  We have a craft brewery on Main Street called Appalachian Ale House and another one at the end of town called South Cack.  South Cack offers a charcuterie board although I’d bet most of my hometown folks have no idea what a charcuterie board is.  And that segues me to my story. 

This evening, Melody and I went to eat at a new café on Main Street called Revyve.  It’s more than just a café, it is a juice bar, a coffee shop, and a boutique as well.  Very quaint, and they offer a charcuterie board too!  That’s two places in Pickens where you can get a charcuterie board.  Who woulda thunk it?

Anyhow, this was our second time eating there and we both ordered the same thing we had the first time.  Melody got the chicken-salad croissant with chips, and I got the chicken-salad salad.  While we were eating, Dr. Pam comes in to pick up supper for her and her husband, Steve.  She places her order and then comes to sit with us and talk.  She also picked up a piece of pumpkin cake from the counter and ordered a cup of coffee which she brought back to the table to eat while waiting for her order.  We had a great time catching up on some gossip and laughing.  Dan, who works down the road at Farm Bureau, walked by and saw us through the window.  He popped in to say hello and talked for a little bit.  After Dan left, they brought Pam the food she ordered for supper and sat it on the table.  Pam proceeded to finish her cake and coffee, and continued fellowshipping with us.  We were all having a great time, but then suddenly Pam jumps up and says, “I gotta go, I got someone waiting in car for me and I forgot all about them.” She grabbed up her food and rushed out, leaving her pocketbook hanging on the back of the chair.  The funny thing is, she was parked in front of the café, so the lady waiting in the car could see her inside eating cake, drinking coffee, laughing, and having a great time.  We called her and told her she left her pocketbook and we met her at her office to give it back to her.  We had a good laugh about it. 

Off to School

The other day, I watched a video on YouTube that was made on Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Watch it if you get a chance. It will make you appreciate your small hometown and you’ll quickly realize it’s good-living in a small town and it’s good living in a small town.  

And who knows?  We might get adventurous one day and try one of them charcuterie boards. I’ll probably call it a chartootery board when we order it, just to embarrass Melody.

“In small towns as well as large, good people outnumber bad people by a hundred to one.  In big towns the hundred are nervous.  But in small towns, it’s the one.”  ~ Paul Harvey


Thirty Days Hath September

Remember this poem?


Or did you count off the months on your knuckles to see which ones had 31 days and which ones had 30 days?

Ever heard of the expression, the “ber” months?  September, October, November, and December?  Every year, especially after a brutal August, I am ready for the “ber” months.  This year is no exception.  We have had so much rain and so much heat this year, that it feels like we have been living in a tropical rain forest, but hurricane Ida blew the heat and humidity away, giving us a brief respite and a small taste of autumn.  It was glorious.

Southward Bound (John Sloan Art)

I had a doctor’s appoint last Friday and now I am having emergency surgery Wednesday.  That’s another story, but the doctor sent me home and told me not to do anything.  No lifting, no physical activity, I was not even allowed to ride the lawn mower to cut grass!  However, the following morning was so cool and refreshing I could not resist a slow and leisurely stroll down our driveway.  The early signs of autumn are everywhere, I just have not been looking for them.  The black walnut trees have dropped their nuts, wrapped in fat green hulls all over the ground and their leaves are showing hints of yellow.  Dogwood trees are also changing, morphing from green to a dark russet red.  I can smell muscadines somewhere in the woods too.  They have a very distinct aroma that makes my mouth water.  Along my walk I discover some Black Eyed Susans blooming profusely among the Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed.  Further down the road, a persimmon tree is loaded with sun-kissed fruit and the branches of a honey locust tree bend beneath the weight of hundreds of long, curly seed pods.  You know, old-timers used to make beer from those! 

Harvest Gold (John Sloan Art)

There’s another sign too, but one I cannot put words too.  It’s a “feeling”.  If you love the outdoors and if you love autumn, then I don’t have to explain it to you.  You already know what I’m talking about.

The Golden Month (John Sloan Art)

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.” ~ Helen Hunt Jackson


Christmas Time’s a Comin

As August draws to a close, I dust off my Christmas music books and start practicing carols on my banjo.  Everyone dreams of Christmases of yesteryear, and no one sings those carols like the crooners of bygone days when the world was a kinder place.  I’m talking about people like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Mel Torme, just to name a few!  And if you’re lucky enough to have the vinyl albums and a stereo system with a turn table to play them on, then you have some nostalgia there that can create REAL Christmas magic!

Bing Crosby, White Christmas

But the music that really speaks to me and gets the Christmas spirit coursing through my veins is played on banjos, fiddles, guitars, and mandolins.  These songs can be heard at family gatherings, by a warm fire and the soft glow of candles and Christmas tree lights.  Is there any Christmas music sweeter than a fiddle, softly bowing “Silent Night”?  Is there any Christmas music more jubilant than a mandolin strumming “Joy to the World”?  Is there any Christmas music more exuberant than a banjo plucking “Jingle Bells”?  Put all of these instruments together for a rousing rendition of “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” and you have the perfect music for an old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.

Bluegrass Instruments

Every year, we drag boxes upon boxes of Christmas decorations down from our attic and spend days “decking the halls” of our home.  Our home has been the gathering place for many family Christmas get-togethers and the reason we go to all this trouble is NOT to impress anyone, but rather to create a special, magical memory for all the children that come here with their family to celebrate with us.  We have a big tree in the living room where all the gifts are placed.  There is a wreath over the fireplace with candles, greenery, and stockings hanging from the mantle.  There is another tree in the den, one in my office, one in the dining room, and one at the end of the hallway upstairs.  Whether a tree or a simple figurine of Santa Claus, everywhere you go in our home you will find some token of Christmas.  However, all this decorating does not fit within the framework of my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.

Appalachian Christmas

We are at a point in time in our lives that I call an in-between time.  All our nieces and nephews are grown and have families of their own to celebrate Christmas with.  Our family Christmas get-togethers get smaller every year as these new families branch out and start their own traditions.  Our children are grown and married as well, but we have no grandchildren yet, so we are neither parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles to small children at this stage of our lives.  We are “in-between”.  What better time to change things up and try something new?

Cedar Christmas Tree

I’ve been telling Melody for a few years now that I would like to scale back on the Christmas decorations.  Let’s get a smaller tree for the living room.  One tree is all we need.  Let’s hang a wreath over the fireplace, put some greenery and candles on the mantle along with our nativity set and stop there.  Maybe, when we have grandkids who are old enough to enjoy and remember all the festivities, we can start back up with all the decorations and go all out again, but for now, let’s have a quiet and peaceful Christmas.  One where we can rest, look inward, and reflect upon all of God’s blessings in our lives.  One where we can focus on the TRUE meaning of the season.  Maybe, just maybe, then, and only then I will be able to have my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.

Christmas Greenery

I want to end this post with the lyrics from “Christmas Time’s a Comin”.  This song was written by a Bell Labs engineer by the name of Benjamin “Tex” Logan and first recorded by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, back in 1951.

Christmas Time’s a Comin

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”  ~Calvin Coolidge