Shepherd Center East


I found this post from June, 2015.  I’ll publish it now, and add to the Shepherd Center chapter of my life from time to time, with pictures!


The seniors’ program at Shepherd Center East sponsored by Positive Maturity, has been a lifesaver for me.  I knew it existed, but I long resisted going there.  I’m not old, I said.  And, too, I had belonged to another neighborhood’s book club for a year or two and never felt that I belonged.

Time passed and I found myself pushing eighty.  My husband lay slowly dying, at home, with daughter Valerie doing most of the caretaking.  It was a stressful time. “Get out of the house,” Valerie said.  “Go to the Shepherd Center”, she said.  So I finally went.

After.meeting with Mackie Horowitz in the office, I was introduced to the Sewing & Quilting  room.   I was warmly welcomed.  Their current project was crocheting caps, booties, and blankets; I can do that, I thought.  It really felt like going to school, complete with Principal’s Office; or like going to work, with the boss in her office down the hall.   There were other rooms for bingo, line dancing, prayer meetings, cards and dominions; but I had found my home in the Sewing room.  




Badger is All Right Now

Badger, my daughter’s dog adopted at two months of age, is a born and bred country dog. His mother was a Grand Pyrenees and his sire was a spotted Catahua. Badger himself was the only short-hair member of his litter, black from nose to tail with white paws, black spots, and a calm disposition.

And it came to pass, that in the fullness of time, at the end of his puppyhood, this free-ranging big puppy came to live in the city. Valerie brought her dog when she came home to live with, and help take care of, her aged parents..While it was a traumatic time for the humans involved, it was on Badger that we all focused. For a country dog to suddenly be confined to a house and yard, it was hellish. He was nervous, tense, panting and fearful.

So we bought him toys that he eviscerated and beheaded—even the ones touted as “for large dogs” and “Guaranteed to Last”, in a day’s time. Plain old rawhide knots lasted much longer. These toys kept him occupied while we ordered, and waited for, “The Kennel”. This was a 10’x10′, OR 5’x15′ chain link construction with pipe and connector framework. Valerie said a tarp would go over one end of it to provide shade in the middle of the day.

Even in a strange place, Badger protected his mom and her flock by woofing loudly at every passerby, postman and UPS delivery. The poor UPS man who delivered the kennel had his truck loaded wrong. Another truck had to come to off load the first guy’s truck so he could access The Kennel. The two men struggled to carry the package containing all the parts. No one thought to make two shipments out of it. I’m sure it weighed much more than UPS’s designated maximum. Valerie took pity on them and told them to leave it before they got anywhere near the back yard.

I called a handyman I had met while he was doing work next door on Mr. Bennett’s rental property. He agreed to come by and look at the job. And he did come by, with his helper. He quoted me a price so high that I clutched my heart, stepped back and exclaimed, big-eyed, “I can’t pay that!” He immediately quoted another price, $60 lower. I countered with another, $50 lower still. He upped it by $10 and I said “Done!” Valerie was appalled at the price of labor, but I was content that it was lower than the goods.

Inside the house, Badger was staying on his “mat”, an extra large bath towel on top our Indian rug from our trip out West in 2008. Badger is so well trained that it is easy to teach him a task.

“Badger!” (eye contact)
“Go to your mat!” (pointing)
“Down” (treat)
“Badger is such a good puppy, yes he is!” (treat)

From this position, Badger can see through the dining room to the kitchen, and also keep an eye on the traffic in the bedroom wing. He’s bred to watch over his flock, and chase off predators. He also learns which small animals belong to a member of his flock and must not be killed and eaten.

In the case of the Country Dog, it was Valerie’s flock of chickens that he learned slowly but surely were Her Small Animals and must be watched over. Other small animals, such as raccoons and possums were fair game. Other dogs, automobiles, were to be considered dangerous and your flock alerted, until proven otherwise.

In the case of the City Dog, Badger had to learn about The Cats. Our old spayed female, Molly, took matters into her own paws. She ignored Badger, walked under or around him, and if he dared to snuffle her too intimately, she swiped his nose with her claws. Badger is respectful of Molly and stands still to let her pass should they happen to meet in a doorway. Comet, too, demands respect, and gets it.

Harry, on the other hand, has always been shy and skittish. He’s afraid of thunderstorms and big dogs, so the first thing Harry did was run, and Badger wanted very badly to chase him, and kill him and eat him. It’s been a long haul, but Harry has accepted Badger’s presence behind the glass door in the kitchen, for example. Harry looks, knows he is safe from the big dog, and comes on the deck to eat his supper. When Badger is in his kennel, Harry walks in from the alley, through the back yard and up on the deck. Valerie has been stern with Badger when Harry is around, letting him know Harry is one of ours. He pretty much doesn’t lunge at him anymore, but he looks longingly.

Oh, The Kennel! The plan was to tuck it into a nook behind the house against the unused back door and under the back bathroom’s three windows. When the handymen arrived, Valerie explained it to them, and they fell to, connecting pipes right and left, with elbows and t-shaped connectors at random. The shape was interesting, but there weren’t enough materials left over to make another one, much less have four long uprights to connect them. I took pictures. Maybe an hour went by before the main man broke down and spread the instructions out on the grass to peruse.

It took about three and a half hours, all told, to build the two 5’x15′ frames and put 6′ uprights between them, AND connect chain link fencing top and bottom all round, with a narrow door and latch at one end. Seven man hours. We got our money’s worth.

Valerie brought home the tarp and connectors, chain and padlock, and set to, covering one end, top and half-sides and securing same in a most workman like way, smooth and secure. Ah, what skills she has picked up living in the country! A water dish and toys completed Badger’s outside domicile. He took to it right away, liking as he does to keep watch and enjoy the sights and sounds all around him. He likes to lie at the end where he can see the side of the house, where Jerry mostly hangs out with his garden. He also watches the street and foot traffic out front, as well as the next door comings and goings and the alley out back. He does not like anyone to come that close to us.

About a month later, we purchased a huge, big-dog, Igloo dog house. Set under the tarp, it has an entrance-way, with a round area off to the right to sleep in. It is vented and dry, away from drenching storms and high winds. He likes it.

Valerie had been busy finding outside interests for Badger. She located, online, an off-leash Dog Park in Hoover. It was the best place for Badger to meet, make friends, run and wrestle with them, and get slap worn out, dog tired. It’s a long drive, but worth it about twice a week.

Badger also goes on walks, on leash, around the neighborhood, meeting people and their dogs, investigating the sights, sounds and smells for several blocks around. He does No. 1 off the property if he can, there is plenty of right-of-way to use, and at the end of the alley is a big triangle of city owned property, mowed two or three times a year. This is his potty area; twice a day he goes here for No. 2.

There is at least one dog-friendly restaurant in Southside, where he gets treats. He rests under the table while Valerie has a snack. A dog park is under construction in Irondale, our part of town, AND we’ve found a Doggie Day Care! Well, that’s not it’s name really, but it’s a nice place run by a dog trainer, and each dog must present papers, and undergo Temperament Testing. Badger passed with flying colors and was accepted as a Member.

We left him there yesterday, while we went to a movie. Including the travel time from Eastwood to the Trussville theater and back again, we were gone three and a half hours. It was Too Long. Badger thought he had been abandoned by the one he loved, and he tried to Escape! Three Times… twice over the fence and once under it. We felt so badly about leaving him so long the first time. Valerie has made plans to leave him for 30 minutes while she goes to the Thrift Store next door, three times this week, so that he will get used to them, and to know she Will Be Back. He will have special (expensive) treats only available at We Talk Dog, that’s the name of it. As with men, the way to a doggie’s heart is through his stomach.

Winter Flowers

Here’s a shot of my Pansies in a Pot in the morning sunshine. So pretty.

Winter Flowers

Container gardening at its best. I have beautiful flowers to greet me as I leave the house, and when I return home, a big pot of pansies on either side of the back gate. There were a few left over — I had bought a flat, so those are scattered a few in a small pot and one in the vacant end of a concrete block. In between it all, the Lemon Mint that Cindy told me ‘would take the place’, just about has filled every spot available and is thinking about coming up on to the porch.

Hallowe’en Horror Movies at the Alabama Theater

Grandaughter Gwen and I went to the Saturday, October 27, evening double feature showing Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931). Gwen is such a good influence on her grandmother: I had never seen either one. While I have always encouraged her to “try something new”, she has broadened my horizons, too.

To my mind, Frankenstein’s monster was more to be pitied that censured; even though I lost count of the deaths he caused by the time it was over. Dracula, on the other hand, had no redeeming features. Gwen is more well-read on the subject than I, having all versions of both stories, both cinematic and various books on the subject at her disposal and she was kinder in her assessment of Dracula. So many young people today have gone crazy (there is no other word for the obsession) over the Twilight movies and books, I am thankful, but not too surprised, that Gwen has explored many aspects of horror. It’s a big leap from Disney to Dracula, but at least it’s not Twilight.

Sunday afternoon, the 28th, we saw The Phantom of the Opera (1927). It was my first time to see this one, too. The Alabama Theater was almost full of fans of the movie and fans of the Mighty Wurlitzer. This was the 36th annual showing of The Phantom at the Alabama Theater. It is sponsored by the American Theater Organ Society, and proceeds from the movie (it cost more admission than usual) go to the preservation and upkeep of the Alabama’s theatrical organ.

The ATOS is such an enthusiastic group of people that they dress in costume and add a theatrical element to the show. We were amazed to see black crape draped figures bearing candelabras and pallbearers with coffin come silently down the aisle. They mounted the eerily-lit and tombstone-strewn stage and set the coffin down. It opened and the organist in white tie and tails climbed out, to great applause. It was a wonderful before-the-show show.

Organist Tom Helms had the original score that accompanied this silent movie; he made the instrument sing. Themes from “Faust” were an inherent part of the movie. I have never loved organ music before, but this performance made me a believer. For this afternoon’s presentation, the music, as performed by Mr. Helms on the Mighty Wurlitzer, ­­the Alabama Theater, was the undisputed star.

This console, with four manual keyboards and a pedal keyboard, 285 stop tabs and 85 pistons, is used by the organist to play the 29 ranks (2117 pipes plus percussion) of the Alabama Theatre’s Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. (Picture and specifications courtesy of ATOS.)


Granddaughter Kate and I went to see the new movie, Brave, today. It was from Pixar, and the only criticisms I had heard was that it was too heavy handed in lessons taught, and not as good as Toy Story.Well, for starters, nothing is as good as Toy Story. Toy Story had it all, courage (bravery),heart (compassion), and smarts (intelligence). That’s the lesson I learned from The Wizard of Oz. This what is required to let you figure out that home is where your heart is.

Same thing in Brave: our rebellious Irish youth, Merida, wants her mother to change. Unfortunately, she gets her wish. She is thrown head first into adventure in the wild, wild, woods, into danger but never bloodshed. Actually, she got a scratch near the end, but we didn’t see the blood. She ends up saving the Kingdom, saving her mother, and ultimately, herself.

The complaint about heavy-handedness doesn’t hold water because the story is set in the time of Celts, Vikings, Blue Picts, and for all I know, Gauls. Twas nothing subtle about those people and the usual over-the-top fighting among themselves seems right at home.

The touch of Magic played well, too. Will ‘o the Wisps are real, we know now, just marsh gas, but for the sake of the movie script, they led to the witch’s lair. She was the one who produced the Magic Cupcake (I kid you not) that caused all the trouble. Merida held fast to her faith and to her mother, and it all came out all right in the end.

This is what’s left of my pie…

The previous chess pie, recipe from an online user who swore byit, was too sweet, grainy and soft, but that didn’t keep them from eating it all up. But I wanted to do better. I took some of the sugar out, added some cornmeal for texture, and what have you. Jerry said not to lose the recipe, so I had better write it down before I forget it.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prebake a frozen deep dish 9″ pie shell for 5 minutes while you are mixing, with an electric beater, the following:

3/4 stick butter  and 1 1/2 cup sugar

Add: 2 Tablespoons cornmeal

Mix in 4 eggs, one at a time

And lastly, add 1 small (5 oz) can Evaporated Milk and 1 tsp. Vanilla

Pour into pre-baked shell and put on cookie sheet in center of oven for 45 minutes.  Cool and enjoy. Cut into 8ths, as this is rich.

My husband is on a high-fat, high-energy diet had whipped cream on top of his slice!