Alabama filmmaker Renee Williams is celebrating the recent national release of her first feature film “Traces of Indignity,” produced by ClassA Entertainment. Talent from across Alabama and the Southeast can be seen in the direct-to-video film, which was shot almost entirely in Montgomery.
“My goal as a writer, producer, and director working in the Southeast is to not only touch lives, but change lives,” Williams says. “The Southeast has become a growing mecca for entertainment and I’m just here doing my part.”
The film’s protagonist is an accomplished author and public speaker who has achieved fame and fortune in her career. She and her family fall victim to stalking and media backlash that leads her to unveil her secretive past through a number of twists and turns.
“’Traces of Indignity’ follows a wealthy African-American character whose focus is not only to entertain the masses, but to uplift and inspire others as well,” Williams says. “But she is not without her own faults and indiscretions.”
In her feature film debut, Weber is played by actress Kris Lloyd of Montgomery, who served as the film’s lead and its executive producer. Also featured is actress Michelle Sanford from Auburn, who plays story-hungry journalist Ruby Sayers, and actress Jessica Osborn from Prattville, in the role of Dr. Weber’s publicist, Sonya. “Traces of Indignity” is available at Wal-Mart or Amazon.
Each spring, healthy colonies of honeybees swarm – their natural way to procreate. While it’s vital for the colonies to swarm, the mere thought of thousands of bees in close proximity causes home and business owners to become fearful, especially if children are nearby.
But please, don’t kill the bees. That’s the word from Vince Wallace, a Tuscaloosa County beekeeper and president of the West Alabama Beekeepers Association.
When they swarm, the honeybees are simply in transition between residences, because the original colony has grown to capacity and needs room to expand. Wallace says that a swarm of bees is actually very docile, because they are gorged with honey and simply in a transitional phase while scout bees search for a new residence.
Honeybees are vital to our food supply, because they pollinate the plants that humans and animal species rely on for survival.
“There are numerous beekeepers that would gladly come and retrieve bees” from anxious property owners, Wallace says. He asks that instead of turning to insecticide, first contact a professional beekeeper. There’s a swarm removal list, sorted by geographical location, at alabamabeekeepers.com
Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the nation’s largest public power company. Congress charged the TVA, a New Deal agency, with regulating the flow and navigation of the Tennessee River, producing inexpensive hydroelectric power, developing chemical fertilizers, conserving natural resources, and increasing industrial development in the valley. The valley, which was deeply affected by the Great Depression and includes north Alabama, benefited greatly from TVA. Between 1929 and 1950, manufacturing employment in the region grew from 222,000 jobs to 382,000 while income from manufacturing increased by 442 percent. Today, the TVA continues to employ nearly 2,000 individuals and serves more than 504,000 households in Alabama alone.
Every year, on Memorial Day, the nation honors service members who have given their lives for our freedom. Social Security acknowledges the sacrifice of our military’s service members, and we honor these heroes and their families who may need help through the benefits we provide.
Widows, widowers, and their dependent children may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. You can learn more about those benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors.
It’s also important to recognize those service members who have been wounded. Social Security offers benefits to protect veterans when an injury prevents them from returning to active duty or performing other work.
Wounded military service members can also receive expedited processing of their Social Security disability claims. For example, Social Security will expedite disability claims filed by veterans who have a 100 percent Permanent & Total compensation rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both the VA and Social Security have disability programs. You may find that you qualify for disability benefits through one program but not the other, or that you qualify for both. Depending on the situation, some family members of military personnel, including dependent children, and, in some cases, spouses, may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits. You can get answers to commonly asked questions and find useful information about the application process at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.
Service members can also receive Social Security in addition to military retirement benefits. The good news is that your military retirement benefit generally does not reduce your Social Security retirement benefit. Learn more about Social Security retirement benefits at socialsecurity.gov/retirement. You may also want to visit the Military Service page of our Retirement Planner, available at socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/veterans.html.
Please share this information with a military family who may not know about these benefits. In acknowledgment of those heroes who died for our country, those who served, and those who serve today, we at Social Security honor and thank you.
Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Each workday morning, Dr. Dwayne Albritton leaves his home in the greater Birmingham area and heads to his general dentistry office. Three days a week, the office is a few miles away. Two days of his work week, however, his office is 60 miles away in a different county.
Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Albritton drives a few minutes to his office in Vestavia. Wednesdays and Fridays, he travels over an hour through the countryside to his office in rural Rockford. Melding the needs of the two practices is something he’s done for 22 years. He is the only dentist office in Rockford, population 447 and the county seat of Coosa County.
Rockford is just one example of the growing concern that dental and public health experts have as they try to address an alarming shortage of dentists in Alabama’s small rural towns.
Albritton is no stranger to small towns. The town where he grew up in Massachusetts had fewer than 10,000 people. The atmosphere in Rockford reminds him of childhood. “There is a need for a dentist in Rockford,” Albritton says. “I love it down there.” But people graduating from dental school now usually skip small towns and set up shop in larger places.
Alabama health care planners look at patterns showing where dentists live and work and their current age.
Planners say new dentists often leave school owing $250,000-$300,000 or more in dental school debt. The debt is a major reason dentists choose a larger city practices.
“Sometimes it is the travel time, the schools, other family needs,” Albritton says. “If there were incentives to a new dentist to go to a rural area, it would be great.”
Recruitment a challenge for rural towns
The way Albritton acquired his Rockford dental office shows the challenge that small rural Alabama communities face when trying to recruit dentists. The town’s only dentist had been killed in a car accident. The dentist’s family had tried for some time to find a buyer for the practice with no success.
Albritton sold another small dental practice in Ashville to a colleague and bought the one in Rockford, where he is able to treat patients with typical dental needs, some with dental insurance, some children with Medicaid, others who pay with cash. He sees more adults needing teeth pulled in the rural practice, and some rural patients may wait longer between dental visits if funds are tight or transportation is a problem.
Dr. Stuart Lockwood, a retired state dental officer and epidemiologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health, grew up in Union Springs and opened his first dental practice there.
Lockwood then specialized in public health epidemiology, at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Washington, D.C. before returning to Alabama. As an epidemiologist, Lockwood looks at causes of disease and injury and then seeks ways to stop problems that can have negative impact on health.
Lockwood studies the ages of Alabama dentists and where they locate their offices and compares that data with parts of the state that have the greatest dentist shortages. Lockwood then can determine where the provider gaps are and help predict future needs. He gets his figures by studying the Dental Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Longer waits ahead without help
Lockwood said planners believe if current patterns in dental care availability remain, rural Alabamians in the future will face longer waits for dental appointments and travel greater distances to get to the dentist. He is working with The Alabama Dental Association, providers and other advocates who want the Legislature to fund dental school tuition scholarships.
Dr. Zack Studstill, dental association executive director, said the scholarships would fund four $45,000-per-year ongoing tuition scholarships for qualified dental students who agree to practice in a small Alabama town. Studstill said if new dentists can be drawn to rural communities in exchange for tuition help, some will love life there.
“Small-town Alabama is such a good life. Small-town Alabama deserves good health care,” says Studstill, who grew up in Andalusia. The dental organizations and other providers helped secure passage of a tuition scholarship in the 2016 session of the Legislature, but the scholarship funding was cut in budget negotiations. As of press time, a tuition scholarship bill, SB144, was under consideration again in the 2019 legislative session.
A taste of small-town practice
Students at the state’s only dental school, at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in Birmingham, get a taste of what a dental practice would be like during placements at community health programs.
The dental school partners with 14 community health centers across the state, including some that have dental care for patients, says Dr. Conan Davis, assistant dean for community collaborations.
Davis says the dental school credentials health center dentists to serve as adjunct faculty to mentor students. He also teaches a class in community dentistry that teaches students to be advocates for their patients. Davis called the class a way to give students “a broader view of the world beyond people just like them.”
Others view of Alabama’s dental needs
Dr. Richard Simpson, a pediatric dentist in private practice in Tuscaloosa, is chair of the Oral Health Coalition of Alabama.
Simpson said more than 90 percent of Alabama children have oral health coverage either through dental insurance, All Kids, Medicaid or other programs that provide care for children. He hopes that children who receive regular care now will not have the dental problems that adults without dental care now have.
State Dental Director Tommy Johnson was in private practice in Mobile before he came to the Alabama Department of Public Health a year ago.
Johnson said Alabama provides coverage for children’s dental care, but adults, especially if they are low-income and live in rural areas, have challenges finding and paying for dental care. Transportation can be a problem.
Alabama does not pay for dental care for adults on Medicaid, so adults with income well below the poverty level often end up having problem teeth pulled as a result. But Alabama Medicaid Director Danny Rush said the program does have some non-emergency transportation funding to help patients get to a doctor’s office.
Alabama rural health advocate Dale Quinney is a retired director of the Alabama Rural Health Association. Quinney questions whether dental hygienists could clean and check teeth for problems in rural areas and use telehealth to connect with a dentist who could check for problems.
Johnson said the public health department already uses telehealth, and designs and builds programs to communicate with public health clinics around the state.
“I would like very much to be able to incorporate tele-dentistry in public health at some point, but the Alabama Dental Practice Act requires direct supervision of dental treatment by a dentist,” Johnson says.
The dental association’s Studstill said current Alabama law requires that a dentist be in the same location as a hygienist or other dental professional doing cleaning or other preventive or diagnostic treatment.
Studstill said the requirement is a patient safety issue in case a patient has problems with bleeding or other medical issue needing quick response of a dentist. The law is one that he said the dental association and the Board of Dental Examiners support.
But along with the telehealth tools that the Department of Public Health has, Studstill said the dental school is developing telehealth capabilities to help dentists practicing in small towns consult with specialists who are usually in larger city settings.
Bradley W. Edmonds, executive director of the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners, says the board is aware that there are concerns about access to dental care in rural areas. He said the board earlier this year voted to allow dental hygienists with additional training to administer local anesthesia by injection, something he said is a step toward better access to care.
Dr. William E. “Bill” Barrick is an expert on garden plants and design, but he’s also a believer that gardens are places for people as much as for plants. That belief has constantly informed his 40-plus year career as an award-winning horticulturist and public garden director, first at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., and then at the 65-acre historic Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Ala. As he prepares to retire in July after 18 years as Bellingrath’s executive director, he looked back on the path that first led him to gardens and to making Bellingrath a major Gulf Coast tourist destination that attracts 110,000 visitors from across the globe each year. – Katie Jackson
I grew up in Dothan, Ala., and was surrounded by neighbors who were avid gardeners. One of my neighbors was even named Mrs. Flowers and she had a fulltime gardener named George and her own greenhouse where she grew flowers for her home and garden. Another neighbor was an FBI agent who hybridized daylilies as a hobby. My third-grade teacher’s father lived in our neighborhood and hybridized camellias. But perhaps the greatest influence on my life was my grandfather, who took care of a two-acre vegetable garden until the age of 100, so I caught the gardening bug at an early age.
What drew you to it as a career and kept you in it?
I attended Auburn University, majoring in botany for my undergraduate degree, and received a master’s degree in horticulture two years later. After a two-year stint in the Army, I attended Michigan State University, where I received my Ph.D in landscape horticulture, then I taught at the University of Florida for four years before going to work at Callaway Gardens, which began my career in public gardens. My career at Callaway was an exciting time and, over the years, I was part of the design team that led to the construction of the John A. Sibley Horticulture Center, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the new Brothers’ Azalea Garden.
How does managing Bellingrath Gardens compare with managing Callaway Gardens?
In some sense, managing both gardens is quite similar as both share a legacy of having visionary founders and both have an emphasis on display, rather than on maintaining documented collections of woody plants. The major difference from a career standpoint was that my emphasis at Callaway was on creating new garden amenities for our visitors, while at Bellingrath my emphasis has been on garden restoration. While a major emphasis at Callaway was growing and displaying native species of Southeastern flora, the majority of plantings in Bellingrath Gardens — camellias and azaleas — have their origin in the Orient.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home are located in a hurricane-prone part of the state.How have storms such as Hurricane Frederic and others affected the estate?
I don’t have a personal knowledge of the efforts required for rebuilding Bellingrath after Frederic — which struck on Sept. 12, 1979, and closed the Gardens and Home until March 1, 1980 — but I can fully appreciate the efforts required to remove virtually all of the downed tree canopy. Overnight, the Gardens transitioned from the deep shade provided by the live oak canopy to a full sun garden, so the Gardens essentially had to be replanted with azaleas and camellias along with restoring the tree canopy. Fortunately, in my tenure, Hurricanes Rita, Ivan and Katrina did minor damage by comparison to Frederic.
How do you prepare for storms today?
With modern-day weather forecasting, hurricane preparation is much easier, but the Bellingrath Home, Boehm Gallery and Chapel have to be boarded up to prevent damage to these buildings, or to the Bessie Morse collection of antique furniture, porcelains and silver. Typically, the gardeners move planters, hanging baskets and cast-iron furniture to safer locations.
What do gardens such as Bellingrath provide to community and to humanity?
Throughout my career in public horticulture, I have been made fully aware of the value of public gardens. Increasingly through technology and the pace in which we all live, we are separated from nature. Gardens offer visitors the opportunity to restore their souls and be inspired by the beauty of God’s creation. We are called to be stewards of God’s creation and, in the case of Bellingrath, to be inspired by our founders’ vision and their generosity to preserve part our state’s cultural heritage.
What are you planning after retirement? Are there other gardens in your future?
Jessica and I plan on continuing to live in Mobile, but she is hopeful we will spend more time in Asheville, N.C., where she grew up. Both of us want to continue to serve in other cultural organizations, too. The gardens in our future will be ones we visit as we love to travel and see other public and private gardens. And, I hope, my back will allow me to garden, for a change, in my own back yard.ν
In the days of my frequent travels, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Every time the suitcases came out, our cat Rabi (another Siamese cross) would start visiting the litter box often, and pass small amounts of blood tinged urine. Many cat owners have experienced this.
According to one study by pet-insurance groups, a bladder problem is the second most common reason cats come to a veterinary clinic. I cannot count how many times owners have come and said that their cat jumped on the counter (or sink) and passed red urine. They believed that their cat was telling them something! In those days, I used to think yeah, right!
Now, many years later, I think the owners are right; on occasions these cats probably share their distress with their trusted friends. They are lot more clever than we give them credit for! Whether the cats are guiding their owners to an imminent problem or not, a red tinge in the urine is a real issue. It simply means there is blood in the urine, which should not be there.
Before we explore the nature of this disease, a little primer on the urinary tract. Kidneys filter toxins from the blood and make urine, which then dribbles down via two narrow tubes to the bladder for temporary storage. Then, when the time is right, a slightly bigger tubing brings the urine from the bladder out to the world.
In the case of cats, when we see blood tinged urine, almost inevitably it is coming from the bladder. However, just because there is blood in the urine doesn’t mean that there is infection. In fact, repeated research has shown that in vast majority of the cases, there is no infection present!
What happens is this: The inside of the bladder wall is lined by layers and layers of loosely bound cells which is fed with fine blood vessels called capillaries. When there is inflammation (pain and swelling), some of these capillaries can leak out blood and that’s what shows up in the urine. The sensation of pain, burning and bladder spasms (extrapolated from human experience) is what causes the poor kitty to visit the box again and again and strain in hope of finding some relief.
A very similar thing happens in humans called Interstitial Cystitis. It is more common in women where there is significant pain in the bladder, and it does not respond to antibiotics.
So, now that we understand this disease, what to do about it? And is there a connection between urinary problems and emotional distress? We’ll visit that in the July issue.
Goutam Mukherjee (Dr. G), DVM, MS, PhD., has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Clinic in Crossville. Email questions of general interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people start fishing by catching channel catfish. Unfortunately, most grow out of chasing catfish as they turn to other species, but this fish can still provide incredible excitement and excellent table fare.
One of the most widespread and abundant game fish in North America, channel cats populate just about every freshwater system in Alabama. Although they can’t reach the size of their giant cousins, blue and flathead catfish, channels can top 50 pounds. Most run in the one- to five-pound range, but Donald Cox set the Alabama standard with a 40-pounder he pulled from Inland Lake, a 1,557-acre impoundment in Blount County near Oneonta.
“Channel cats can be found almost everywhere and are not shy about biting,” says Brian Barton, a Tennessee River guide from Muscle Shoals. “If they’re in an area, they will bite. Channel cats tend to like shallower water than blue cats and usually seek out shoreline structure, like logs, stumps, weeds and rock piles. Channel catfish usually school in small numbers, so if a person catches a channel cat off a piece of structure, that angler should continue to fish the area.”
With about 10,000 taste buds per square inch of its skin, a catfish swims through the water like a giant tongue tasting everything. Their sensors can perceive odors down to one part in 10 billion parts of water, so catfish can detect minute food particles or scents from long distances. They miss few opportunities to grab a tempting morsel and they eat almost anything. Some excellent baits include shrimp, nightcrawlers, minnows, fish pieces, clams, dough balls, crawfish, cheese, livers, gizzards, commercial stink or blood baits and even such odd items as soap, among other things.
The more it smells, the better they bite
“In general, the more it smells, the better channel cats bite it,” Barton says. “A glob of shad guts is my favorite bait. I also use chicken livers, slightly spoiled shrimp, cut bait and nightcrawlers.”
Countless people catch channel cats with perhaps the simplest forms of fishing. They dangle nightcrawlers, shrimp, crickets or other baits from bobbers. Toss the rig next to good cover and wait for the float to disappear. Other anglers prefer to fish on bottom with a sinker rig and wait for a tug on the line.
Of course, the old methods still work, but anglers can catch channel cats many other ways. For fishing sloping shorelines or other deep structure not directly under a boat, try a slip-float rig. With a slip-float rig, a small weight pulls the line through an eye on the float. A stopper keeps the line from slipping too far, allowing the bait to suspend at the desired depth. With a slip-float rig, an angler can make a natural vertical presentation without sitting on top of the structure or fish, thus keeping the bait in the strike zone longer. Experiment with different depths.
“With a slip-float rig, I primarily fish deeper ledges, humps or rock piles where I want to suspend my baits just off the bottom,” Barton explains. “I typically try to position my bait about one to three feet off the bottom. In river environments, look for channel cats in eddy pools and slack current areas just outside the main flow.”
Channel catfish normally prefer natural baits, but anglers occasionally catch them on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms, jigs, flies or other artificials. Barton tips weedless spoons with succulent bait and throws them into places where conventional catfish rigs would probably snag. Tipped with a strip of skipjack, mullet, shad or other temptation, the bait undulates through the water like a live fish swimming. The natural scent and oils coming oozing from the bait add to the enticement. Throw this rig around weed beds, fallen trees or logs and retrieve it slowly just off the bottom. Pause the retrieve occasionally.
For hot freezer-filling action, Alabama anglers don’t even need boats. The state regularly stocks channel catfish into many of its 23 managed public fishing lakes located in 20 counties. Some better catfish lakes include the ones in Bibb, Dallas, Fayette, Geneva, Lamar, Madison, Marion and Walker counties.
The fresh fruits and vegetables coming into season this time of year provide an abundance of food for the soul, but they also create an abundance of peels, shucks, seeds and other kitchen waste. Rather than throwing that residue into the trash, consider turning it into food for the soil.
Organic kitchen waste as well as grass clippings and other yard waste can clog landfills, but they are prime ingredients for making compost, which can be used as an amendment to improve soil quality and health. Composting happens all the time in nature as organic materials slowly decay and form humus, a dark, rich organic matter that serves as a slow-release natural fertilizer, improves soil texture and moisture levels and helps suppress soil diseases and pests.
We humans can harness and speed up the composting process by combining organic carbon-based “brown” ingredients with nitrogen-based “green” ingredients (see a list of options in the sidebar) then using hot or cold composting methods to promote more rapid decay.
Hot (active) composting is the fastest method to make garden-ready humus in a few weeks or months because it provides ideal conditions for soil microbes, which break down organic material. It also kills many pathogens and weed seeds that may be harbored in the raw composting ingredients. However, hot composting requires more effort, such as paying closer attention to the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the mix, keeping the compost moist and turning it frequently.
Cold (passive) composting is easier. All it requires is collecting organic waste in a pile or in layers and letting nature takes its course. However, it may take a year or more to create garden-ready humus using the cold composting method.
Whichever method you choose, there are two things to consider: site and system.
The ideal composting site is an outdoor space with partial shade and far enough away from the house so it’s not an eyesore, but close enough so you can easily take out kitchen waste and add yard waste. However, composting can be done almost anywhere, including on an apartment balcony or even indoors. (Before composting in urban areas, check with your local municipality to find out if there are any restrictions or incentives for composting.)
When choosing a system, there are a number of options. You can dig composting trenches or pits in the ground, or compost above ground using a simple pile or in containers ranging from DIY wire cages and trash cans to fancy store-bought bins and tumblers. Perhaps the easiest system of all is sheet composting (sometimes called “lasagna gardening”) where raw ingredients are layered directly onto a garden bed.
I can attest from personal experience that sheet and pile composting are very easy, but be aware that those systems can attract some drop-in guests. We set a game camera near our open composting area last year and documented quite the parade of birds, foxes, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, deer and more than a few neighborhood dogs that stopped by for a snack. If you don’t want to host dinner guests, a closed system is likely a better choice.
There’s so much more to learn about composting than will fit in this column, but if you want to explore the options, get your hands on a good composting guide (The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener is considered among the best, but many others are available) or check with your local Cooperative Extension office for guidelines. Then get started making food for your soil. It will be good for your soul.
Almost anything organic can go into your compost EXCEPT meat and dairy products, bones, oils, wood and charcoal ashes, human or pet waste, diseased plant material and weed seeds. Here’s a sample of a few appropriate brown and green compostable ingredients.
Woody plant trimmings
Kitchen and garden scraps
Coffee grounds and filters
Leafy plant trimmings
Feathers, fur and hair
Tips to accelerate “hot” composting
Hot composting is a faster method to get garden-ready humus into your hands. Here are some tips for maximizing the heating process, which ideally should reach 90 to 140 degrees F:
Smaller compost piles or bins (around one cubic yard in size) heat more efficiently.
Use more carbon (brown ingredients) than nitrogen (green ingredients) in your mix (experts suggest a ratio of 3:1 or higher).
Before adding new ingredients to your compost, chop them into smaller pieces.
Keep composting materials moist enough so that a handful of compost feels like a damp wrung-out sponge.
Turn or stir the compost frequently (every week or two) to keep the pile aerated.
Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at email@example.com.