Close of the old year?

Happy SunToday is December 31, 2018. We’re swiftly coming upon a new year. That’s what we’ve been accustomed to thinking. The little blue ball on which we reside is about to complete a 365-day revolution around the life-supporting star we call our sun. We think because this annual event is about to come to completion, new and fresh things are about to happen.

Consider this: you’ll carry most of what started in your life in 2018 into 2019. You’ll have the same body, the same family, the mortgage, the same old same old everything for the most part. The 365-day revolution around our star will start again, but there will be no line of demarcation in the heavens that will separate the old year from the new. Everything will be continual. Your life will be continual. To use football jargon, which is probably good for this time of year, there’ll be a line of scrimmage, no mark on the solar turf.

Knowing what we know about life, that it’s a continual process, moving along through time and space, why do we mark the 365-day cycle as a time to make improvements, turn over a new leaf? In think it would be safe to say that most of those resolutions we come up with at the end of the year are concocted to address issues we’ve been struggling with all year. Why then, do we think a new solar cycle is going to encourage us to do a better job at addressing them? Think how much sooner our lives would be improved if we adjusted where necessary soon after the cracks occur. Don’t wait for some magical moment, one-minute past midnight to starts making improvements.

Here is something I wrote and posted to my Facebook page three years ago, that I’ve been trying to follow as a personal rule:

As I review 2015, I can’t help but be thankful for so many things. Despite my imperfect self, good things were put in my path by the awesome God in whom I trust and believe. However, in my review, I must be honest and admit that there were some things I could have done better. The good thing though is that if God gives me 2016, I can do those things not done well in 2015 better. Well, I see something here: I don’t need to make a New Year’s resolution, I just need to live life better. (That’s not a resolution, that’s a commitment to write a better life story.”) And with God’s help, I can do it, and so can you. Here’s to a better year in 2016, in the Lord!

Happy new solar cycle to all in 2019!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

You don’t choose some positions

Family elders

This has been a good holiday season, as they go. Of course, there’s always something that sheds a bit of a dark shadow on things. This year, it was the theft of my sons wheels off his car a couple of weeks ago, and the extensive damage the scoundrels caused to the body of the vehicle in removing the wheels. We just found out yesterday that the insurance adjuster has deemed the beloved vehicle (my son’s a lover of cars) a total loss.

Let me get to the point hinted at in the title of this piece. My aunt, the sister of my dear mom, who passed this past July, wanted a formal sit-down Christmas dinner party. Aunt Mary is the last of the off spring from the union of my maternal grandparents. I think she felt a strong urge to get as many of the four generations under her together before she’s ushered into that fine, gold-laden, eternal place of residence. Except for the dressing-up requirement she placed on us all, I looked forward highly to the somewhat abnormal holiday event.

My aunt lives in Memphis, Tennessee, which is a short, two-hour drive from Little Rock, Arkansas, where I live. Chris (the good wife) and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. We drove over to Jonesboro, Arkansas, a couple of hours from Little Rock on Christmas Eve to spend some time with our eldest daughter and her family. Jonesboro is about one hour from Memphis, so we were able to get up early on Christmas Day, revel in some good family time, and drive to Memphis in the afternoon for the dinner party. Whew! This sounds like a lot of activity for and old guy like me. By the grace of God, the old bones held out well.

Although I had a minor degree of trepidation about the event, the party was a joy to experience. Of course, I knew a lot less of the people in attendance than were present. There was a time, when I was young, that most of our relatives lived close by. We all knew each other, and family gatherings were often impromptu. We were all just plain old country folk, who didn’t put on a lot of airs when it came to fellowship with each other. It wasn’t uncommon to just drop by someone’s house without notice at all, sit a while, catch up on the latest happenings and move on.

As I sat amongst the crowd of cousins, (first, second, third and a smattering of little ones, who brought up the fourth rank), I truly did feel old. I don’t use the term old here pejoratively at all. In fact, I felt a sense of blessed honor. I was the second oldest of the cousins, stemming from the union of my maternal grandparents to be at the event. My first cousin, born a few months before I wasn’t there. The reality hit me that once my beloved aunt Mary transitions (and I’m in no hurry for her to do so) the number one cousin from aunt Mary’s oldest sibling and I will be the elders of the clan. We’ll occupy positions for which we didn’t choose. The natural shedding of generational layers will place us in the positions of family elders, currently occupied by aunt Mary. This natural unraveling reminds me of Commander Spock’s often-used farewell, “Live long and prosper.” It’s indeed true, if we live long enough, we’ll occupy a position of honor and prosperity (not necessarily with a high price tag) for which we’ll be grateful.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Living a long life is a relative phrase

Considering the blessed life

I’ve written before about why “Old and Blessed” is a good handle for my blog site. At the risk of being redundant, I want to share a few more words on this topic. Some may not consider me old. At sixty-eight, there are a lot more folks older than I. But that’s not what I consider when I look at my age. As I’ve said before, I live with Multiple Myeloma. This is a cancer that kills thousands each year. There are 22,000 new cases diagnosed yearly. Ten thousand people die annually from this disease. Those numbers may not seem that impressive, on a world-wide scale, but consider the fact that there’s no cure for this disease, yet.

When considering the statistics, can you see why I think of myself as old? Eighteen years and nine month ago, you probably couldn’t have found a professional gambler anywhere who would have betted on odds that I would still be alive. I didn’t think I would be here today either. I’ve seen many co-fighters die a few years after being diagnosed, and I’m still here. I’ve lived a long life. A life for which I’m immensely grateful! A life that is in the hands of a loving, all-powerful God. There are no secular models of odds-taking included in this model, period. There’s only God. He has blessed me to have access to the best medical care available, and to be comforted by many loving family members and friends.

I remember early in my Myeloma journey; my prayer was to be around to see my kids grow into adult-hood. My children were 21, 12 and 9 when I received my diagnosis. Not only have my children matured, but I now have grandchildren and one great-grandchild. God has blessed me beyond anything I could have imagined!

I enjoyed a long period of remission, from mid-2000 to the latter part of 2016. The end of 2016 saw me go into relapse. Relapse is always a possibility. With all the years I enjoyed remission, I can honestly say that I experienced no fear. May lack of fear was enforced by several things: 1) being blessed with such a long period of remission; 2) the variety of options research has produced for treating relapsed patients; and 3) the fact that I’ve had a good ride, even with all the challenges my suppressed immune system has brought my way.

Life-Is-Good

 

Some may say I’m not old, that I’ve not lived that long. Considering all that I’ve said, I would find it hard if you didn’t appreciate my deeply personal concept of what a long, blessed life has been for me.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Stereotypes Shattered

open minded

I write letters, occasionally, to the editor of my state’s largest newspaper: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I’m fortunate to have had all of my letters published. Here’s one I wrote November 16, 2018. It was published two days later. I think it’s “blog worthy.”

Please, before you read any further, I want you to understand that what follows is partly offered in jest and that I’m using two stereotypes to make a point.
The letter to the editor from Ted Thompson in the Friday edition of the Democrat-Gazette, where he refers to himself as an “old white guy” caught my eye. He speaks in positive terms about the influx of women we’ll see in the United States congressional House during the next session. Stereotypically, do we normally see the term “old white guy” being used in conjunction with progressive thoughts? Many think it’s the “old white guys” who are holding us back as a nation.

I mentioned two stereotypes. Here’s the other one: Mr. Thompson resides in Harrison. It doesn’t take much thought to conjure up the stereotypical label one might place on residents of Harrison. There have been some characters up there which I’m sure don’t reflect the attitudes of most residents in the fine Arkansas town.

Thanks, Mr. Thompson, aka “old white guy,” for shattering the image I might assign to an “old white guy” who resides in Harrison. Demographic monoliths do all of us a disservice.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too

Thanksgiving 2016

 

 

 

Black and white thanksgivingLately, I’ve been looking back through my files, and I’ve been finding things I drafted in the past that I never published. Here’s another piece. I guess old age is having its way?

This is Thanksgiving Day 2016. Traditionally, many will be gathering with family and friends today to eat, celebrate, fellowship and give thanks for all that their creator has blessed them to enjoy. Unfortunately, there will be many also who will not be able to recognize much of anything for which they are thankful. Whatever the individual circumstances, this is a day our nation has set aside to give thanks. I rose this morning with a sense of thankfulness like I’ve not had before. I found myself more mindful of all I’ve been given in this life.

I went to bed last night; not sure I would get up and exercise as I normally do. My routine includes an hour ride on my bicycle, a workout on the weights, and some stretching. I was a bit tired last night. I also knew that I would get up this morning and finish cooking our Thanksgiving Day meal that I started last night. I’ve been feeling tired more than usual the last month, so I figured last night that I would only be motivated to get out of bed and finish cooking.

Amazingly, I woke this morning early, 5:30, with plenty energy. With this amount of energy, I had to expend some of it on the bicycle. I completed my hour-long ride and some work on the weights to top it off. I’ve just about finished preparing the meal, and I captured a few minutes to key some musings at my laptop. There’s an old saying many people of faith use regularly, “God is good.” There’s also a comeback to that phrase that’s also commonly used, “And He’s good all the time.” Both of those expressions are somewhat minimal in their ability to capture the full picture of just how great God is. But, that’s true of just about any utterance we might usher forth to describe God. We are finite creatures, with limited abilities to describe the omnipotence of God.

I think I’m feeling, as close as possible, the complete blessings of God on my life this day. I think this is an experience that is prone to come with old age. Being sixty-six and going through all that I’ve gone through, it’s next to impossible to not feel the full effect of God’s handiwork on your life. I have three children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. This morning, I found myself thinking about the loving wife God blessed me with almost thirty-one years ago. I love them all. I don’t love them because they’re perfect. I love them because they are all gifts from God. They are all a part of a whole that gives me a sense of belonging to something larger and greater than myself. I want this love, this fondness to grow even stronger. I haven’t as many days to go as I did ten, twenty, thirty years and more to ago. I want dearly for the remaining ones to be closet to wonderful as anyone can have.

Yes, I am feeling especially thankful on this Thanksgiving Day. I hope my spreading just a little taste of my thankfulness, and why I’m so thankful, tells you why.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Can we slow things down a bit?

 

kitty hawk

I remember years ago, I had certain conceptions about growing old. As I look back at my younger days, it’s obvious to me that my conceptions were misconceptions. One thought I had about reaching retirement age was that I would be able to coast the rest of the way. Living a life of leisure was the promise I had made to myself.

Oh, how speculations about the future are often dead wrong. We’re at a time in our history when each new generation brings with it certain attributes the one previously knew nothing about. My generation, the Baby Boomers, saw a level of prosperity in America no other generation before even dreamed about. During my life, I’ve seen technological advancements that would have boggled the minds of people born during the latter part of the nineteenth century. We’ve advanced from heavy cathode-tubed radios and televisions to hand-held devices that are more powerful than the early cellular telephones of the mid nineteen nineties. The technology has been changing at warp speed.

Space ship Atlantas

 

Political, cultural and economic issues seem to topple the balance of things on a regular basis. When I was a young lad, way back in the middle of the last century, life had a flow about it that didn’t push us forward much. We took things as they came, probably because they came at a speed that was much more maneuverable than today. I’m sitting here tapping out these words on my laptop, with my cell phone and my Kindle standing closely by. Years ago, I never would have imagined and old, retired guy like me would be so in touch with technology. I’m supposed to be fishing, woodworking or doing some other kind of activity that has a bit more “Zin” quality to it.

As much as I try to disconnect myself from the “breaking story of the day”, I feel compelled to watch the 24-hour news cycle as much as the next worry wort. Emoting over things that occur around the world or down the block only raises the blood pressure unnecessarily. Oftentimes, I can’t do a thing about it, but I want to be in the know.

Is the practice of changing cell phones every year necessary? Do I need to have a smart TV? Does my car have to talk to me? Will I, or the generation coming into its own after my children’s generation become melded to technology, clouding the lines that barely exists today? Smelling the roses might not be a bad idea. Analogue did allow time for the relishing of quality, didn’t it? Digital moves us forward at speeds where appreciation of quality is more of a challenge, right?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

We’re all on this tiny blue rock together?

earth at nigjt

 

I wrote this piece two years ago. For some reason, which I’ve yet to comprehend, I chose not to publish it at the time. I just accidentally ran across it in my files. The political and cultural landscape in America has devolved (in my opinion). I think I’ll publish it now. Here goes:

I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. If you know anything about Little Rock, you probably are familiar with the 1957 Little Rock Central High school crisis. Of course, this is when nine black students were ushered into the halls of what was once the largest high school in America to desegregate the place. Given this infamous history, it’s probably no surprise to some that Arkansas was a participant in some of the post-Trump victory unrest that took place across the country. I emphasize the phrase, “across the country” because Arkansas claimed no attribute of exclusivity last week in showing its ugliness after Mr. Trump became our elect for the 45th president of the United States. One place in my great state that saw some of this nonsense roll out was Star City, Arkansas.

Star City is a very small town of 2,274 nestled between the Arkansas Delta and Arkansas Timberland. The high school has roughly 470 students. Two days after the presidential election, attendance at Star City High School had dropped to 150 students due to an increased level of unrest caused by several altercations that had erupted on the small, rural campus. As I read accounts of several disruptions to the educational process around my state, my home, following the election of Mr. trump, I thought of the truth found in sacred scripture, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” There has been mindless social unrest in civil society since time immemorial. I also thought of the members of the electorate who handed Mr. Trump his victory. Mr. Trump owes his triumph to the tens of thousands of white, rural folks around the country who have become weary of the perception that they have been told to “eat cake.” These “fellow” Americans have seen their American dream shaken at the core by such things as the export of Jobs, decreasing purchase power, and God-forbid the browning of main street America.

There was a recent quote in our state’s largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, out of Little Rock, our capital city. The quote is from Jason Lawrence, principal of the high school in Conway Arkansas, “This week, half of America is upset, confused, worried, and scared. The other half is excited, optimistic, and proud. One-hundred percent of us are on this rock together.” I trust that Mr. Lawrence appreciates the power of his statement. Two phrases in his statement when he speaks of the halves of America and the undeniable fact that we are all on this rock together. We are in fact Americans acting contrary to how we should be. We live in a blessed country that is still the greatest experiment in self-governing the world has even seen. We also are in this experiment together. Why, then, is it so hard for us to realize that together we can stand like no nation has stood before? Fear and ignorance have been two of the most powerful foes of civilization, and they will continue to be as humankind continues to occupy the surface of this rock (planet Earth).

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be to