13 – From what I can remember: I didn’t develop the tough stuff

I’m continuing to find it therapeutic to recall experiences of my past life. Why should I wait for that moment of crisis when my life flashes before my eyes?

I’ve been thinking about my life as a young boy growing up in rural Cross County, Arkansas. The happiness I reveled in playing in grandpa’s fields, exploring the best of nature that left me with several layers of grime at the end of the day, is fresh in my mind. I enjoyed being outside, which was good for me, since parents back then preferred kids be outside, not inside making a mess of everything.

I don’t remember exactly when grandpa introduce me to his 22-caliber rifle. He only had two guns: his 22 and a 10-gauge shotgun that had a rough hand-carved stock. As I recall, the weapon had been damaged in some manner and grandpa had replaced the stock with something he hewed. The thing had a recoil that kicked like a mule. I do remember asking grandpa to teach me how to shoot. After firing the shotgun once, I chose to stick with the twenty-two from that point on. Grandpa wasn’t an educated man, but he did teach me about gun safety: never keep a loaded gun in the house, always keep the barrel pointed downwards unless you’re aiming at game, always hand a gun off to someone else stock first. I don’t remember ever shooting anything, rabbits, squirrels, or any of the little creatures grandpa would venture into the woods to kill, bring home, skin, and prepare for Sweet (my grandma) to miraculously turn into some good vittles.

There was something missing in me that prevented me from shooting animals, slaughtering hogs, or taking the lives of wild or domesticated creatures. To this day, I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to gut fish. I think my powerful desire to turn farm animals into pets developed in me an inability to take the life of any animal. In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not a vegetarian. I just don’t like killing animals.

I remember a traumatizing experience I had when I was around ten years old. Grandpa had given me a pig to play with. I named it, played with it, led it about everywhere I went. The pig grew up into a hog, and I’m sure you can guess what happened to it. I refused to eat any of the meat produced from my friend. I remember all the adults telling me that hogs are raised for food not for pets. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend why grandpa and my uncles had to kill my friend, even though poor folks like us needed the meat from the animals we raised for food.

Yep! I was a country-raised kid with no stomach for shooting Bambi, any of his friend, wild or domesticated. Strange. Isn’t it?

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

12 – Weather and a few related things: From what I can remember

Example of the quality of house we lived in when I was growing up

As I write this piece, it’s 8:21 in the morning, December 28, 2021. The temperature outside is 68 degrees (20 degree for my friends who live beyond the border of the U.S.). This weather has prompted me to jot down a few thoughts about weather when I was a kid growing up in rural, Cross County, Arkansas.

If you follow my blog, you might remember a series I started back in August of 2020, where I shared a few stories about growing up in poverty yet supported by strong family and community. This will be my 12th contribution to this series. I stopped writing posts to the series in October 2020. I’m going to try my best to pick up more memories from decades gone by and share them in my little comfy space I’ve purchased in the blogosphere.

The weather in Arkansas has been strange this December. Three days ago, it was Christmas, and the temperature was 80 degrees. I won’t convert this to Celsius. If you’re used to metric methods of measuring temperature, take my word, it was hot! Anyone used to the weather in Arkansas, knows that it’s common for temperatures to rise occasionally to a comfortable early spring level, for a day or two. However, this December has been uncommon, in my non-meteorological opinion.

Sitting in my humble abode on Christmas day, feeling discomfort from the unusual heat, I simply pressed the button on my thermostat to activate the air conditioner. Yes. I turned on the air conditioner in December. What a difference six decades or so make. From what I can remember, we never experienced warm spells of the length we’ve had this December back in the 1950s and 60s. We started wearing winter outerwear during the first of October and wore it regularly until the last part of March. It also snowed more back then, too. Snow brought with it challenges, trying to stay warm, and joyful experiences, making, and eating snow ice cream. We weren’t concerned about environmental impurities in snow as today. A little bit of powdered sugar and vanilla extract mixed with snow was quite tasty.

On the issue of trying to stay warm. We lived in houses that were more appropriate for living in a tropical climate, no insulation, no central heat, no environmental-altering technology, except for a wood-burning stove in the living room. The cold, northern winds were successful in finding their way through each crack between the clapboards. I don’t remember any Christmases with temperatures akin to the kind we had three days ago. When there was a white Christmas, we all sat snuggled by the wood-burning stove, but not too close. The heat from the stove would slowly burn you if you didn’t pay attention.

Type of wood burning stove we used for warmth when I was a child

What a contrast, back when I was a kid, we would’ve loved central heat to protect us from the winter chill, which seemed colder than what we experience now. Now, we find ourselves turning on the air conditioner in December. We now have the financial resources to afford contraptions to cool in summer and het in winter. Not to sound too much like a complainer, but it would be nice to use each contraption for the season for which it’s intended.

Oh, the weather forecast calls for the possibility of snow in five days.

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

The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1-21King James Version

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

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

          I’m not sure what spirit this is?

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t purchase the biggest, most expensive, hard-to-find Christmas gift for anyone. I think I’ve come to realize that being thoughtful about what you give a person is more important that what the price tags says. With that thought out of the way, I bought gifts for everyone on my Christmas shopping list early this year. Getting out a few weeks before Christmas, evading the hustle and bustle, which isn’t good for my old, easily frayed nerves.

Although my Christmas shopping has been done, I still find that I must get out to run an errand or two. A couple of days ago I took to the streets to do just that. I must have been out of my mind. I could have sworn there were people out there whose mission it was to ruin my Christmas spirit, and they all were driving.

Of course, there are people meandering recklessly during every major holiday season; however, there’s something distinctly different about the mad crowd that takes to the streets this time of year. This trip I took a couple of days ago, was a perfect example of why I should stay home during the week leading up to Christmas. One lady, I’m being presumptive here, was following me so close I could have seen whether she was wearing eye shadow. The only reason I couldn’t is because I’ve been suffering from severe dry-eye syndrome. I saw two drivers navigate their way around long lines of traffic by illegally using the left-turn lane way before they should have, and they made no effort to make a left turn. Do you know those red, octagonal traffic signs with the word stop on them? The last I heard they were strategically placed where they are for drivers to stop. I didn’t get the memo advising everyone during the Christmas holiday season that you can simply ignore these. My little trip afforded me the opportunity to stop counting the number of drivers I saw ignore stop signs.

And then there are the speed freaks. I have a habit of saying a driver must be rushing to put out a fire whenever I feel as though I’m standing still when passed. This is especially the case when I’m driving five miles above the speed limit, and my fellow denizens are passing me doing at least fifteen miles faster than I. I can only assume this time of year that the reason for such speed is they’ve received word that the store is about to run out of that most popular toy; the one their kid has been bombarded with in tv commercials since before Thanksgiving.

I’m sure you have crazy shopping and driving stories to share for Christmas Holiday season, and I’m sure you do the same as I. You keep your spirits bright and with the greatest of intentions, keep in mind the real reason for this season.

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

The flow

Recently, as I was driving to my destination, I took notice of the rain and the steams in which it was falling. Most of us who live in Little Rock know that all creeks, streams flow, no matter how circuitously, into the Arkansas River. This natural activity is an example of how things work in the universe. I’m not an astrophysicist by any stretch of the imagination, however, I do know that there is movement of the universe. Descending from that macro perspective, even the molecules in this laptop I’m pecking on aren’t as solid as my eyes perceive them to be. There’s a flow to the universe, there’s a flow to all its components; a flow, construction that keeps everything in place as the Creator intended.

What happens when we behave in ways that are counter to the flow? History provides us with countless examples: War, political strife, crime, family discord. The list of consequences resulting from ignoring the flow, and more so, buttressing against it are too many to list. Suffice it to say, if you take stock to meditate on this issue for a little time, you’ll began to recognize things in your life that have gone awry due to yours or someone else’s disregard for the flow.

If you’re of the Judeo-Christian faith as I, you may recall ancient scripture that says: “Genesis1: 31a- And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good; Genesis 2: 15 – The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it.”  These are but two references to the flow, the reverence the Creator has for His creation and the reverence He intended for us to have for it, too. We should collaborate with each other, not seek ways for contention; we should look for ways to serve, not be served; we should look for the spirit within each of us, not outside differences that can draw criticism among us; we should always look for ways to celebrate our God-given differences, as if they were the blossoms of a beautifully arrange bouquet.

The flow is there for us to exist harmoniously and thrive within. Life for you, me and everyone would be grand beyond imagination, if we just lived with all the flow provides.

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

Happy Holidays to all my virtual friends!

As I sit at my desk and strike the keys on my laptop, I’m never sure who’ll take the time to read my musings. I’m always humbled that some in virtual land will. I’m especially grateful that there are some who regularly read my thoughts.

We’ve all had a challenging time over the last two years. A little cheer is needed by us all.

To all of you who read my blogs regularly and to those who don’t: Happy Holidays to all of you!

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

      Sometimes, we must move on

Remember back in January/February 2020 when the coronavirus first showed up on the scene. I remember the middle of March, it seemed like the entire world was placed on pause. The streets in Little Rock were almost void of activity during the latter part of March. People were hunkering down, not knowing what was going to happen. We were a long way from having a vaccine back then, so staying away from others was part of our arsenal for protecting ourselves.

There were certain things we did in our household, and I’m sure households everywhere did much the same. Here are just a few of the measures we took to protect ourselves from the plague which seems like an escapee from the Old Testament: purchases of groceries were wiped down with sanitizer before being stored away; gloves were worn when we ventured out, especially when handling spouts at the gas station; no trips were made anywhere except for groceries; attending church in person was out of the question; any visitors to our home were greeted outside; we purchased a supply of masks from Amazon.

Now, we’re almost two years out from the initial shock of the corona virus visiting us, and we seem to have adjusted to a new normal. The streets of my hometown are busy with traffic, grocery stores are filled with shoppers 24/7; houses of worship are open, with safety measures in place; schools are open. The list of things we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing back in March 2020 are being performed without thought.

We’re moving on. But wait, the coronavirus isn’t giving up the fight just yet. It has regrouped twice since March 2020 and attacked with two variants. Seven Hundred thousand people in the United States have died from the virus. In the face of this menacing reality, we are still out and about, many of us without masks.

Moving on seems to be the human way of doing things. Time moves on and we find ourselves caught up in the stream produced by it; a stream that can never be damned up, redirected, or changed in any manner. My prayer is that we will soon see the adage, this too shall pass, come to light.

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


First row from left: Cecily, Felicia, Terri (Felicia’s cousin); Second row from left: Hal, me, Chris, Jerry, Michael, Terri, Reggie

Around the end of November, my eldest child, Felicia called me and asked what Chris and I were doing for Christmas. I must admit, I hadn’t given much thought to traveling or doing too much of anything except staying home. The last couple of years have put a damper on my outlook for traveling or looking forward to traditional gatherings to celebrate Christmas. I live in Little Rock and Felicia lives in Jonesboro, a two-hour drive away. For some reason, Felicia was insistent that Chris and I try to gather with her and her husband, Jerry, during this holiday season. Felicia is a successful real-estate broker, selling real-state, managing properties, and arranging financing for home buyers. She also owns an Airbnb, which is adjacent to their home.

Recently, my brother, Larry and his wife, who also live in Little Rock, drove up to Jonesboro and spent a couple of days in Felicias’ Airbnb. They enjoyed their stay. Felicia suggested we do the same. She suggested we come up December 12 and spend two nights. Two days in Jonesboro, in an Airbnb is far shy of the holiday we, including Felicia and two of my cousins, enjoyed last year. If you follow my blog, you know we spent last Christmas and New Year’s Day in Ghana, West Africa. I agreed to make the trip to Jonesboro. I should have suspected something was up, but I can be as naïve as a two-year old.

From left: Jerry, Felicia and Chris. Christmas light show in Jonesboro

The twelfth of December falls on a Sunday this year, so Chris and I masked up for church and headed out for Jonesboro afterwards. About halfway on our trip, Felicia called and asked how far out we were from Jonesboro. I hadn’t been paying attention because I was asleep with Ari, our little ball of energy Shih Tzu sitting on my lap. A short while later, Felicia called again and told me that we would be staying at an Airbnb, which isn’t hers. She gave me the address, so I could put it in my GPS. To be honest, if we hadn’t been more than halfway to Jonesboro, we would have considered turning around. Felicia was waiting outside the Airbnb when we arrived. The place was nice and cozy, two bedrooms, two baths. It did have a no-pets policy. We decided Ari would spend the two nights in Jonesboro with Felicia and Jerry.

After we brought our luggage in, we sat for a while to rest and chat. As the afternoon advanced to early evening, we asked Felicia about a place to have dinner. She mentioned that Jerry was working on a project and that we would go out to eat when he finished. Later we gathered Ari’s things and went by Felicia and Jerry’s place to drop off Ari and pick up Jerry.

Although I haven’t spent a lot of time in Jonesboro, I did recognize the restaurant when we arrived. It’s a place Felicia and Jerry frequents. As we entered the place, Jerry ushered us around a corner, and then: Surprise! There was a gathering of friends and family sitting around a large table. They were there to celebrate our thirty-sixth-year wedding anniversary. You’re asking why thirty-six. Felicia had wanted to celebrate our thirty-fifth; however, we were in Ghana last year.

More Christmas lights in Jonesboro

Seated around the table were Cecily, our middle child, who had driven up from Little Rock; my sister Terri and her husband Reggie from Wynne, about 45 minutes from Jonesboro; one of my cousins Michael, who lives in Jonesboro; Felicia’s cousin Terri, a Jonesboro resident; a friend of mine Hal, who I hadn’t seen in over ten years, also a resident of Jonesboro.

With the gang all gathered, we had a wonderful time eating, talking, and celebrating thirty-six years of marriage! In addition to the dinner, Felicia surprised us with an eleven-day trip to South Africa which will cover Johannesburg, Cape Town, a safari and number of other sights and sounds. Felicia knows I have a love of all things Africa, which makes this a fantastic gift. We’ll have the entire year of 2022 to plan the trip.

Felicia, thank you so much. I love you all the way to the moon and back! And much love to my Chris. Our union of thirty-six years has generated many wonderful memories. I pray that we’ll have many more years to create an unforgettable legacy for our children and grandchildren to talk about for years to come.

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

               Dogs: No better friends

Obviously, I need to get out more. I know we’re in the times of covid; however, I can take precautions to protect myself and others. As a blogger of my blessings, it’s important that I observe the world around me. Sure, I can observe a lot of what’s happening by watching the news and reading alerts on the various news services I have on my computer. All of this is fine; however, personal, face-to-face observations can’t be beat. Case and point, while sitting in my automobile service center waiting room this recently, I encountered a lady and her dog. I didn’t have an appointment for service, so I knew I would have long wait. Because of this, I took and few other things to occupy my time. I didn’t need them as much because I encountered the lady and her dog.

The lady and her dog

The lady and her dog captured my attention. I noticed the dog ahead of her, entering the room. I wasn’t sure of the breed, but the little critter was white and fluffy. The lady made her way to an empty seat and invited the dog to lie down on the floor beside her. Of course, the dog was curious, as dogs usually are. Before lying down, it took a quick sniff of another customer who was sitting next to it and its master.

The little dog seemed comfortable there in the customer service waiting room. It didn’t appear to be intimidated or fearful of being in what would have been foreign surroundings to my dog. It wasn’t long before the dog signaled to its master that it wanted to be near her. The lady was quick to respond by sliding to one side of her seat, allowing a small space for the dog to jump up into the seat beside her. This reminded me of my four-legged friend, who routinely jumps up in my chair. As I write this piece she’s lying in my chair between the back of the chair and me, one of her favorite spots. I must admit whenever it’s a bit chilly, her little warm body feels good. Her routine is to get comfortable behind me and take a nap, snoring all the while.

Our critter, Ari

I couldn’t help but approach the lady and her dog. Before approaching, I had already begun to write this blog on my iPhone. I excused myself for any bother I might present. Once I explained that I was a blogger and that I was quite taken by her dog, the lady was quick to demonstrate a friendly attitude that made for a pleasant, brief conversation. I showed her one of the pictures I keep of my dog on my iPhone and asked if she would mind if I took a picture of her little companion. She didn’t hesitate at all. She did ask me what a blog was. I gave her the link to my blog, she accessed it on her phone, and I invited her to keep an eye out for a blog about our encounter, which would contain a picture of her dog.

Our grandcat, (Scout) over for a visit

Although I was somewhat intrusive, at least I think so, the lady did ask me for my name. I told her it was old and blessed. I think she realized that wasn’t my Christian name. I gave her my name.

My encounter with the lady and her dog (her no better friend) made my two-hour wait for my car to be serviced a pleasant visit to my auto service center. If you read this, the kind lady with the dog, thanks for the conversation and for giving me something to write about.

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

    My heart feels different this year

Recently, I posted a blog about the death of my last aunt; it was titled The Last layer of the Onion. We had my aunt’s funeral two weeks before Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful, yet sad event. Of course, there were the tributes you would expect. Many people made comments about how my aunt made a substantial difference in their lives; they wouldn’t be the same person if it hadn’t been for her. I wholeheartedly agree with those comment because she had influence in my life, too. I still recall the first summer I spent in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is about forty-five miles east of where I grew up in the country outside of Wynne, Arkansas. Aunt Mary moved to Memphis in her early twenties and lived there until her death.

That summer of 1968 I spent in Memphis was the first I had spent time in a place with a population considered to be a big city. I was seventeen years old, and I wanted to work at doing something other than working on somebody’s farm. Aunt Mary was gracious enough to let me spend the summer with her and her family. I was fortunate to find a job working as a customer service representative at an EXXON service station. My job was to provide full service to customers when they drove up to the gas pumps. Besides checking oil, tire pressure and pumping gas, I was also responsible for selling batteries, tires, and other automobile accessories. There were four of us working this job. We were dressed in uniforms, and we provided a level of service you don’t get at the self-service gas stations we see today. The summer of 1968 was just a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, at the Loraine Motel in Memphis. As I recall things were calm in Memphis during that summer. I also recall that I was the only African American working at this EXXON service station.

I’ve written a bit about Aunt Mary because I wanted to tell of just one instance where she provided help for me when I needed it. I’ve had other members of my family, aunts, and uncles to do likewise through the years. As I’ve grown older, there have been other people who have stopped along their journey to help me in ways that only they could have. I think most of us can say, especially when you reach my age, that we wouldn’t be who we are today had it not been for people who gave of themselves to help us. Countless numbers those personal game changers are gone now. But you know, they’re still coming. Often, they’re younger now.

This covid-19 year (2021) has been a remarkable one. I could list several things that have defined this year for me: however, I’m not going to. Rather, I would like to ask that you take my assertion at face value and think about the noteworthy things that have happened in your life. As you engage the image-making equipment in your mind, I have no doubt that you’ll understand what I mean. I also think you’ll understand what I mean when I say that my heart feels different this year. I’ll bet yours does, too.

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