Father’s Day 2022

For those of you who follow me, you know that I don’t take each day I open my eyes for granted. I’m seventy-one years old now, soon to be seventy-two. Days like Father’s Day are like another slathering of icing on the cake. If I’m here to see and experience another one, I’ll continue to add blessings to my credit column.

This year’s Father’s Day had a heaping of exceptional value. I’ve made it through the worst of the pandemic, even though I had covid-19. All the articles, news reports and opinions from doctors indicated that folks like me, with underlying health conditions, had a heighten risk of not surviving covid-19. Well, I did, and now, well over two years since the onslaught of the pandemic, I’m here to celebrate Father’s Day 2022. It’s not just Father’s Day for me. You might say it’s Grandfather’s Day and Great Grandfather’s Day, too. Yes, I’m all three.

What did I do on Father’s Day 2022? I’m glad you asked. One added special thing to Father’s Day this year was the celebration of Juneteenth, which occurred on the same day. Juneteenth was the day in 1865 when Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to informed the enslaved African Americans that they were free Juneteenth – Wikipedia. I celebrated both days. The weather was hot as Hades, but Chris and I ventured out the day before Father’s Day to celebrate Juneteenth at a street festival put on by the Mosaic Templars Museum if Downtown Little Rock. After two hours of folks, and fun, we retreated to our airconditioned automobile sweat-soaked clothing and all. On Sunday, officially Father’s Day, we had our virtual Sunday school lesson, which I taught; then, we rushed off to church for services. Things are still too risky for our church to enclose people in small classrooms for Bible study; however, we do have worship service in the sanctuary, with masks and ample social distancing still being apropos.

After church, I was treated by Chris and the kids to a Chicken Alfredo dinner from The Olive Garden Restaurant. I’m not one who cares that much for eating restaurant food, but Olive Garden’s Chicken Alfredo is just too good to pass up.  I left church and went to the restaurant to pick up the food for us to eat at home. I’ve always thought families don’t make as much of a deal to celebrate Father’s Day to the same extent as Mother’s Day. The crowd at the Olive Garden proved me wrong this year. Folks were standing around in the foyer, waiting for tables, and out the door unto the deck. Getting takeout was a wise choice.

After stuffing myself with Chicken Alfredo, garlic bread and salad, I rested for a short while before retreating to my office where my trusted Shi-Tzu, Ari and I napped for good while.

Father’s Day 2022, a celebration to remember. I hope it was in your neck of the woods, too.

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

There are consequences to making the Devil proud

Several years ago, I made Facebook posts of upcoming Sunday school lessons. I’ve been a Sunday school teacher for over thirty years. I found these synopses of the lessons, that I posted on Saturdays, were effective at recruiting people to Sunday school. The following is a summary I posted on June 12, 2016. I’m not sure these summaries will work as blogs, but here goes.

Sunday school lesson for June 12, 2016

I remember days when I was but knee-high to a grasshopper. Those were days of carelessness, fueled by overwhelming desire to just have fun. There was no other calling so compelling, except to just have fun. Oftentimes, that drive ushered me into activities that made the Devil proud. Fortunately for me, my momma would-at times-show a bit of grace. She would make it clear that my behind probably should once again be connected to a fresh switch from the Weeping Willow in the front yard. It was at those times she would say, “I ought to whip your behind;” however, instead she would say, “If you do that again…”

The lesson for tomorrow reminds me somewhat of the preceding bit of remembrances. We’ll be looking at an account from Zephaniah 3:1-8. Here the prophet is letting the people, in particular the leaders of society, know that they were doing things that made the devil proud. God was not pleased, and He would reign down punishment, even on His chosen people (the Israelites), as He had done on other nations, not in His chosen group. The message God gave the Israelites through the prophet Zephaniah is clearly appropriate for our leaders today, and the dire consequences will be the similar.

If you sit in on this class tomorrow morning, you’ll see that we are in a repeat production of what the people were performing during Zephaniah’s time.

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

This year’s (2022) family gatherings                                              

Is the worse of the pandemic over? It seems to be anyway, and we’re all anxious to get back out and shake it up. My church is back inside the walls of the sanctuary. We’re having Sunday morning services again; however, we’re not having the full array of ministry meetings (Sunday school, Bible studies, and missions.) we would normally have. These small group gatherings require a certain amount of intimacy that is still too risky for now. People are still getting sick with the latest variant of covid-19, even though the effects aren’t as catastrophic as back in 2020 and 2021.

My family’s first large gathering for this year was May 28, when a sizable number of us gathered for a ceremony to celebrate my baby sister and her husband’s thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. There was a rededication ceremony and a nice dinner afterwards. I must admit, it seemed a strange to gather for this. Folks were dressed to the nines, and everyone enjoyed the socializing that has been absent from our inventory of social skills for what seems far too long. After almost three weeks, I haven’t heard any reports of people who have gotten sick because of the event. Of course, my family is a bunch of law-abiding, rule following folks, who are concerned about the welfare of others. I would venture to say that we all had been vaccinated.

Chris and I have two other family gatherings on our calendar planned for this year. We’ll be traveling up to Jonesboro in the Northeastern part of the state, where my oldest child lives, along with a few of my cousins. One of my cousins has a nice spread just on the edge of town. The last gathering, he hosted was over the July Fourth holiday in 2019. It was a well-attended event with folks from five generations having the best fun anyone could have. There was more food than any of us could eat. I wrote about this in a blog titled Familial: Familial – oldblessedwordpresscom. That gray-headed lady (Aunt Mary) you see in the first picture has gone on to be with her Lord. She was the one person who represented the top of the fifth generation. This year, there’ll be four generations present. I’ll be the oldest of the fourth (in descending order). Lord, please have mercy on me; elderhood has crept up on me suddenly. That’s another sign of being old and blessed. The other gathering will be Chris’ family reunion, with folks coming from around the country to Little Rock over the Labor Day weekend in September. This group will also be absent two members, Chris’ twin sisters (Bobbie and Gloria). They made their journey to the other side since the last family reunion.

The pause in the fulness of life brought on by covid-19 wasn’t a pause at all. Now, that things are getting back to some form of normality, we’re seeing that life continued its accounting function as usual, making entries in both the credit and debit column. In a sense, there really wasn’t a pause.

May God bless your family gatherings for 2022 and beyond, hug the little ones, have good conversations with the ones in between, and take notes of the wisdom shared by the elders.

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

           Pomp and circumstance for all

Recently, Chris and I drove two and one-half hours from Little Rock to Fayetteville, where our state’s flagship university, the University of Arkansas is located. Our first grandchild, Kennedy Lyn Hill was scheduled to graduate with a master’s degree. Her mom had made every effort to impress to celebrate this event. Along with Chris and I, there were family members from other parts of our state making the drive to Fayetteville, some farther than two and one-half hours. The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 am on Saturday morning, a bit early as weekend events go.

You might think I’m strange, since I’ve only sat through one graduation ceremony of my own. That was high school. My mother was excited about the prospect of her oldest child graduating from high school. She some how came up with the money to pay for the class ring, the cap and gown and all the other entrapments that accompany the pomp and circumstance associated with graduation. As far back as I can remember, I have never cared much for pomp and circumstance, especially when I’m at the center of it. However, I couldn’t tell my mother how I felt about the graduation event. There were others in the family, who were looking forward to seeing me walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

When I went off to college, I worked hard to finish all requirements for graduation within four years. That accomplishment alone was sufficient for me. I had no powerful desire to walk across the stage. I was far more interested in looking for a job with my newly minted degree, versus submitting myself to a graduation ceremony. I left my college alma matter before the scheduled pomp and circumstance, and I requested that my degree be mailed to me. Nineteen years later, I avoided the pomp and circumstance again when I completed my requirements for receiving a master’s degree. Chris and I had been married for a little over six years by then. She, of course, couldn’t understand why I turned down the chance to walk across the stage again. It’s difficult to explain to anyone who’s not an introvert why…

Enough about me. This piece is more about the passing of time. The point in one’s life when they see that generation two tiers down from them accomplishing things that make you proud. I felt proud seeing Kennedy walk across that stage with hundreds of others. That event was one of many that I view as proof of countless blessings life has and continues to send my way. Of course, I’ve had two of my children to graduate college, one to receive a master’s degree, and I was proud of those life events. However, to see a grandchild receive a master’s degree is something altogether different. This is another one of those blessings I’ve been around to see despite my living with cancer for the last twenty-two years-plus.

Kenney’s next academic journey will be to peruse a PhD. Chris is working towards getting one of those herself. I suppose pomp and circumstance is available for us at any age. God’s will, I’ll be sitting in the audience for both Chris and Kennedy when they receive their PhDs.

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

What will we do?

I’m sure the world is aware of the senseless gun violence that has gripped the United States in its clutches. Yesterday we had another mass shooting in a Texas elementary school, taking the lives of at least 19 children; children, the future of our society. These budding souls won’t be around to become contributors to our country in ways that only God knows.

What follows is the content of a Facebook post my oldest child, Felicia Long Johnson, made shortly after the incident in Texas. Please note that the numbers of lives lost in her post aren’t in sync with what I previously stated; that’s because the final count hadn’t been made when Felicia made her post. I have chosen to use her verbiage exactly as she posted it.

Texas…14 lives…now 14…now…

Now we are back to debating gun laws. Debating morality while 14 people are laying in the morgue less than 9 hours after being slaughtered.

Do we really think guns are the problem?

Should we double down on parental oversight?

Should parents regulate violent video games their children play?

Should parents do better about social media time?

Should we fund school for installation of metal detectors?

Should we stop the bs and realize some of our kids are bullies and mean girls and do something about it?

The debates on stronger gun laws does nothing but continue to divide us while our coroners scrape up the remains of students and grocery shoppers.

Why are we looking to the federal government for more regulation when we won’t teach responsibility, civility, and coping skills at home?

The utter madness cannot and will not be solved by the government and its bureaucracy.

This is up to you and me. This is our community.

What will we do?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will.

P. S. I think we have too many guns in the United States. Thirty two percent of Americans say they own a firearm according to the 2021 National firearms survey. As of January 7, 2022, there was estimated to be 400 million guns in the U.S. between police, the military, and American civilians. Are we our own worst enemy?

Where does your soul want you to be?

I often wonder in my old age, how many of us listen to our souls. The title of this piece was inspired by a recent conversation I heard on YouTube. A YouTube content creator was interviewing a young man who was born and raised in Europe. His parents were born in Ghana and had moved to Europe as young adults. At the time they moved, Ghana wasn’t the economically viable nation it is today. His parents have done well in Europe, and they questioned his decision to move to Ghana; however, he’s convinced that his soul wants him to be in his ancestral homeland. From the looks of things, his soul has advised him well. He had a plan for establishing a business, contributing to the community at large and it’s working well.

Where does my soul want me to be? That’s a question of which we’re not taught the importance. I would posit that it’s the same as soul searching. It’s a question that I didn’t begin asking myself until I was in my sixties. Before then, I was consumed by trying my best to implement the model of getting an education, getting a decent job, getting a family, getting a house, getting, getting. I’ve been blessed to get and get well. This model had no module for soul searching. It was what everyone else was driven to do, thus it must have been what the universe wanted of me, too.

Of course, I must not forget my religious upbringing. As I look back on it, it did contain an avenue for soul searching, for tapping into my soul to get the answer to the question: Where does my soul want me to be? But let’s be honest even organized religion often falls short of preparing us to ask this important question. Far too many of us are focused on being a member of the religious organization to which we attend versus developing ourselves to the spiritual heights necessary to connect with our Creator and all the insights that connection offers. One clear example of that faulty connection today is the shameful exhibition of so-called fundamentalist Christians mudding the line between their faith and ultra conservative politics. I must pose this question: If Christian fundamentalist had really been in touch with their soul, ushered daily by the Judeo-Christian God, would they have supported Donald Trump?

I think I’m where my soul wants me to be today. Go ahead, ask yourself that question and wait for the answer.

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

Reasons for why I’m old and blessed

Color ribbon for Multiple Myeloma

Occasionally, I like to take stock for why I consider myself blessed. The handle I’ve assigned to my blog wasn’t done without some serious reflection. The following is a link to an article published in the Myeloma Magazine. This is a publication of the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Science. This is a bit unusual for a blog post; however, I often look for ways to share my cancer journey, in hopes that it will provide encouragement for others who might be going through some kind of arduous challenge in life.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fcancer.uams.edu%2Fmyeloma%2Fmyeloma-magazine%2Fwinter-spring-2022%2Fretired-uams-hr-chief-shares-myeloma-journey-through-blog%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR25TAwH8HyPRpeOPQhFigE6RPq_dk8dNMKppZzZpbewY4NnMCnmQtKsmSQ&h=AT0xX8AnA23-BDPMR8qXKUaMo4cepzV-TM_LyGUakh3hf49p-9c2bDoa_7RmNdqd_Hyh1iZrsg_T8F5ymUgNKc3DBsb-ymyAhNDE0lXQQwypY4KlTRCSlOZW0gjWL_nE1bb7yqLVtbjWFOkOVY5f&tn=H-R&c[0]=AT3LVV8H-KVy1aCW2iOcb5WddC0OO2uv7nkI50Upl0ZQnYEMfhwUindfqfywul48P4yn1ktf8jpn51OjfBfNJct73yqYf-fR_fFUttrB-FXJst2n6KKtZ6I2eJodY9-qI_aO2-bjgN0mWP_Tl3S5R4bczfGetxu9hkA

Are alternative facts necessary?

Do you remember White House counselor Kelleyanne Conway using the term alternative facts to defend the false statement made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer back in 2017? Spicer had overstated the numbers in attendance at Trump’s inauguration, during an appearance on the news interview show Meet the Press. The phrase caught on and it was used frequently by talking heads on news shows and standups delivering comedic monologues. I found myself using it to refer to just about everything that came out of the mouths of everyone associated with the Trump administration.

It’s midterm campaign season in the United States. For anyone reading this outside of the U.S., we are quickly coming upon the election cycle that occurs mid-way between national elections. National elections are when the president and a few of our members of the U.S. Congress are elected to office.   This is the time when many folks decide that they might not have done the right thing voting for a particular party’s candidate two years ago. Now would be a good time to change the political complexion of things, give that other party a chance for the majority vote.

Political campaign season is that time that I wish I could click my heels and all the television ads, campaign signs and church visits from candidates would magically disappear. This would be a welcomed phenomenon this year. We are being bombarded with presentations of alternative facts  in television campaign ads day and night. I would love to talk about who’s doing the best job of fouling up the airways with these well-crafted presentations of outright lies. I decided a long time ago that someone campaigning for political office, who spends lies and wantonly assassinates the character of their opponent, has no substantive platform for serving anyone.

Remember the old television show Dragnet about a couple of straight-shooting detectives with the Los Angeles police department. One of them, named Joe Friday, was known for using the phrase, “Just the facts, mam/sir” when someone he was interviewing strayed beyond what he needed to know. A political candidate running on the merits of his or her track record or platform should be enough. It’s kind of like vanilla ice cream. No matter how many flavors the food industry comes up with, vanilla is always there, reliable, and trustworthy to taste better in a glass with coke poured over it.

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

          I don’t need no dadgum labels!

On my way home, a few minutes ago, I was listening to a news broadcast on National Public Radio. The reporter was talking about the possible reversal of the Supreme Court decision in Roe versus Wade, which made abortions legal in the United States. Somehow a draft of a decision has been leaked, and it’s the talk of the town. Of course, we’re being told that this isn’t an indicator of how the court will rule later. Although I tire of discussions about Roe v. Wade, that wasn’t what irritated me the most about this report. It was the incessant use of labels in association with how states might lean in their lawmaking if this historic decision is reversed. Red states versus blue states, moderates versus conservatives, progressives versus who knows what.

It seems, during these times, that everyone needs a label. It’s reminiscent of the old saying, you can’t tell the players without a card. I recall when Clinton was in the White House. He was seen as a New Democrat, centrist in his approach to governing. He had the most diverse cabinet in the history of the United States. Droves of Black people and other people of color felt good about President Clinton’s administration. I’m not writing to debate as to whether people should have felt good or not, but there was something going on back then that has hatched some unintended chickens. And these chickens are incongruous to the labels that were assigned to President Clinton and his folks.

There were reforms to the criminal justice system that were put in place under Clinton of which no one took the time to consider the consequences. The 1994 Crime Bill created tough new criminal sentences and incentivized states to build more prisons has resulted in a disaster. Some of the effects have been inequality in sentencing for Black people versus white. We’ve all heard the discussion about Black people receiving harsher sentences for crack cocaine compared to whites receiving leniency for powdered cocaine. The mandatory sentencing for crack versus power were unequal. More prison time given for crack, which is cheaper and more prone to be used and sold by people of color. Powder is more expensive and used more by whites. Oftentimes in life a rose is just a rose, no matter what else one might want it to be.

Clinton had some good labels attached to him. Those labels made most of the people of color feel good about him. I must admit, I was one of them. Now, after thirty years, we’re dealing with the effects of those tough on crime laws. President Biden is now feeling the effect of those 1990s tough on crime initiatives. Of course, he has his labels to wear also.

Rather than labels, wouldn’t it be great if we all were judged by our character and the resulting behavior that stemmed from the character traits we possess. Each person would be viewed individually. You and I would be afforded the opportunity to be known, not encased in a box that we’d find ourselves struggling to escape. Yeah, I know you have some swamp land in the Sahara Desert you’d like to sell me.

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

A long tragic story

I attended a book signing recently. I almost didn’t go because my back was aching quite a bit. Chris and I had been invited to attend this event by the Connie Williams, wife of the author, Ronnie Williams. Connie and Ronnie are friends of ours. They both attend our church, and Ronnie is an associate pastor there. This blog isn’t a happy-make-you-smile kind of offering. It’s a story that started back in 1960, when things were drastically different for Black folks living in the Southern part of the United States. Of course, as you read this, you might think of recent incidents that strike an air of similarity.

Ronnie’s book is titled, Markham Street: The Haunting Truth Behind the murder of My brother, Marvin Leonard Williams. I decided not the read the book before writing this blog. I’m familiar with the story; however, I’m not even going to write about my recollections. What I do want to write about is the stage presentation that was done at the book signing. It was an emotionally steering event. Ronnie read several passages from his book. When he was about to read a particular passage, his emotions got the best of him. He asked his younger son to come up and do it for him. This passage was from a chapter in the book called, Mother’s Words.

What’s all this drama about? Let me not proceed a step further without telling you. Back in 1960, Ronnie’s brother Marvin Leonard Williams was arrested and murdered by the police in Conway, Arkansas. The coverup of the murder started immediately and the journey from 1960 to the writing of Ronnie’s book has taken over sixty years with no justice to be had.

The facilitator for the stage presentation began by asking Ronnie and a friend of his, Fred Allen, who also was onstage, questions about their high school basketball days. There was lighthearted and sometimes comical banter with this topic. The moderator, who was white, was also a basketball player and a contemporary of Ronnie’s. I must admit, I became a bit impatient with this part of the presentation because I was anxious to hear the details of one of the darkest stories to ever occur in Arkansas history. However, even the basketball tales had elements of racism etched in them. Fred Allen, who was a star basketball player, is now being considered for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Fred shared a story that painted a picture of how racism prevented him from receiving word of several basketball scholarships. He graduated high school from what was then one of the newly desegrated schools in the South. His basketball coach, who was white, received letters from several colleges interested in recruiting him for their basketball team. Fred was shocked to discover later that any colleges had an interest in recruiting him.

Beside the tragedy of the murder of Ronnie’s brother, there were two trials in the decades that followed Marvin’s murder, a criminal one and a civil one. Neither offered decisions that were satisfactory for the Williams family.

There’s a question that has lingered in my mind for years, and it will until I exit this life: How can any human being end the life of another? I honestly think I would be bothered if I took the life of another in self-defense. I could be wrong, but I think most of us on the planet think likewise. Somehow, I think if we didn’t, death from violence of every kind would take a much greater toll than it does now.

If you don’t, I would like to put a plug in for Ronnie’s book here: Markham Street: The Haunting Truth Behind the Murder of My Brother, Marvin Leonard Williams. The book can be purchased on Amazon.

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