Oh well

Recently, we received word by way of the news media that the rapper Takeoff had been killed. He had achieved a notable amount of popularity. He was popular without counting me in his throngs of fans. I have nothing negative to say about this young man. It’s just that I’ve never been able to down enough rap music to acquire a taste for it. But, enough about rap music. This piece is about murder, killing, the senseless taking of another human being’s life.

I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas is a small state somewhere west of the Mississippi River and east of the state of Oklahoma. I was hopeful that Arkansas would become easier to locate on the map when our native son Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States. Somehow, I still think we’re on that road that offers a pass through to other places. Little Rock, however, is gaining a reputation as being a violent city. Google the most violent cities in the country and see where Little Rock falls in the rankings. I don’t totally agree with these rankings. There are some parts of this 200,000-person village that see more violence than necessary, but I don’t live in those areas.

Yesterday, the local news media reported the 71st killing for the year in Little Rock. It looks like we’re on our way to setting a record. No doubt, most of us would prefer some other record-setting activities. I must be fair to my hometown and point out that there’s been an increase in violence in many areas of the United States. Guns are certainly a contributing factor to this. For the life of me, I’ll never understand this insane passion we have for guns in the United States. I would love to wake up one morning and hear news reports of the mysterious disappearance of all guns within the borders of our country. Unfortunately, that would be the only way we would ever be rid of guns, since our right to bear arms is incased in our constitution: “The Second Amendment: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Since I’m a long way from being a constitutional scholar, I won’t debate exactly what this means. I’m also not a member of any militia. I would say that reasonable regulation of guns in my beloved country, would throw us into some form of outright societal civil conflict.

And so, our pre-occupation with guns and using them to kill each other, continues to place crimson stains in our schools, our places of worship, our homes, our neighborhoods, our public square, and even our sacred halls government. Like so many dynamics that result in loss of life in staggering numbers, drunk driving, smoking and several other dumb things, we’ve attained a state of numbness to reports of senseless shootings in America from the urban plains to pristine suburban patches and beyond. I can lower my head and scratch it in fruitless efforts to produce answers on how to reduce gun violence in my country. There will, no doubt, be news reports of others killed by some gun-toting person before I can raise my head to catch a breath.

Oh well…

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

    The Big Dam Bridge

I had some time to kill yesterday, Ari, my trusty Shih Tzu and I decided to do a little roaming. We ended up at the Big Dam Bridge in West Little Rock. The name is attributed to the location of the bridge, which is at the location of the Murray Lock and Dam, part of the river navigation system. The following is a description of the bridge taken from the Big Dam Bridge website.

Originally intended to be called Murray Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge in Arkansas spans the Arkansas River and Murray Lock and Dam between Little Rock and North Little Rock and is open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At 4,226 feet in length, it is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in North America that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles. It rises to 90 feet over the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam. The span over the river is 3,463 feet, with the ramps on either side of the river accounting for the rest of the length. The southern end of the bridge is near Little Rock’s Murray Park, while the northern end is at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock.

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

Beauty

Genesis 1:31a – And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…

Beauty is a wonderful thing. I’m not talking about the symmetrical arrangement of facial features, which can launch a short career in modeling, acting or some other public venture where shallowness is important. I’m talking about the kind of beauty one finds in letting your eyes focus on the colors of fall in areas on the globe where the four seasons make drastic changes in the flora. The beauty to which I’m referring is also present in the hearts of those of us who see immeasurable value in every human being who’s been granted space on our planet. This beauty is all around us; however, far too many of us are drawn away from it by voices that are telling us to turn our attention to other things. These other things usually consist of what’s in a bottle, the new and improved model of whatever or the radiance that comes with youthful, outward appearance.

You might find it weird, but I like the beauty I see in animals. I get a big kick out of watching animal videos on YouTube. There are videos that present animals in various scenarios where they interact with each other and with humans. I also find myself being highly entertained by baby videos where their laughing is the focus of the video. The cackling of a baby observing an animal or a human doing something funny gives me belly-aching laughs like none other. There’s nothing like the endorphins percolated from a good, deep belly-aching laugh. Whenever I have one of those, I walk away feeling good for quite some time. Can you think of anything more beautiful than that. I wonder what the world would be like if we all had at least one good bellyaching laugh a day.

It’s fall now and there’s beauty abounding everywhere I live. The early parts of all seasons always provide me an opportunity to feast all my senses on the beauty of nature. The early weeks of all seasons are like sliding into a new automobile. That fresh smell is there. Things have just begun to change. There’s no hint of the upcoming season yet. I find myself feeling as though I have a front row seat to a theatrical presentation being produced and performed by the Creator.

Beauty. It’s all around us, and it’s free to take in. I can’t help but wonder if peace would have a better chance of overtaking the planet, if we all would make efforts to observe and enjoy the beauty that emanates from the heart of creation. Just a few silly thoughts from: Old and blessed.

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

How many more years do I have?

I was just sitting here at my desk wondering how many more years I’ll be blessed with to rise early in the morning, put my self through the paces of early-morning exercises, earnestly meditate on the things of my life, quietly expressing thanks to my Creator, and to feel at peace. Yes, I’m feeling at peace. Even though there are conflicts occurring all around my beloved globe, I feel at peace at this very moment. It’s quiet. It’s so quiet, I can even hear the overpowering sound of one of my ailments, tinnitus. This ringing in my ear that’s a constant, that I mostly don’t notice until I have a moment of silence. One might say I’m even blessed to be alive to hear this bothersome ringing. I’m not so sure that’s my sentiment.

I remember twenty-two years ago; I asked that same question: How many more years do I have? Life has answered that question for me. I’ve been given ample time to make more dumb mistakes, correct them in many cases and to move onto a future absent of past mistakes; however, there are always new ones waiting in the wings from which to learn. I’ve tried my best at living in the present, but less be honest, don’t we all go to bed at night thinking about what the dawn will bring?

Even tough I do think about the futures of my grandkids and great grandkids, what their experiences in school will be like, what their rights of passage will present them when doorways are opened, I don’t worry myself into a clinical state. I’m convinced they will have similar opportunities to make dumb mistakes, and hopefully to correct them also. Life has a habit of serving up the same stuff repeatedly, with different technologies of course. We may have computers, cellular phones, jet planes and the like, but all these wonders are there to help us indulge in the same human experiences (love, hate, greed, envy, politics…) that have occupied our days since time immemorial.

Yeah, I would like to have a few more years, without dementia, and physical frailties. Of course, I know I can’t order them up the way I would want them. For now, I’ll keep rising early in the morning, exercising, meditating, and enjoying the peace granted me by my Creator. That sounds like a winner, don’t you think so?

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

Fifteen minutes of fame delayed

Technological development moves at a rapid pace. I bought an iPhone eleven twenty-one months ago. The iPhone fourteen is out now and people are going bat crazy over it. My cell phone service has been emailing me incessantly over the last three months, trying to get me to purchase the new iPhone. Their pitch is to pay off the balance I yet owe on the phone I have so that I might be sitting pretty like countless others, enjoying the latest in communication technology. People are aware of new communications technology, and they want to be right there amidst it. To the contrary, society’s consciousness about social issues doesn’t develop at a pace necessary to keep instep with needed justice and equal treatment of all.

Recently, my Sunday newspaper contained an article about James Meredith, an African American who bravely enrolled in the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1962. Meredith, as did several African Americans, of all ages, stepped from a social frying pan into an inferno when they bravely crossed the thresholds of all-white educational institutions in the South during the 1950s and 60s. His act resulted in violence from Ole Miss students, members of the local community and folks from outside of the State of Mississippi. Five hundred federal law enforcement agents were required to protect the life of Meredith and to attempt to keep the peace. On Thursday, September 29, the University of Mississippi recognized Meredith for what he did sixty years ago. There were accolades showered upon him for his bravery in doing something that should have been the right of every American citizen to do, enroll in a public educational institution. The retired assistant provost at Ole Miss, Donald Cole said of Meredith, “He came and revolutionized our thinking. He came to open our closed society.” At age eighty-nine Meredith finally got his much deserved fifteen minutes of fame.

Following the article about James Meredith, my newspaper contained another article about delayed recognition. The article was announcing the death of the Native American activist and actor Sacheen Littlefeather. In 1973, Sacheen, made a speech on behalf of the actor Marlon Brando of Godfather fame. Brando had declined to appear at the Academy awards to accept his award for best actor in the Godfather movie. While on stage, Littlefeather spoke about the mistreatment and misrepresentation of Native Americans in the entertainment industry. Her comments were met with some applause and much booing. According to her, in an interview she sat through later, John Wayne was so moved with anger, security personnel had to restrain him from physically attacking her. As a result of Sacheen’s speech, her acting career was torpedoed before it gained momentum. It is strangely ironic that two weeks before Sacheen’s death the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered a long overdue public apology to Sacheen for the treatment she received nearly fifty years ago when she made her speech at the awards ceremony.

The list of forward-thinking individuals who brought socially redeeming thoughts to the table years before those thoughts were widely accepted is impressive. These individuals are showered with distain at the time they spoke, protested, or took some other action that elevated their thoughts to discussion in the public square. Later, sometimes when they’re dead, people from across the social spectrum can’t quote them enough. I suppose innovative thinking must sit awhile to allow the rest of us to catch up.

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

Suffering through encourages others

I’ve written several times about my chronic health condition. I have multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. As I continue to survive this horrible disease, I’ll write something about it occasionally. How can I not write about it, with my blog having the handle Old and Blessed. Aging, and aging gracefully with cancer is a wonderful blessing. Taking stock of the things I’m blessed with enjoying demands that I write about those things in my despite column; despite the challenges that threaten not only my quality of life, but life itself. We all have a despite column, consisting of those items in life that come to stifle us. Somehow, we’re able to journey on with more joy than we deserve. I chalk it up to my Creator.

Consider the following: According to the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, an estimated 34,470 adults (19,100 men and 15,370 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year. It’s estimated that there will be 12, 640 deaths in the United Sates from multiple myeloma this year. Myeloma is less common than other types of blood-related cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma Worldwide, an estimated 176,404 people were diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2020. An estimated 117,077 people worldwide died from it in 2020. The overall five-year survival rate for people with multiple myeloma in the United States is fifty-five percent. There are many more statistics I could bore you with regarding this disease but consider the fact that I was diagnosed twenty-two years and seven months ago. Who knows how long I had the disease before diagnosis. My healthcare team reminds me regularly that I’m considered a long-term survivor, poster child, if you will.

I’m a member of a Facebook page called Multiple Myeloma Patients. It provides information about the disease and support for those who have been diagnosed. I’m a regular contributor to the page, looking for those who find themselves struggling with a recent diagnosis, or seeking information about some development in their condition. Although everyone is different and the approaches doctors take to treat individuals are different, based on several variables, there are often some commonalities that can be discussed among patients. I often find myself of some use in encouraging people who haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that they have multiple myeloma, and that the world hasn’t ended for them yet. They are still alive, living during a time when advances in treatment for cancer are being made regularly. Whenever I mention my long-term survival, the responses indicating hope, encouragement for a bright future are quick to show up on the page with likes and smiling emojis.

My journey hasn’t always been positive. I’ve undergone a lot of suffering. There have been numerous hospital visits over the years. I’ve had to have a hip replacement. I’ve contributed nicely to my dentist’s coffers. Heck, I’ve even undergone a bout with sepsis that nearly took me out; however, I’m still here with a story to tell that offers encouragement to others.

Suffering is that dark cloud that sometimes has a silver lining, especially if you are moving forward. I honestly believe it isn’t to be wasted on yourself. When the Psalmist in the Twenty-third Psalm said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…,” I focus on the word through in that verse. I don’t believe I’m walking through this dark valley of suffering for no reason. The best reason I can produce is to let us know that if they’re still alive with sound mind, they have every reason to be encouraged.

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

I wouldn’t be without you

From the time two sources came together in a moment of passion, you have been there. You have energized me, given me opportunities to learn, watched me, while never depriving me of my freewill. You were there waiting to usher me into my first exposure to light. You provided a platform for me to test my endowments; to begin the process of developing my humanity. In the initial stages of my development, I had no knowledge of you, what you were about, what your purpose was. I simply reveled in uninhibited joy, most of the time anyway.

As I’ve meandered about, sometimes with short periods of understanding, most of the time with unadulterated ignorance you’ve been there offering more challenges, more opportunities for me to learn and connect with all that I see. There have been forces coming at me from all sides, convinced that they have the answers I require to better prepare me to navigate through the times I’ve been granted. Each force is convinced that it has the best answers, the best tools, and at time, each is willing to vehemently attempt to win me over to its side. At times, I’ve resisted because I’ve wanted to seek my own answers, my own path. Little have I known that paths already taken by other have been better for me than any travel plans I could conjure. Fortunately, I’ve learned much during those times when I turned left when conventional wisdom said turn right. I wish I could say all bad decisions left me unscathed. Sometimes the wounds from bad decisions seem to linger for ever.

There have been times when I have come near being deprived of your presence. I can recall one time when you, in your dogged determination, decided the forces that tried to take you away had to retreat. I don’t think that bothered them terribly, since that was simply a battle lost, not a war. I’ve come to enjoy you in my own unique way, but that was the intent. You’ve been my personal companion, gifted to me to use in the best way I can. I honestly wish I had used you to the fullest of positivity; however, I wasn’t always that good at ignoring the distractions that offered greater sensory experiences at the time.

I’ve had more time with you than I deserved, and now that you’re short on supply, I have a better understanding of who and what you are. I understand your purpose. But isn’t that the refrain of many of us who have been gifted with your presence: Just when we think we’ve got you figured out, the screen goes black. Ironically, it’s a blessing to be given the time to get to that point.

Life, my greatest gift, my greatest friend, my greatest companion, thanks for what has been and what has yet to come.

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

A strange new world with old content

There’s something happening with me that’s difficult to explain. For the last three years or so, a good portion of my emotional and mental energy is focused on the past. My dreams during slumber at night take me off into experiences I’ve had years gone by. And the confusing thing is that they are patchworks of a variety of experiences, woven into single stories with individual elements that have nothing to do with each other. People, places, times of joy, pain and suffering separated by years are mixed into some weird cauldron where non-related elements are interacting with each other. The amazing thing is these distinctly different elements function as though they are familiar with each other, and they aren’t behaving, in the least bit, that they were from various times in my past. I often wake in the morning wondering why this is happening. One thing I can say for certain is that these nighttime, mental theatrical productions are of epic quality. Hollywood could learn a thing or two from the production quality.

Is my subconscious somehow experiencing short circuits or is this common for someone my age. I’ve had seventy decades plus to accumulate countless stories; stories that have allowed me to be involved in the entire inventory of human emotions that has been existed since creation. Speaking of emotions, yesterday was my mother’s birthday. She has been dead now for four years as of this past July 5. I sat down at my keyboard to right something about her yesterday; but I found myself too emotionally stirred to move thoughts to keyboard. At the end of yesterday, I asked myself why was such an emotionally experience was visited upon me. I yet have an answer today. This has not happened to me before, during the last four years mom has been gone. I posted a piece about mom April 8, 2019: Momma – oldblessedwordpresscom. This recounts some thoughts I had during her Alzheimer’s experiences.

I know many of us tend to romanticize about days of old. I suppose the more days one has, the more the collection of romanticized stories are chronicled in your brain. Or is the sheer weight of all these thoughts so overpowering that they simply assume authority of what’s going on in those cobb-webbed infested brains of ours? I don’t think I’m in need of psychiatry services at this point. If I ever do, I won’t know that they’re needed. Chris is standing at the ready. I’m sure she’ll do what’s necessary should professional services be required. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying the shows of days gone by.

The old stuff of life, of the world, of my individual experiences just seem more substantial than the fare dished out during these current microchip, digitized times. I can smell and touch a paper book, but nothing of my library contained on my Kindle, where there’s no real-life texture.

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

Even disgusted doesn’t describe it

I’m making it clear from the start that this post contains complaints. Please, I ask that you hold your nose or turn away if you don’t care for complaints about politics. We’re amid our mid-term elections in the United States, when national congressional seats, some state political offices and local offices are subject to election. Traditionally, this is the time when political tides are subject to turn, gains made by one political party two years ago just might be lost. The electorate has had a couple of years to ponder what it did twenty-four months ago, and it just might want to fix things. I’ve written about our mid-term elections before: Make your mark – oldblessedwordpresscom; life has taught me that there’s always something to say about politics.

I live in the red state of Arkansas. For anyone reading this, who resides outside of the North American area, someone has assigned the colors red and blue to describe the predominant political leanings of each state. Simply put red is used to designate those states that vote Republican; they have state legislatures that are predominately Republican, locally elected officials who are reflective of the same and so on. These states voted for forty-five (Trump) in 2020. Yes, I’m sure you noticed the hint of bias there. Since this is a blog, where I express my opinion, that’s okay. In contrast, blue states vote predominantly Democratic and are more progressive in their thinking; they voted for Biden in 2020.

My how things change. When I was much younger states that voted Democratic are today’s red and those that voted Republican are today’s blue. Confusing, don’t worry politics wasn’t meant to make sense anyway. Remember those colored maps the teacher used to use in school, where the states and global land masses were colored. They showed the states of the United States in bright vibrant colors. The first time I took a plane ride over the Unites states, I found myself missing those colors. I would like to think of my state being something other than red politically, maybe a light brown would look much better. If I remember from my elementary school art class, purple is what you get when you mix blue and red watercolors. Purple would suggest, to me anyway, that some thinking is occurring, and that the electorate is doing something other than drinking the Kool aide being served by the politicians.

Arkansas has been given an opportunity to elect a very bright young man to its governorship. He’s well educated, with a proven track record of public service; he’s a thinker, who’s capable of serving all the people of our state fairly; and he comes into the political arena from the Christian faith tradition that Arkansans purport to be important to them. He’s thinking is blue. His opponent has spent time buying television ads, not based in facts, that appeal to the emotions of the red colored electorate in Arkansas. She often refers to forty-five with a sense of endearment and respect and President Biden with terms that denote something other than the same. She even credits him with the increasing inflation that’s affecting the entire globe. She doesn’t mention her opponent very much in any of her ads. I would think she feels she doesn’t have to, since Arkansas is a red state, and she knows how to speak red with the best of them.

A little purple would be nice right about now.

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

It’s September 22, 2022

I live in the Northern Hemisphere, State of Arkansas, United States of America, and today is the official first day of fall. Yesterday the temperature was 101 degrees (38.333 degrees to you). Temperatures like that don’t provide any indication that the annual leave-color-changing event is anywhere near peeking around the corner. It’s a bit cooler today. The forecast is for us to enjoy a sunny 87 Fahrenheit (30.556 Celsius). When my grandfather was alive, he would still have a way to go before switching to his long handles (full-body underwear). He would normally do that on the first of October. The temperatures we’ve been experiencing in recent years, even late into October, would cause him to adjust his underwear changing schedule. Heck, he would be downright confused. He didn’t depend on trained meteorologist to provide him a weather forecast. The Farmer’s Almanac and a good gander at the sky were enough. There wasn’t much talk of global warming during his time.

It’s common for me to think about grandpa and his time when the calendar announces change of seasons. He could look out at the horizon and tell if a rainstorm was coming. Was he accurate in his predictions? From what I can recall he was. Of course, I’m attempting to recall things as they were back in the 1950s. I do know that farming the tiny little piece of land he had with two mules, required him to have a good handle on what was happening with the weather. High tech farming was developing in the southern part of the United States back then, but it did affect grandpas’ operation.

Fall, which did seem to come much earlier meteorologically when I was grasshopper height, was a whimsical time for young ones like me. Living in a rural setting gave us experiences that my urban dwelling offspring can’t begin to imagine. I can recall following my grandpa around, in the fields, as he and his trusty mules harvested the crops. The clear, crisp fall skies served up comfortable air to frolic in, far different than the humid, oven-like fare that called for sitting under my grandparents weeping willow trees to escape the heat most of the day, during July and August. Working in the field to collect sweet potatoes, peanuts and other goodies was fun. It was fun because I didn’t do much work. Why else would I recall these times of old with such joy.

I recall a television commercial that used to run for Oldsmobile automobiles. It would compare the contemporary Oldsmobile to those of older times by saying, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Please allow to borrow that line for making a comparison to the fall season of today to that of a time way back during the last century by saying, “This ain’t your grandpa’s fall.’ Ain’t adds something to it don’t you think?

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