Reflections on Half-a-Century (+)

As I washed up for the weekend and ensured I had my most whitest of my tighties cleaned for whatever might await me on the eve of my biggest day of the year – my birthday – I got to reflecting.

I reflected because I was reminded how lucky I am and how great things are for me. It was a clear moment for me and I thought, “I was money and I didn’t even know it.”  (Swingers) And though I haven’t been feeling so lucky as of late I pontificated about the years gone by and the pretty fabulous life I have lived and what has been bestowed upon me. My conclusion:

I am Blessed.

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My memories swirled through my head like an old 8mm film with the voice of Morgan Freeman narrating (as he always does in my head). My emotions rose like geysers gushing from the Earth  as I sorted through the laundry list of situations and loved ones that made me smile and cry. I peeked in on my sleeping kids and stood in the doorway for a moment – thinking of their futures and the guidance I have given them. And it really finally dawned on me that I am doing okay in life’s fast-paced game.

It isn’t that I don’t have challenges about bills, love, betrayal, or the likes (wait, that sounds like an episode of Empire); but it is the fact that I am still in my right mind to shift. Shift my being to something different. It isn’t a big shift, just a nudge, yet it gives way to those memories that reinforce the good that I have encountered.

So on this eve of me arriving on this planet I reflect on the following:

  • I have a great, supportive family full of love, joy, empathy, and faith.
  • I can smell the fresh summer rain outside my window and take it in like vitamins.
  • I live in a country where I can express my thoughts, feelings, and desires and not be crucified. ‘merica, dammit.
  • I have a nice roof over my head and the heads of my offspring. This blessing should never go unnoticed.
  • I ate a good healthy meal. And even if it wasn’t the healthiest it was still a meal worth eating.
  • I can anticipate the upcoming NFL season – with or without Colin Kaepernick (but I wish him well).

I can give love to my friends and I can receive it in return.

  • I have gained knowledge through education and observation.
  • I am able to work an honest shift and be proud of what I have accomplished.
  • I am can enjoy a great beer or glass of wine or even something harder from time-to-time.
  • And I can write…however I want to, whenever I want to, and to whomever I want to. We can all create something new, every day we are alive.

These few things give me pause as the clock strikes midnight and I go into celebratory mode. I will enjoy those things around me and I will look for the good in life – because I have the power to do so. And for this I am grateful.

Go well and with love good peeps.

And Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

 

My Growing Kids

I had a moment of clarity where life hit me in the gut. No, it wasn’t anything like a life-threatening illness or heartbreaking loss (i.e., an Ex doing you wrong…grrrrr…but I digress); it was a simple act. The act seemed so innocent in its nature – almost like a flower deciding the time was right to bloom; or a butterfly determined to leave its cocoon. No, none of these things. But, yet, what happened to me was powerful beyond words and an eye-opener to boot. I was floored when the situation presented itself as well as at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe this shit was happening to me – but folks had warned me so. And here I was, face to face with the biggest decision in my life – minus the vasectomy I decided against. The decision you ask? Well, to let me kids walk alone to the corner food store. By themselves.

Albeit – there were about 30 other kids going with them…at least that’s what I told myself. And the corner store is approximately two city blocks away, in a neighborhood in which the President himself entrust the local law enforcement to serve and protect (minus the whole “Rodney King experience” we seem to be dealing with in this current year). It was, in fact, a safe passage for my kids to take – they knew the route and simply had to follow the directions provided by me.

But I was tentative and afraid.

I wasn’t afraid that they might be snatched up from deranged lunatic or that they might encounter Bozo the Clown asking them to feel the candy deep inside his insidious pocket, but that my kids were growing up. I felt sad as a tear slowly drifted down my cheek with this realization. Of course I didn’t let them see me cry because I never do but I felt it nonetheless.

I had explained to them in the past about being careful out there in this crazy world and to know that society will not be kind to them because of their race and gender and age; but I had a sense that they were smart enough not to be taken.

I felt confident in their awareness of their environment and that they were able to discern right from wrong. For this I was comfortable in my decision to let them experience this new found independence for themselves. I remember my own satisfying experience of going to the store and dropping “Abraham Lincolns” for a bag of goodies. However, it was eating me up because they were no longer my little angels. They were growing up.

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Those of us with kids clearly understand they do not stay the same size as the playful Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls we hoped they would. We get that they will experience their own taste in clothing, music, food, and other worldly desires. They’ll zoom through life collecting these various experiences and create the being they were intended to be. And we get to sit back and let the magic happen, regardless of where we are in our experience of “letting go.”

My kids were safe. They didn’t run into a creep or a thug or even a homeless guy running game, but just simply an innocent walk to the corner store in which they spent a total of $5.56 on items I’d rather not disclose. (FYI – I was unaware cotton candy can now be bought in a cellophane bag.)

So here I was, accepting life’s facts as she threw me what was inevitable for me – my youngsters growing up. It wasn’t an easy acceptance of the truth but I had very little choice in the matter. Instead, I let go and let God (a favorite of us Christian folk) watch over them and protect them through the valley of the shadows of death and so forth.

And they returned. Unharmed. Excited. And empowered.

All because they were able to buy an Orange soda and a bag Twizzlers on their own – forging their own path for their lives and realizing the power of independence.

Go well and with love good peeps.

I’m In Love with the Coco!

Imagine hearing your young kids, gleefully, energetically and with gusto singing a Hip-Hop song with the title above. Imagine them laughing innocently to the parody YouTube videos showing people drinking cocoa, snorting cocoa, or doing other things with cocoa. Now think about how catchy the tune might be and how it might stick in your mind. Shortly you might find yourself humming and singing, “I’m in love wit da coco!” while you are be-bopping your head like Jay-Z. [Coco Video]

And then you realize what the song is about. And the light-bulb goes on.

Now you think, “Uh-oh.”

This happened to me. However, before I impulsively jumped on the hypocrite bandwagon declaring that all Hip-Hop and Rap music is from the Devil and that our young people are doomed, I caught myself thinking back to my youth recalling songs where drugs were either explicitly or implicitly cited. And lo and behold a number of songs came flooding back into my memory without me having to Google the subject.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll…and Hip-Hop…and Country…etc.

So here is my simple list of songs that came to mind for me:

  • Cocaine – Eric Clapton
  • Got to Get You Into My Life – The Beatles
  • Molly – Tyga
  • Flying High Again – Ozzy Ozbourne
  • Pusherman – Curtis Mayfield
  • White Lines – Grand Master Flash
  • White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
  • Purple Haze – Jimmy Hendrix

And a whole bunch from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

I am not only familiar with these songs but I know most of them by heart. Some of the songs are older and others more current. There are a variety of genres and artists. And, of course, they are not all Hip-Hop. Drug songs.

Thus, it’s easy to look down on certain classes of people based on our own experiences, but this is one area where we don’t have to look any further than the mirror before we judge. And what is even more interesting is how musicians have been singing about drugs for a long time – even before Rock & Roll. We all have some accountability in this as we have bought the records, tapes (8 track or cassette), CDs, etc.

More importantly, as we get older and have the tendency to frown upon such songs (admit it, you do) and artist we find ourselves recalling the very same type of song from our own childhoods. The conundrum we find ourselves is perplexing – what example are we showing our youth?

In my case, fortunately my kids are still too young to understand what the song is about – although I’m sure someone will blurt it out at some point. I can either get ahead of this potential situation or I can be ready to address it after the fact. At some point I have to address it.

But right now I just enjoy the innocence in which they operate and I wish I could freeze the moment. Heaven knows what I will be dealing with after they realize the nature of the song. Sigh.

Now go have yourself a hot-cocoa and enjoy the music.

Go well and with love good peeps.

The Struggles within Our Black Boxes

Recently a friend of mine relayed to others about the black box we all possess – our brains. And the fact that this black box does not see the day of light, does not smell or hear sounds, and is reliant on the rest of our bodies to maintain our entire being – it controls all we do. The brain receives information from all of our senses and helps to interpret the cold and cruel world around us. So what happens when our minds cannot function properly because it is mired in confusion, depression, and sadness? It can drive us to tragedy.

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Who knows what’s going on inside our black box – no one, unless we are willing to share what is occurring. We all know of the struggles that might occur and we continue to turn a blind eye for those in need. Children might cry out in pain and we are quick to dismiss their feelings by saying “toughen up.” We make excuses about bad decisions and expect others to absorb these decisions without hesitation – this creates a backlog of pent-up aggression or depression.

Our minds are so powerful yet so vulnerable. An idle mind is the Devil’s playground as believed by those within the Christian faith.

And maybe it is.

And maybe an active mind is also the Devil’s playground – instilling terrible thoughts that lead us to a path of destruction. The inputs of broken marriages, promises, dreams, etc., contribute to the challenges we all face. And some individuals are better equipped to deal with these challenges compared to others.

“So why does that matter to me” you might ask?

It should matter – as a member of this planet.

It should matter as a human being. We should all take some responsibility to help assist others in need. We should work to recognize the subtle signals people in need might be telegraphing. We should act on these impulses to ensure others are afforded the same care and guidance we can possibly provide.

We should care for one another. Period.

I for one strive to do better, be better, act better, and provide better. Not because it gives me a first place in line at the pearly gates of Heaven but because it is the right thing to do.

I challenge all of you to do that which is right. I challenge you to live a life caring for one another. And I challenge each of you to reach out to others in need. In the long run it can only make this planet a better place to live and you never know who you might help.

Go well and with love good peeps.

National Institute of Mental Health 

My 2014 Year in Review…

I survived.

That’s pretty much it. I made it through. I didn’t croak, end up on America’s Most Wanted or beaten down by a rogue cop.

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I survived.

As you become older and presumably wiser you actually look at longevity as the ultimate measure of success. No more of the foolish thoughts that I will live forever, take caution to the wind or let the chips fall as they may. Clearly life doesn’t care about my longevity or yours – death does not discriminate (although being rich has its perks in minimizing this risk I’m sure).

I survived.

As some of my brethren’s lives were snuffed out at the hands of evil individuals perpetrating as police officers I continued to live my life. As loved ones fell to disease and other ailments I found myself looking to make life changes, however, not timely enough to escape the constant hurdles of health life threw along my path. I was acutely aware of these challenges and I thought to myself, “I survived.”

I witnessed by way of CNN the peculiar disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the capsizing of a South Korean ship claiming the lives of hundreds, the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their terroristic ways, and the continued antics of North Korea. There was also the quiet killing of thousands along the Gaza strip as well as the collapse of the Ukrainian government.

However, I continued to survive.

I saw where we landed a probe on a comet with the joint efforts of the European Space Agency [ESA]. Meanwhile, while the country was in an uproar over domestic violence and child abuse Bill Cosby was about to be crucified for past indiscretions (rightfully so). The world kept an eye on America’s racial divide as an NBA [National Basketball Association] owner was booted out of that exclusive club. The Ebola virus was on the verge of kicking off a real live (or Walking Dead) Apocalyptic future – thank God it did not come to fruition.

Yet, I still managed to survive.

Germany was out winning the World Cup after a long absence and celebrations ensued across the globe. Sochi’s Winter Olympics proved climate changes are real as experts continued to warn of global warming albeit to pessimistic minds. The popularity of the 2014 Super Bowl continued to thrive as the world watched Bruno Mars croon his way across the stage. My thoughts drifted to an upcoming baseball season proving to be a farewell tour for DerekJeter.

And I was still surviving.

Same sex marriages prevailed across the land. Pot smokers rejoiced as prohibitions for recreational uses were lifted in two states. People came and went in and out of my life. I endured challenges of health and wellness while the Affordable Care Act and the State Exchanges became operational. I had the pleasure of watching my kids grow another year and I laughed and cried with family and friends. I sat back and reflected on 2014 and through this I thought…

I made it. I survived yet again and for that I am thankful.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Check out CNN’s Year End Review for further information.

A Future Conversation under Mended Hearts

Hello there.

Hey, how ya’ been?

Not sure, I have had a lot on my mind. I’ve been thinking lately about our years gone by and of the pain and misery we have suffered. It’s been confusing.

Yeah, I understand; me, too. It’s like the pain never subsided but merely took a back seat to life. Not so much that it was gone it just…or rather we just…became numb; perhaps?

That’s probably it. I just want you to know –

Wait, I already know. You don’t need to say anything. I know you. I know us. And I finally get it. Maybe I didn’t at first but I do now. Yes, it took a while and life continued to go on but I do. I only wonder what would have been had we, you know, stuck it out. I just wonder. I’m not regretting because I understand, but I sometimes envision what that life must have looked like in an alternate universe. It looked…promising and pleasant.

Well, sure, but it was a really hard time; a most difficult time to overcome. I had darkness surrounding me from all sides. I didn’t even know which way to turn. It was scary at times and I wanted to just disappear.

You said that before. Move away and get as far away as possible, to another country or island. Yeah, I remember that. At the time it sounded somewhat enticing but it wasn’t realistic or practical. But hey, we all have thoughts that take us out of our current situations. Even to this day we have thoughts.

What about you? How’s life been?

It’s been good. I feel good. I am in pretty good shape considering I still have poor drinking habits but I exercise regularly and it keeps me going. Health wise, I’m doing okay.

You look good I must say.

You ain’t too bad yourself.

(Laughter)

(Then a period of silence)

Life is an interesting thing. People come and go. Some people go forever and ascend or descend into the afterlife. Others…remain. I’m always curious how those that can remain in our lives over the years do so. It’s like they are just there. When you turn around and look up they are there. When you get angry with them and after a while they are just there. It’s a beautiful thing; dedicated friendship of sorts.

Yes, it goes beyond family. It is like the people put in our lives are angels guiding us to be better, do better, and want better.

Yes, I feel ya’. Except the people put in our lives can range from positive to negative depending on your level of spirituality. I suppose any interaction should be weighed accordingly.

What were you listening to when I walked up?

Alicia Keyes. Old school slow jams.

Look at you! A renaissance man, finally, huh?

I suppose.

(Laughter)

Listen, I have to run. My wife is expecting me to pick her up in about an hour.

Yes, I understand. She’s a lucky woman.

No, I’m a lucky man. Well, maybe we’re both lucky.

Love is an interesting thing.

That it is. It was nice to catch up with you. Give my love to the kids. And take care of yourself. It was nice to see you. Your smile is always a nice smile. Keep that look – it looks good on you.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Life’s Not so Black and White Moments

Over the course of the last number of months our society has seen its share of tense conversations. These conversations should not be taken lightly but many times we find ourselves on opposite ends as we discuss our thoughts and beliefs. Beliefs that may be contradictory to your own. And I don’t presume to judge what belief is right or wrong but merely point out our very diverse thinking. Our thinking is made up of our experiences, our upbringing, where we live, where we play, our character and other influences. At some point we all merely want to be understood. Not necessarily right, just understood. Because with understanding comes acceptance.

I sometimes try to recollect those events and polarizing stories that challenge us in ways beyond comprehension. Then I try to lay them out in a way determining the significance they have on society.

My thoughts in a list:

  1. OJ – The surreal Bronco chase and then trials. Unbelievable how this segregated race to a level never before seen in my lifetime.
  2. Rodney King – Was he illegally speeding? Yes. Did the cops need to beat the crap out of him? Debatable. Did it lead to major uprisings? Unfortunately yes.
  3. The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction – Really at some point we have to face a profound truth in our desire to do what is right. We have to be honest with ourselves to recognize our proper motives. However, not everyone has proper motives.
  4. Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri – An unarmed teenager killed by cop. Now, I could add black teenager but that should not be the focus – however, based on our own life experiences the color of his skin and treatment of individuals in the area becomes relevant to the story.
  5. Gun Control – I personally don’t have much more to say then to say “look out.” There are scary individuals that jump on a variety of bandwagons and this is one of them.
  6. Police Brutality – In general, America seems to be headed toward a very strict Police State. The police are losing the title of “To Serve and Protect” and replacing it with “Beatdown when Necessary.”
  7. Corporations as humans – Much power is given to corporations or a group of rich folk as they become more engaged with human rights. We may complain about the separation of government and religion but we allow corporations more rights, albeit under the cover, than we tend to give our own citizens.
  8. The Decline of the American Family – Divorce, people marrying later, unwed pregnancies, etc. There is a plethora of blame but not much action of fixing.

This is merely food for thought. No responses needed. No LIKEs desired. Just food for thought. Lost in all of this nonsense is our future generations. The well being of our children should be what drives us to do better.

I like to believe in humanity and that we all want what is best for the good of all of us, however, I am just a dreamer. And this dream that I dream may not come to fruition in my lifetime. But I do hold out hope.

Go well and with love good peeps.