Rolling Sevens

Sometimes I get so enthusiastic while exploring an issue that I don’t want to let it go. Friends tell me that I am a compulsive over-thinker. I prefer to believe that I am more of a persistent researcher. Lately, I’ve been exploring the mystery of the number seven and have turned up some interesting data.

Biblestudy.org and other sources claim that the number seven is mentioned 735 times throughout the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation), beginning with the narrative that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The Bible also references seven seals, seven churches, and seven trumpets. Some might say that the creation was the foundation of the mystery of seven.

There are seven deadly sins. Seven seas. Seven Wonders of the World. Seven dwarfs. A rainbow has seven colors. In elementary school, I learned that there are seven continents on earth. (Nowadays, like most things, that’s debatable, depending on whose theory you choose to believe.) Some mathematicians consider seven to be the most prime of prime numbers. And in many religions and cultures worldwide, seven is the most significant number and is regarded as the luckiest.

It’s incredible how many movies, TV programs, books, and even songs I can think of that include seven in their title:  Furious 7, The House of the Seven Gables, The Magnificent Seven, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Seven Pounds and, there is Morgan Freedman’s grizzly crime/murder movie named, what else – Seven. Let’s not forget Double O seven as in Bond, James Bond. Even Shakespeare may have been fascinated by the number. When he pinned “As You Like It,” he had his character Jacques deliver a monologue describing the seven ages of man.

Perhaps Morris Day liked the number so much that he sang about it in The Times hit 777. Let’s focus on the prefix of the phone number referenced in the song. He probably only added the 9311 for the sake of rhyming.

Seven swans a-swimming. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And who doesn’t remember the trial of the Chicago Seven?

The following incident will probably seem silly to some, but it was a bit disconcerting to yours-truly. While writing this post, I decided to take a break and inbox my cousin, Vanessa, who lives in another city. She had told me that her daughter has a babysitting job. Offhandedly, I asked her the child’s age, thinking that it was an infant. And she said – wait for it. “Seven.”

Before you roll your eyes, consider this. I don’t know the child and have never seen her. She could have been six, eight, or nine, but she is seven. How strange and timely is that given the circumstance? If I believed in coincidences, I’d say that’s what it was; but I don’t, so I won’t. For a few seconds, after my cousin answered my spontaneous question, I was surprised; and then it dawned on me — seven!!! That fits right in. Ah, utopian Seventh Heaven.

Oddly, as I write this, I recall that it was seven years ago that my mother, who was born in 1927, died in the 87th year of her life. Whether you are looking for it or not, that number seven is ubiquitous.

Like a crap-shooter, rolling sevens, I’ve become engrossed in this project of finding sevens. I could pursue it twenty-four seven, seven days a week.

Did I hear someone say “Get a life?”

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Take the Shot – or Not

This is a touchy subject, so Dear Journal, let’s keep this between you and me and my numerous blog readers.

I recently read an article written by Gene Weingarten, my favorite humor columnist at The Washington Post. He put a light spin on a serious subject, the COVID-19 inoculation process. As we know, health care workers, first responders, and people over 65 are among those who have first dibs on receiving the COVID vaccine. As a senior himself, he was indeed joking when he cited the priority arrangement as “some weird national system that seems to give preference to people who are already half dead.”

Before receiving his shot, Weingarten kidded about having “vaccine envy.” I do not. First of all, I hate getting shots. Just looking at a needle causes a full-blown anxiety attack. Secondly, I do not follow the crowd. If I do something, it’s because I want to do it, not because I feel persuaded by the CDC or universal acquiescence, or as some might call it, herd mentality. My rebuff was formed decades ago after reading Bad Blood by James H. Jones and studying other publications about the Tuskegee Study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service and the CDC. I was young and naïve when I learned that our government would betray the public trust by sponsoring something so hideous. Though I’ve since learned of other shady events that are said to have been orchestrated by the government throughout my lifetime, I have never been able to erase the mistrust planted by the Study. It settled in my mind the way a leech burrows under the skin and it stays there.

Confession aside, clarification required. I am not saying that I will never take the shot. That’s something else I’ve learned during my journey to seniority. Never say never. But I will say that you won’t see me cutting the line or concocting methods to cheat to get ahead of other people who fall into the most vulnerable category. I’ll wait.

If – I said IF – I get the shot, I’d prefer the Johnson & Johnson single dose. However, it is my understanding that people being vaccinated don’t get a preference. You take what they give you.

I have read reports of people having severe allergic reactions to the vaccine and of at least four people who died shortly after taking the shot, including a woman in California and a Florida doctor. As expected, the public was told that there is no apparent link to the shot and those deaths. That may be true. Maybe it was just their time. We are all going to go, sooner or later, one way or another.

Of course, numerous people have been inoculated or will be, who will suffer no ill effects at all. God bless ’em!

I’m not kidding when I say — I don’t do shots. I haven’t had a flu shot since I was in grade school; haven’t had the flu either. (She said knocking on wood.) My doctor’s suggestion that I get the pneumonia, shingles, and any other vaccines recommended for older adults has also fallen on deaf ears. Don’t think that I don’t know that I am as susceptible as anyone else to falling victim to any of the illnesses mentioned above and some that aren’t. I also know that getting coronavirus could land me in the hospital or worse yet, in the Big Sleep. A heart attack, aneurysm, car accident, even a nasty fall could also be fatal.

Anyone who takes the COVID vaccine, I say more power to them. Far be it for me to try and dissuade people from doing their thing. As I said, I never say never. I may take it one day.

Sorry to continue on what some would deem a morbid subject, but there is only one certainty in life, and it is death. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Longevity has its place.” Most people want to live as long as possible. Undoubtedly, some folks wish they could stay here indefinitely. The fact is, no matter how many precautions we take, whatever great physical shape we think we are in, or how many shots we take, it’s not our call. When the Almighty places a checkmark beside our name, calling foul or time out won’t mean a thing.

In the meantime, the best we can do is make the best of every moment we have. And if taking the shot gives reassurance, then, by all means, people take the shot.

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Warriors for Justice

The following post was written by Guest Author, David White.

Think 1955 in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. The murderers of Emmett Till are on trial, and everyone – everyone – black and white knows that the outcome of the case is a foregone conclusion. The prosecution team does the best they can. Till’s Uncle, poor Mose Wright, under immense life-threatening duress, identifies the culprits in front of the crowd in the courtroom, and the murderers still get off scot-free.

Fast forward to 2021, and put yourself in the House Managers’ position at the 2nd Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump. Imagine the demoralizing effect of knowing that you face a group of Senate jurors who are as intractable and oppositional as those in the Emmett Till case. The Managers did an excellent job. They certainly inspired me to want to do more to ensure that we preserve the ideals they so eloquently and fervently advocate.

Their opponent was the personification of autocratic nihilism, a man who would gleefully watch the destruction of the beautiful Capitol building, a structure erected with immeasurable toil, blood, and tears. A man who would encourage an insurrection because voters spoke and he could not find enough accomplices to help implement his devious plan to invalidate the election results and maintain power.

The word that perhaps best sums up what I witnessed from the former president’s defense would be “absurd.” Of course, when your client is the 45th president of the United States, you expect nothing other than absurdity.

Look at some of the imprudent and sometimes humourous outbursts from the trial (with a few personal interpolations).

“Mr. Chairman, the prosecution is being unfair, they’re bringing in evidence that implicates my client, and I feel that is prejudicial and so….uh, wrong”.

“Mr. Chairman, they’re using his words as reported by the media and as promulgated on social media platforms, and how can that be fair? After all, they’re only reports, and who would ever be prosecuted or found guilty on mere reports, even if they are his own words?”

“I declare ‘reports’ to be hearsay and inadmissible and totally unfair”.

“I say they should present their case without reports, without incendiary video, and simply go about fixing the pandemic and racial inequity.”

“Mr. Chairman, we reserve the right to imply that their presentation is fraudulent and hypocritical because we say it is.”

“And we reserve the right to present statements into evidence that are mere assertions and assert them as facts, because – the prosecution is partisan.”

“And we know they’re partisan because they identify as Democrats, except Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, the numerous other Republican congressmen and women who declared the trial valid along with the over 100 legal scholars of all political persuasions who determined my client was guilty of inciting insurrection. So, this whole trial should be declared a sham, and let’s all go home in the name of unity.”

“Oh, and by the way, the videos they showed with my client appearing to egg on those pre-meditated incursionists didn’t tell the whole story. They forgot the part, somewhere after about the tenth time he said fight, that he dropped in the word peacefully in a totally non-sarcastic manner. As we know, my client does not have a sarcastic, insincere bone in his body.”

“Since they can doctor up videos let me show you some totally out-of-context videos, for several minutes, of numerous Democrats, many of them in this chamber at this time, using the word ‘fight,’ which of course I will present in a nonpartisan manner because we on this side don’t believe this should be a partisan matter.”

“And while I’m at it, let me show some gratuitous videos of violent street incidences involving a lot of people of diversity with the implication that these are Black Lives Matter and Antifa members; not Trumpers acting violently, though not put in any contextual framework because – somehow this is really a trial about Antifa and BLM, and we really shouldn’t be partisan.”

“So, in conclusion, Mr. Chairman what I’m saying is, you can’t find that my client, who called those well-known violent thugs, racists, anti-semites and kooky conspiracy theorists to the Capitol for a ‘wild’ day as Congress was certifying the election that he legitimately loss, but which we don’t have to admit, guilty of incitement, just because he sent them there to fight like ‘you know what’  or they would lose their country.”

“Oh, one more thing, can you call a recess so that I can consult with the jurors as to how to go about assuring my client’s acquittal?”

I brought up the Till case to push back on this notion that I’ve been hearing from pundits that I generally respect, like Ari Melber and Joy Reid, that the House Managers were derelict by not demanding witnesses to “look those jurors in the eye” and tell them about the pain and suffering they’ve endured. Presenting witnesses may have produced more tearjerking drama, but in my opinion, it would not have brought more conviction votes from naysaying Senators who had already – over three days – seen proof of criminal acts.

Just as an affidavit, handwritten by Emmett Till and certified by God, would have been rejected by the Mississippi court, no truth or proof that anyone else could have provided in that Impeachment Trial would have swayed any of the Trump loyalists.  Furthermore, the trial would have descended further into their nihilistic trap and turned into a comedy of errors.

Lawyers for the Defense:  “Mr. Chairman, if they call this witness, I demand that Kamala Harris be called…VP Harris, are you now or have you ever been a member or associate of Antifa or BLM?”

House Managers: “Objection.”

Lawyers for the Defense:  “You can’t object. This isn’t a real court of law, and the chairman is not a real judge. Mr. Chairman, they are being unfair in not allowing me to question my witness as I see fit.” (Moments later) “The defense now calls Rep. Maxine Waters to the stand.”

Back to critiquing the trial, I loved how Chaplain Barry Black designed his opening prayer to touch the conscience of anyone who was listening who had a conscience. He was precise about what the trial was supposed to be about (truth over falsehood, courage over cowardice). And I imagined his majestic voice and prayer emanating from above, delivering a message about good battling evil, and lies versus truth to souls that need saving.

House Managers Jamie Raskin, Joe Neguse, and Stacey Plaskett’s presentations were uplifting, and I was especially impressed by their impassioned, principled exhortations to righteousness. Raskin’s citings of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and the Bible were also profoundly inspiring.

Although most Republicans clung to their false prophet, there were some courageous living testimonies on that side, too. Burr, Romney, Cassidy, Murkowski, Collins, Sasse, and Toomey sought and will find salvation in the truth.

Following the Emmett Till trial, Wright and the two other black men who testified against the killers had to relocate away from Mississippi. The fate of the courageous seven Senators in the 2nd Impeachment Trial, along with the previously insufferable Liz Cheney, may not cause them to be run out of town; still, it is not unreasonable to think that a megalomaniacal sociopath and his disciples will try to punish them in every way possible. They are to be commended for their courage.

The “fight” for justice continues, and righteous warriors carry on.

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A Valentine’s Day Greeting for Lovers and Others (Updated)

This is an update of a post that I published on this site nearly twelve years ago.

When you make loving others the story of your life, there’s never a final chapter because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is the day when many of us acknowledge that special someone or significant other in our life. But as is evident by the various greeting cards and gifts we exchange with our nearest and dearest, Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. So, along with this Valentine’s Day wish to my family and friends, I’m sending Valentine’s Day greetings to the special men who are present – or have previously been – in my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my Boo. For over two decades, you have been my lover and constant companion. Those little things you do mean so much, as do the countless occasions when you proved that you are there for me. You provided solace when my parents died. And remember the time when I was on crutches? You made sure that I had everything I needed before you went to work. You prepared the meals, did the laundry, and took care of all of the things I usually would have handled myself. Not only are you better than I at remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions, but you know how to tug at my heartstrings when you surprise me with thoughtful “just because” gifts of flowers and other things.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my dad. I miss you so much. Before God called you home, fifteen years ago, we had a special bond. You and mom were the foundations of our nuclear family. The two of you raised my siblings and me to be our best selves. For you, dad, I paraphrase a verse from a poem by James Kisner, “To others you were a simple man, ’cause fame you never had, but you were the greatest man to me because you were my dad.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to my son. I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished. Had you been born two days later, you would have been a Valentine’s Day baby, but you are my valentine every day. Not only are you a special son, but you are also a devoted husband and an exceptional father to your son, who I believe will grow up to have all of the ambition, the wisdom, and other attributes of his dad.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my brothers. What else is there to say besides I love you?

Happy Valentine’s Day to my grandsons. Hugs and kisses to you fine, upstanding young men. I love you all so much.

Finally, Happy Valentine’s Day to my first love. When we met, we were a few short years beyond being childhood sweethearts. As we grew older and went our separate ways, our hearts remained entwined. For over 30 years, our friendship and feelings never waned, and when you departed this world, part of me went with you. You will always hold a place in my heart. Happy Valentine’s Day L.A.B. You were among those who women call “the one-in-a-million” men. Gone, but never to be forgotten.

And to all my readers. If you don’t have a special someone, then be your own valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Booking the Book Deal: First You Have to Write It

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things.” Words of wisdom from award-winning horror genre author Stephen King

The first book I wrote was for my mother. I took my time researching and writing it and gave mother some of the first draft’s initial chapters to read. Several months later, we learned that she was terminally ill. I rushed to complete the book, but death won the race. Mother died 11 months before Legacy was published.

Not long ago, I reread the book and discovered what I perceived as some editorial shortcomings. The downside of being a perfectionist is that you want everything you produce to be flawless. There are times when I contemplate updating the book, but then I imagine mother reiterating what she used to say often throughout her life, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

I’ve been working on my second book for a while. But procrastination is my nemesis. I can create a blog post in a few hours, but writing a book is ten times more challenging, as anyone who has attempted it knows. As passionate as I am about writing, it is a time-consuming and tedious process, and I have to be in a creative frame of mind to tackle it.

I was a bookworm long before I learned Stephen Kings’ advice about reading to improve writing. However, unless you are fortunate, like some renowned authors, to have a secluded retreat where you go to ply your trade, your writing time could be hindered, as mine often is, by constant interruptions. And interruptions aside when it comes to writing books, time is not our friend.

For instance, I am currently reading The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X. It is a fantastic five-star worthy publication. It clears up factual disputes and provides the reader with significantly more details about Malcolm X than the autobiography. The author, Les Payne, worked on The Dead Are Arising for 28 years. Sadly, in 2018, he died of a heart attack before he could finish the final draft. His daughter Tamara Payne, her dad’s research assistant, completed the book with their editor Robert Weil’s help. It was published last year.

Speaking of time, who hasn’t read The Catcher in the Rye? J.D. Salinger took ten years to finish it.

Writing her book was also a decade-long journey for Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

Alex Haley co-authored The Autobiography of Malcolm X and later wrote the acclaimed, 704-page Roots. Factoring in research time and intercontinental travel, it took Haley twelve years to write that book. And boy! It paid off in numerous ways.

Aware of the truth that time waits for no man (or woman), it is inspiring to know that some people don’t hit their literary stride until they are senior citizens.

J. R. R Tolkien took 16 years to finish The Lord of the Rings. He was 63 years old when the book was published.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Frank McCourt, was 66 when he wrote his bestselling memoir Angela’s Ashes.

And the oldest debut novelist on record award goes to Lorna Page. She was 93 years old when her first novel A Dangerous Weakness, was published.

The time it takes to write a book depends on many things, the book’s length and genre, the period spent doing research, and the author’s day-to-day writing routine.

Occasionally, one of my friends will ask my advice on how to publish their book. Here is my two-minute rudimentary pitch.

There are two methods of getting your book in print: self-publishing or traditional publishing.

Self-publish, and you maintain ownership of your book and can keep much of the profits. However, self-publishing necessitates that you do a lot of leg work after writing your book. That means everything from producing a professional product (editing, cover, format, etc.) to marketing it. If you have money to spare, you can pay professionals to help with those things.

Traditional publishing is more costly than self-publishing. It involves hiring a literary agent. The agent will help you put together query letters, a book proposal, a contract, a  marketing plan, book tours. He or she will be your overall pitch person. Literary agents charge a commission (about 15%) on any money that you earn. For every amount they get you in advances or royalties, speaking engagements, or other perks, they will take their cut. They will handle the heavy lifting. You may get an advance, but you’ll give up rights to your book, and everybody makes money off of it.

When I self-published my book, I had to learn the ropes through trial and error. I am still learning, but this time I am a little bit wiser.

Unless you have name recognition (say Terry McMillian or Walter Mosley), self-publishing is the way to go. The investment in self-publishing could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. How much you want to spend on your book is your call. For Legacy, I hired a fantastic copy editor before sending my book to a premier (POD) print-on-demand service for self-publishing authors. Comparing the royalties earned from self-publishing to traditional publishing could be like equating a child’s piggy bank filled with pennies to a five-gallon jug filled with quarters and greenbacks. But everything is relative.

With determination, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, any well-written book could mean the difference between a mediocre publication and a Pulitzer Prize-winner. There will be time for learning the ropes of getting your book published, but first, you have to write it.

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