Browsing Category Opinion

My Opinion on topics

Being Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The other day I took time to relax. What’s unusual about that, some will ask. It’s unusual for me because it’s something I rarely do. Perhaps it was mental fatigue that led me to stop scurrying around and be still for a moment.

Being still is difficult for me. I’m a little bit hyper. I feel compelled to always be doing something because doing nothing seems like a waste of precious time.

When I am at home and not out and about, typically I am undertaking several tasks simultaneously. Doing laundry and house cleaning. Cooking and reading. Taking online classes, researching something on the web, or composing essays while listening to the TV – generally a political talk program – always on in the background. I know that so much busyness isn’t conducive to flawless productivity. So, I decided to take a break. Give it all a rest. Do nothing, but be still, sit back in my recliner and relax for a while. Some would equate that to meditating.

But it wasn’t working.

Feeling determined, yet antsy, I decided to add some music. I closed the blinds and turned on an all-music station. Appropriate for the season, they were playing Christmas songs.

Most of the tunes were popular during my childhood and early adult years. Christmas oldies, I call them, though those songs never get old. Music stations play them annually. Sometimes they combine the old school Yuletide hits with contemporary Christmas music by Fantasia, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Mariah Carey, and others of a younger, hipper generation. In my opinion, there is no comparison. Ask any boomer, and they will tell you that our generation had the best music.

I remember as a child hearing Eartha Kitt seductively purring Santa Baby, and Bing Crosby croon about dreaming of a White Christmas (Do the PC police now consider that phrase politically incorrect?) Kitt and Crosby were great artists in their time. However, their songs don’t compare to Darlene Love belting out Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). I love having Luther entertain me with At Christmas Time, but nothing beats a melody of hits from The Temptations’ Give Love at Christmas album. And how can I not tap my foot and sing along to Donnie Hathaway’s version of This Christmas? When Gladys Knight and the Pips sing, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I whisper, “Oh yeah. I  hear it.” My blissful mood continues as Carla Thomas exclaims Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas. There is no better way to relax than to be serenaded by old school R&B Christmas hits and slow jams.

My self-imposed, quiet times don’t last long. I suppose it’s nervous energy that compels me to constantly move around, do something, keep busy. I think (too much) about the chaotic state of the world and I need a distraction to help take my mind off of it.

I was a child of the sixties. I am a boomer. And as bad as some of my fellow boomers may think that our formative years were, given a choice, I prefer the sixties decade over the current era.

Back then, time seemed to move at a pace slower than an impeachment hearing. Sure, there was social unrest. People were protesting and fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, and anti-war, while politicians were posturing just like they do today. Wars abroad, crime and discrimination in the states, and the assassination of prominent leaders; for the generation of my youth, that was our normal. Mass shootings in schools and a cocktail of other “new norms” were not.

When Charles Dickens wrote his book, A Tale of Two Cities in the Nineteenth Century, he was recounting the period leading to the French Revolution. I don’t know how many times I find myself thinking that he could well have been describing the present. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”

These days it looks like we are cursed to live under a spell of Darkness ruled by the Dark One. The tranquility that many of us relish is quelled by irreligion and ungodliness. If we are wise, we will bring God back into our society instead of trying to erase Him. Perhaps then, we will survive our “winter of despair” to see the “spring of hope.”

My readers, I thank you for continuing to read me and support this blog.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, whatever your preferred greeting. May your holidays sparkle with peace, love, laughter, goodwill, and light, and may the year ahead be full of happiness.

Now turn up the volume on your speakers and enjoy this, my Christmas gift to you.

2 Comments

Reminiscing Thanksgiving Holidays Past

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday. Not everybody celebrates it, and if you are one of those bodies who don’t, that’s okay. It’s your prerogative.

But tradition is ingrained in my soul, and every year around this time, nostalgia embraces me like a Snuggie blanket. As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is slightly more than 72 hours away. And I remember.

I remember when I was a very young child, Thanksgiving was the time when our family would often kiss the city goodbye and head south to visit our relatives in the Tar Heel State. Usually, we stayed with our maternal grandmother at her farmhouse. Some of grandma’s other grown children would arrive with their families, and we would reunite with our numerous cousins and other relatives, those who arrived for the holiday weekend, and those who lived in the small town near grandma’s farm.

During the years when my family did not go to grandma’s house for the holiday, Mother would sometimes prepare the Thanksgiving meal and we would pitch in to help. As her children grew older and we had families of our own, we’d sometimes bring a dish that we prepared at home; creating sort of a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember one year when I volunteered to bring the collard greens. What I did not realize after cooking what I thought would be a chef-d’oeuvre, not only were the greens undercooked, they were poorly seasoned. I had failed to add any of the staples for making a delicious pot of southern-style greens. No ham hocks or fatback or smoked neckbones. Minus those cholesterol clogging meats I should have seasoned the greens with table salt, but I didn’t think to do that. Can you say bland?

I don’t remember anyone complaining about the greens during the meal, although some of the suddenly wide-eyed expressions by folks when they began eating them should have been a giveaway. One forkful and everyone around the table knew that those were not my mother’s collard greens. Mother was born and raised in North Carolina, and back in those days, if southern women learned nothing else, they surely learned how to cook. And when it came to cooking collard greens, my mother could burn. She put her foot in it. If you are not familiar with the vernacular, those latter expressions are compliments, meaning mother’s greens were supreme.

After dinner, mother pulled me aside and trying to spare me from hurt feelings; she gently told me, “The greens were okay, but you should have cooked them a little bit longer and added some seasoning.”

That was my first attempt at cooking fresh collards. (Canned and frozen greens were the norm for this busy working mom.) Lesson learned. Do not volunteer to prepare a dish that you’ve never cooked for a family holiday dinner. Since then, thank God, I’ve learned to properly cook and season greens.

Sometimes, after our holiday dinner, we would clear the table, cleaned-up, and enjoy playing Bid Whist. (A note for the uninitiated — Bid Whist, is a card game where bidding partners strive to earn high points to win).

My younger brother was often my partner. Sometimes mom and dad played against us or my sister would be mother’s partner. If other whist-playing relatives, like my Aunt Sarah and Uncle James, were visiting, they would be partners. When there were enough people playing we would play rise and fly. That’s when you lose, and if there are other folks waiting to play, the losing partners get up, and another couple sits down to play.

I cherish those good times.

Unfortunately, as unavoidable as it is, things change, and so do people. Our family Thanksgiving holiday gatherings at my parents’ home ended way too soon. I’ve tried to maintain the tradition with my immediate family including grandchildren with the hope that after I’m dead they will have as many treasurable memories of family holiday gatherings as I have, and the tradition will become part of the family legacy for them as it did for me.

Due in part to PC and sometimes to religious beliefs, Thanksgiving Day, like Christmas and so many other festive occasions, has become a cause célèbre. I see the day as a time for gathering, to be with friends and family. If the history and origins of celebrating Thanksgiving Day bother you, then don’t think of the day as celebrating Thanksgiving. Think of it merely as an opportunity to get together with family and friends, some of whom you may not have seen for years (except at a funeral) and enjoy a good meal. It certainly is a convenient time to have the family gathering on a day when a lot of working people have the time off.

Life is short. IMHO sometimes, we need to temporarily set aside our convictions and seize the opportunity to enjoy spending time with those we love because opportunities don’t last. We never know if a loved one that we spend time with today may be gone tomorrow. A missed opportunity can sometimes be a huge regret.

I don’t wait for a particular day to acknowledge things for which I am thankful. I am thankful every minute of every day. I am thankful for my family and friends, including my blog and Facebook friends. Some of my online friends are people who I’ve known for much of my life. Perhaps we met in grade school or grew up together in the old neighborhood. We were friends long before there was social media. And some of the friends who I’ve met online, I’ve known them long enough now to consider them to be genuine friends. They are friends with whom I occasionally talk on the phone, and sometimes exchange birthday cards, email messages, or notes. I am thankful for real friends and also for good neighbors.

I am thankful for good health. I am thankful every day of my life.

0 Comments

Pushing Up Daisies

I’m sitting here thinking about putting a light spin on what is a dark part of every one of our lives. It’s something that no one wants to discuss. That unwelcome visitor that everyone knows is coming who makes us want to snatch the welcome mat from in front of our door. That one-way trip that we will all take eventually whether we want to go or not. That journey to the valley of death.

Since I’ve got more years behind me than before me, I’ve been giving the subject a lot of thought. Certainly, after I fall into the big sleep, I won’t have a say over anything concerning my former self, so I am herein expressing my last wishes for funeral and burial.

Before I continue with details, let me reiterate what I have often said – that I hate attending funerals and avoid them when I can. But as we all know there is one funeral that we won’t miss. Our own.

About funeral-goers. I put them into three categories. First, there are the truly bereaved mourners who have lost a loved one, relative, or friend. Second are the curious, casual acquaintances of the deceased whose ulterior motive for attending the funeral is to get a copy of the program, with the hope of learning things that they didn’t already know about the deceased. The third group attends funerals because it is a social gathering. During the hour or two, while they are attending the service and the repast, it breaks-up the monotony of their otherwise mundane life. I’m not judging. I’m just calling it as I see it.

Skepticism aside, we all have limited time on earth. Before my time comes to be the grim reaper’s reluctant guest of honor, I want to make my last wishes known to my family. And family, don’t feel guilty if you do not comply with these requests because as I’ve learned over the years not everyone’s last wish is granted. It is the living, not the dead who have the final say over the dead body. I’ll give you an example.

After mother died, a few days before her funeral service, my sister and I carried the outfit for her to be buried in to the funeral home. On the day of the funeral, I arrived shortly before the wake was scheduled to start. When I looked in the casket, I was beyond upset. Mother’s chemo-thinned, silvery hair had been nicely pressed, curled, and styled, BUT that was not the issue. She had worn a wig for years before she died, and while on her deathbed, when she was suggesting to my sister and me which outfits we could bury her in, she said, “And don’t forget my wig.”

We had placed the wig neatly on top of the clothing in the bag before carrying it to the funeral home. The undertaker’s grave mistake was that he or she inadvertently forgot to put mother’s wig on her head. That’s what I mean when I say that the dead don’t always get their last wish fulfilled, but there was a twist to this.

Mother’s wig was ultimately retrieved by the undertaker after the first service and was placed on her head before her body was transported over 200 miles away for a graveside ceremony and burial in her hometown. My cousin, who had attended the first service and then followed the hearse to the burial site, later told me that when the casket was opened for the graveside service, she was surprised to see mother was wearing her wig.

I repeat. I do not want an open casket funeral. I don’t want people walking up to my casket gawking over me and then later telling others how I looked. I know that people mean well, but during my lifetime, I have heard (and overheard) too many obtuse comments made about dead people.

“Ms. Estelle sure looked nice. She had on a hat and gloves, dressed like she was going to church. They even had her usher pin on her lapel.”

Or here’s another one, “LaQuita looked good in that white casket. Her weave was tight, and that purple eye shadow matching her lavender shirt was nice. Her boyfriend should not have did that to her.”

It is the female corpses that get scrutinized most, but occasionally comments are made about the males. “Why did they bury Mr. Johnson in his glasses? It’s not like he’ll be able to see where he’s going.”

Undertakers deserve credit for doing their best to make corpses presentable. Still, the thoughtless remarks that some people make after the services bothers me. The sad fact is that no matter how well they are laid out, the bodies of dead people look just like what they are – lifeless and dead. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I say that with much respect.

Like every other corpse, I will have no control over what I am wearing, how my hair is combed or whether my lips have been fixed to look like I am smiling on the way to eternity or pissed off because I am in the land of the dead. Therefore, I repeat, I do not want an open casket funeral. Sadly, I make that request knowing full well that I won’t have the last word about that. You, my family, will.

I tell you what, let’s not have a funeral for me. Services and headstones are expensive. Use that life insurance money for something else. Cremate me. I don’t care. Cremation is cheaper, and think, in the future, you’ll be able to truthfully tell your friends that I had a smoking hot body.

And another thing. I’ve seen insensitive people take pictures of the deceased when they go to view the body. Not only do I think that is inappropriate, but it is downright disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The deceased deserve the dignity of going to their final resting place without a photo op.

If you have a service for me, please call it a funeral. Do not call it a homegoing. I know that term is popular and frequently used. But I never liked it. I understand the concept of homegoing to a heavenly home. But when I think of home going I envision myself taking out my key, unlocking the door, and walking into the place where I live, not transported in a hearse to a cemetery.

In the great scheme of things, we are all insignificant. When and how we are born into this world is the luck of the draw. We have no say in the matter. Who will be our birth parents? Was our birth planned and eagerly anticipated or a fluke? Will we be born a rich child, into a wealthy family, or a poor child in poverty? How we fare in life is a game of chance, and it is pretty much the same when we depart. We don’t know when or how we will leave here. Natural causes. Murder. Accident. Suicide. It’s paramount to live our best life and celebrate it now. When we come here, how long we stay, and when we leave is not a choice.

The Bible prophesizes, and people can speculate all they want, but who on earth can say for sure what happens to us after we die? Christians believe that depending on how we live; we will ultimately ascend to a heavenly home or spiral down into a hellish abyss. Who knows? The hereafter is as perplexing as the present day and time. The goal, oh yeah, and a song you can play at my service if you wish is Stayin’ Alive.

This composition began as a personal letter to my family, but while writing it, I decided to post an alternate version with the hope that it might make someone smile about a subject that is often taken deathly seriously.

2 Comments

Bullets and Bibles

It was early afternoon, a few days ago. I was sitting at the computer in my home office near the window that faces a quiet intersection in our usually serene neighborhood. As I often do during a lull in creative thought, I lean back in my chair, fold my arms behind my head, clasp my fingers together, and thank God for all of my blessings. Suddenly all hell broke loose outside. The silence was shattered by a barrage of what sounded like loud gunshots at least a dozen, maybe two.

Immediately, I did what any cognizant city-dweller would do. I leaped headlong out of my chair onto the carpeted floor. And then it happened again. More shots rang out, only not as many. Unlike the initial volley, this round sounded muffled.

I lay there for a few minutes waiting to hear a blood-curdling scream or at least frantic cries for help. Nothing. As I slowly pushed myself to my knees, the humorist in me had a comedic moment. I thought about the television commercial that shows an elderly person prone on the floor crying, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

Fortunately, I could get up, but before I stood, I crawled over to the open window and listened intently. Cars sounded like they were passing along the street at normal speed, not burning rubber speeding away. Some youngsters were laughing across the street near the Charter school. It seemed safe to peek through the Venetian blinds so I did so, all the while praying that a bullet would not crash through the window and shoot me in the eye. As far as I could see – down the street, across the street near the community garden, everything looked normal. People, apparently unshaken by the temporary disturbance, were walking along going about their business. The police precinct is at the end of the block. I figured if those were bullets that I had heard flying, there would have been cops and police cars with flashing lights all over the place.

Later that day, I mentioned the incident to a neighbor who told me that she had just walked outside heading to her car when she heard the first volley and saw smoke coming from the side of the building. “I hauled it back inside as fast as I could.” She said. We concluded that the incident was caused by some wisecrackers, probably school kids who thought it would be fun to set off fireworks and scare the bejeebers out of folks in our sedate neighborhood.

The fear of having to dodge bullets is one of the perils of living in the city; the suburbs are not exempt either. Sadly, many people everywhere don’t feel completely safe anywhere. We live in a state of trepidation.

Facts have shown that it is as easy to be struck by a bullet when you are inside your home as when you are outside. How often do we hear news reports about a bullet crashing through the wall or window of someone’s home and striking an unsuspecting person inside like 12-year-old Badr Elwaseem who was shot and killed while watching TV or the 21-year-old woman whose head was grazed by a bullet that crash into her home while she was sleeping in bed?

Inside schools. At the mall. In church. In today’s violent and chaotic society all sites are fair game for callous persons with weapons. It doesn’t matter where you are when danger arrives, and that reality is emotionally draining.

*           *           *

When you are retired, you know that you have entered into the final chapter of your life. (Don’t let that statement rattle you. It’s true. Accept it. I do.) Every morning when I awake to see a new day, I thank God. As I revealed earlier, I give thanks for all things – big and small – all the time. For every breath that I take. I give thanks.

Some people keep what is called a gratitude journal. Psychology researchers assert the advantage of maintaining a gratitude journal. Their studies indicate that there are psychological and physical health benefits that come from the simple act of writing down the things for which we are grateful; even simple things like being in good health or having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night instead of on a park bench or cold concrete sidewalk. When I can sit down at my computer and write out a blog post within an hour, instead of a stressing over it for days with several rewrites, I say “Thank you, God.”

A growing anti-religious bias makes some people feel like criminals for saying the word, God. Some of you reading this post probably cringed every time you saw the word on this page. I don’t regularly write my appreciation in my journal, but whether I write it or say it in my mind expressing gratitude has become as normal for me as breathing.

As I’ve often said, I don’t support organized religion, but I believe in God, and I express gratitude continuously. Today I thank that Higher Power for the realization that what I heard outside my home the other day were not gunshots. Not that time anyway.

Good and evil. God and guns. Bullets and bibles. Those are the facts of life.

 

 

0 Comments

Seeking Senior Bloggers

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’d love to be a blogger, if only I knew where to begin? I don’t even know how to use a computer.”

According to The Pew Research Center out of 500 million bloggers, less than 1 percent are age 65 and over. Bloggers in the 21-to-35-year-old demographic group account for over 53 percent of the total blogging population, followed by 19 percent who are 36-to-50-years-old. But enough boring statistics and more about the sparse number of senior bloggers.

I am in the 1 percent. No, not that 1 percent, the “less than” group identified by Pew. Before the door of opportunity opened 12 years ago, I had no plans to include blogger on my resume. Then, one day a friend suggested, “Why not augment your love for writing and create your own blog?” Thus, post-retirement, I birthed my second career and added personal blogger to freelance writer and published author.

In addition to writing a blog, I study them. I’ve found that the gazillion younger than 50-year-old bloggers tend to write about fashion, politics, health & fitness, music & entertainment and technical devices. Although some senior bloggers tackle those same subjects, the majority of posts written by seniors concern elder lifestyles and the challenges of advancing years. Many of their posts have titles about subjects that very young readers would call old people stuff. Healthy Aging (translation:  avoiding the decrepit zone). Fighting Aging (Good luck with knocking that out). Defying the Aging Process (enter Botox and plastic surgery). And the topic that none of us old-schoolers want to discuss, the one that keeps most of us in denial – Funeral Planning (Think Dreamgirls, “And I am telling you, I’m not going.”).

Anyone who retired in let’s say the last 15-20 years who did not learn computer skills while they were in the workforce, I will bet you my best friend’s social security check that some of them are not inclined to do so now. Sadly, I know mature people who not only lack computer skills, but some think that a hard drive is being on the road for two hours or more without making a rest stop.

For seniors who want to learn to compute – it is not too late. There are basic computer classes available everywhere. It seems pointless to ask someone who may not own a computer and lacks computer skills to check on-line for computer classes, although a tablet or smartphone might suffice. But you could ask a computer-savvy friend to help you search online, or inquire about classes at a library near you. Some libraries offer free computer classes that provide hands-on training to adults. AARP offers tech training for people 50 years and older.

Seniors, you need to get that training and start blogging so that we can increase our numbers in the blogosphere. There are plenty of things to blog about:  sports, travel, food, name it and claim it. And of course, there is the personal blog.

I enjoy being a personal blogger. That’s my forte’. However, I offer some words of caution to potential personal bloggers. Share your thoughts at your discretion.

Before jumping in with both feet, think of personal blogging as swimming nude at a public pool. Your posts will be as exposed as a naked swimmer on a diving board. It is one thing to log your personal experiences and private thoughts in a diary, but another to publish something on-line that the whole world can see. Be forewarned. Accept that putting yourself out there, placing your thoughts on display will open you up to criticism and as well as complements. But don’t let the fear of criticism deter you. Life is too short to worry about what others will say about you. Do your thing – with style and humor – and give them something to talk about.

Here are some basic tips on getting started with your blog.

  • Choose a domain name. The domain is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your site. Imagine that your website is your home and think of the domain name as your address. I chose Potpourri101 because it suggests a variety or mixture of subjects, not just old folk stuff. In the American university course numbering systems 101 often designates a course for beginners in a particular subject. Thus, potpourri101. (A blog can be set up with or without a unique domain name depending on who is hosting your site.)
  • To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The web host provides the technologies and services required for the webpage to be viewed on the Internet. It will store all of your website files:  code, text, images, video, etc, on servers.
  • Get a blog platform. A blogging platform is a software or service that you use to publish your content. There are many platforms, but I like WordPress because it offers numerous free blog themes. Imagine having an interior designer decorate your home. The theme is the appearance or decoration, so to speak, of your website. You may want to check out Godaddy.com or SiteGround.com as sources that host WordPress sites. A downloadable copy of an excellent book WordPress for Absolute Beginners can be found here.

After you get everything in order, write, write, write on your blog! It will expand your horizons.

In the process of exchanging comments and emails about some of my posts, I’ve made friends with other bloggers as well as readers who are not bloggers. And lest you think that the lot of them are old fogies, they are not. Many of them are as young as you – or as young as you think you are.

I hope this post will encourage other seniors who may have scratched “become a blogger” off of their list. We’re waiting for you to join us. Just do it!

 

 

0 Comments