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Jim-isms

February has long been my least favorite month of the year. I’m the only one with that opinion. I’d like to think the greeting card industry invented Valentines Day not simply as a way to sell more cards, but an attempt to take the edge off the shortest, most miserable month of the year. Heck, even the corporate types at the National Football League extended the season so that the Super Bowl falls in February. I’d like to think they did it out of compassion for my fellow February sufferers, but I’m pretty sure that the motive was simply to line their pockets with increased ticket and ad revenue. Besides, it offers a distraction from those Christmas bills that just came due…

Despite the twenty-eight-day (Julian had a little too much wine while figuring out calendar calculations, so he threw in an extra day every four years – it’s a leap, I know) depression that is February, it does have one saving grace – Groundhog Day. I’m not really into the weather prognostications of a fat, furry little rodent, but the movie is one of the all-time cinematic greats. Grace, whether in secular or religious form is one of my favorite stories. It’s a reminder that we always have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves daily. We don’t have to settle for continuing to be a butthead.

Photo by Joël de Vriend on Unsplash

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to take February, and most things in life, with a dose of salt. Most of the things I’ve deemed tragic episodes in my life have turned out to be some of the biggest blessings. The inverse is true as well. The things I was ecstatic about turned out to be not so great. I’ve decided to just take it as it comes. As my friend Jim always reminded me, “Chop wood and let the chips fall where they may…”

It was February 15th, 2018 when I lost my friend Jim. I guess I didn’t really “lose” him. I have a pretty good idea he’s off fishing with Jesus and telling fisherman’s tales (no lying about the one that got away Jim, okay?). I simply wish he’d stayed here a bit longer. I guess it’s that way with all the people you love and care about: especially those who impacted you in a big way. Maybe that’s why February remains at the bottom of the list.

We held a celebration of Jim’s life on Tuesday at two o’clock in the afternoon on a mild February day. I’m not sure how many people were there, but it was a big crowd. He impacted the lives of so many. It was an eclectic bunch of church members and some not-so churchy- folks from recovery groups that Jim attended (seeing bikers sitting next to proper Baptist folks was a treat!). Before the service, I asked his wife, Sharon, if she had intentionally planned the service for Tuesday at two. She looked at me a bit puzzled and said “No, why?”

I had to laugh. Only Jim could pull this one off. I explained to her that when I would tell Jim about the difficult times in my life, he’d always say, “it’ll get better”.

“When Jim. When is it going to get better?”

He’d always reply somberly, “Tuesday at two o’clock. It’ll all be better on Tuesday at two o’clock”. He never knew what Tuesday or whether it would be two in the morning or two in the afternoon, but he was always right. It always got better. I didn’t always know the exact moment it happened, but it was always by Tuesday at two o’clock. I’m sure he still gets a good laugh out of that one…

There are three men who are my heroes. They all share the superpowers of unconditional love and wisdom – my father, my friend Edgar, and Jim. Each had their own way of using their superpowers. My father gave me solid values and wise counsel, which I usually failed to heed. When I finally surrendered my rebellious self-centeredness, he was awaiting my return like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (and more than just once I can assure you). If God has a human face, I’m pretty sure He looks a lot like Dad.

My friend Edgar has been my friend, confidant, and mentor of sorts for almost three decades. He’s seen me at my very worst. He’s been there to dust me off and help me back on the proverbial horse more times than I’d care to admit. He believed in me when no one else would. Not many people have friends like Edgar. This blessing is not lost on me.

Then there’s Jim. A few Februarys have passed since that day in 2018. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear Jim’s voice telling me one of his “Jim-isms” – things he would say for whatever life might throw at me. “Jim-isms” were not always original, some came from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, some from older guys in recovery programs, and some were just time-tested West Texas sayings he’d grown up with. Somehow they all became Jim’s.

While the list of “Jim-isms” is long, there are two or three that stand out above the rest. First, there’s “This thing is too damn simple to be taken so damn seriously”. That was often coupled with “Son, don’t complicate the corn flakes”. Quite trying to be so intense. There’s nothing new under the sun. Above all, quit trying to make the simple so damn difficult. Remember Occam’s Razor- “the best solution to any problem is usually the simplest one.”

The other “Jim-ism” that hits home on a daily basis (and usually several times a day) is this, “When it’s over it will all be okay. If it ain’t okay, then it’s not over.” When I listen to the torrent of news about hate-filled people doing hateful things, about systemic and brutal racism, and about Christian Nationalist who blatantly misrepresent God in their pursuit of power and hegemony I have to remember this “Jim-ism” above all. It’s the one that reminds me that God is in control, that love always wins, and the arc of justice may be longer than I’d like, but it is an arc that is leading to the Kingdom of God.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk among my friends and neighbors about how tired everyone is – tired of COVID, tired of grief, tired of the police shootings and oft repeated news of insane mass shootings, and most of al, tired of the vitriol and division we live with every day. Faith and Jim-isms tell me to remind you all that:

“When it’s over it’ll all be okay and if it ain’t okay, then it’s not over” and “It’ll be better Tuesday at 2:00”

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Where Did October Go?

It’s a slow, soaking rain this morning. I’m so grateful for a good rain, especially since we’ve been moving back in severe drought conditions the last few weeks. This month has been crammed with great things – so much so that this is the first time I’ve had to sit down to tell you all about it…

October brings celebration. The 7th was Ms. Opal’s birthday. Ninety-six trips around the sun deserved a weekend-long celebration.

We held a Nobel Peace Prize announcement watch party at the Paris Coffee Shop at 3:00 in the morning. The announcement was to be made at 9 AM Oslo time which is 4 AM here. We were hopeful but not surprised when this year’s prize went to the jailed human rights activist Ales Bialiatski from Belarus and two human rights organizations in Russia and Ukraine. Ms. Opal expressed her thanks to the Nobel Prize Committee and those that nominated her. She then reminded us that there is still much to be done. Even one person can make a difference. Each of us can become a “Committee of One” – committed to compassion, unity, and understanding instead of racism, injustice, and division.

Our thanks go out to everyone at the Paris Coffee Shop on Magnolia and Hemphill for an incredible breakfast and opening so early to host the watch party. They were so gracious and fun to be with. The Paris Coffee Shop is a Fort Worth institution. If you’re a Fort Worth native you’ve most likely enjoyed their breakfast or lunch. If you’re new to town then you need to stop by!

Saturday, October 8th, was Ms. Opal’s Walk for Hunger and Day of Service at both the Community Food Bank and Opal’s Farm.  People gathered at the Community Food Bank at 11 AM to join Ms. Opal on a 1.25 mile walk to end hunger from the Community Food Bank to Opal’s Farm. Afterwards, we cut Ms. Opal’s birthday cake (plural – there were several!) and enjoyed the afternoon celebration together.

I flew to Atlanta the following weekend for the Black Farmers and Urban Growers National Conference 2022. The speakers and breakout sessions were educational and practical for becoming better farmers and seeking agri-justice. My favorite session was led by Dr. Barret T. Vaughn from Tuskegee University on writing grants with the reviewer’s point of view. Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm are growing by leaps and bounds this year. Knowing how to write grants is a big step toward securing available funding to continue growing.

Our National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Urban Ag representative came to tour the farm with two NRCS agronomists. They asked many questions as NRCS has typically dealt with much larger, rural farms. Thanks to Secretary Vilsack and the USDA for beginning to pay attention to urban and small farms. We are here to stay!

This past weekend saw our return to Cowtown Farmers Market and the first monthly Funkytown Mindful Market for farmers. The full Mindful Market is held every quarter, but in response to residents we are holding the farmers market on the fourth Saturday of each month. We appreciate Texas Wesleyan University for their partnership and look to a long healthy relationship with the Poly Heights neighborhood. We’ll keep you updated on the progress.

We’ll be at Cowtown Farmers Market again this coming weekend with lots of fresh kale, salad mix, green beans, radishes, and assorted greens. Please stop by and see us then. Have a great week!

Happy Birthday Ms. Opal!
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Happy Juneteenth! Happy Freedom Day!

Opal’s Farm celebrated Juneteenth in a big way this year. We missed Miss Opal’s Walk to Freedom since we were at Cowtown Farmers Market yesterday, we had a record-breaking day in produce sales at the market! Thank you to all our friends and customers – many of whom were first time visitors to the market – who came out to wish us well and celebrate the Juneteenth weekend with us. You made our day extra special!

We loaded up the market stuff and headed to Panther Island Pavilion for the I Am Juneteenth Festival where we saw many old friends and met many new ones. It was even bigger and better that last years party and highlighted Freedom Day for us all. Many new vendors and food trucks came, and all ate well. Thank you, Miss JoAnn, and Miss Mattie’s Food Truck for the amazing food! You hold a special place in our heart. We look forward to seeing you every chance we get (and tomatoes are coming your way!).

The Dock Bookstore sat up right across from us, which was a real treat. The Dock has been at Meadowbrook and Handley Drive for fourteen years. Please drop by sometime to enjoy what a bookstore is supposed to be. Celebrate and support our local businesses that are so vital to our community.

The music and entertainment were terrific. Fireworks ended the evening of celebration with a spectacular show reminding each one of us that freedom is to be celebrated from June 19th through July 4th. It’s freedom for all of us regardless of race, religion, or politics. It’s time to celebrate our shared humanity and press on to a better community.

Miss Opal’s Walk to Freedom 2022 –
Miss Opal and Unity’s Executive Director Ms. Dione Sims

Ms. Opal addressed the crowd and then came to our booth to meet, greet, and sign copies of her children’s book, Juneteenth. I watched as the line grew long to meet “The Grandmother of Juneteenth”. Parents asks for pictures of Ms. Opal with their kids and themselves. They wanted their children to understand the history of Juneteenth and Ms. Opal’s life of advocacy and activism. I was mesmerized by the way she touches the hearts of everyone she meets, but especially the children. The message she sends is always the same – there’s much to be done. Know where you’ve been so you know where you’re going. Acknowledge the past so we can all move forward. Love others – especially in the small ways – and remember we all bleed red, we’re all brothers and sisters, and above all, each one of us are God’s children. Treat God’s kids well.

On this special Juneteenth – Freedom Day – I can’t think of anything better to do than that…

Ms. Opal and Gubernatorial Candidate
Beto O’Rourke
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The First Pitch

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” – Jackie Robinson

April 15, 1947 is a date that all baseball fans know well. On that day Jack Roosevelt Robinson – Jackie Robinson – became the first African American to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today is also “Jackie Robinson Day” at tonight’s Texas Rangers game at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Even more fitting is the fact that Ms. Opal will be throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s game! Tickets are still available through the Rangers box office.

Come out and enjoy the Spring Texas evening, watch the Rangers play the Los Angeles Angels, and cheer on Ms. Opal!

Ms. Opal’s Ranger Jersey for tonight