Tuesday, February 14, 2017

First Joint Publication - It's a Potluck Earth and Free Cake in the Breakroom

It's A Potluck Earth, everyone brings something to the table. Free Cake in the Breakroom, how do you get co-workers who don't like each other to all meet in one place? Offer free cake in the breakroom.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


How my dad faced change is very relevant to where we are today. There are over 7 Billion persons on this planet. People travel toward opportunity, safety, or both. The customs, languages, and religions of immigrants may seem different … though in most cases, if we actually sat down and talked, we may find shared values and morals. These shared morals and values are sometimes not expressed as we are accustomed to seeing them.

Change often brings uncertainty. Uncertainty brings fear. Seems like political proponents, pundits, and even some preachers (most of whom we do not know and are hundreds of miles away) transform fear into an ultra-fine fairy dust of wolfsbane, growth steroids, and crystal meth. It is amazing how these groups can get us to inhale this dust so that we publicly hurt and offend friends and neighbors whom we do know and with whom we share a community. This is not about political correctness; this is a matter of spreading the intent to do harm.
Today, I am talking about one individual who built up a resistance to blaming others for the effects of changes in his life. My Dad, Tilman Hardy Jr, aka Junior Hardy, faced a changing world and still interacted with people who were different from him. I am not saying that he did everything right but I do not recall Dad ever blaming immigrants or the government or unions or big banks for his troubles. Nor did he focus on how to keep someone from having something they think they needed.

Dad was born in 1920 into a farming life tied to the land which his father owned. Pretty much, he knew only those who were immediately around him: brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and members of the church. They were isolated except for maybe a radio or occasional letter or visit from someone who had moved away.
They made their own butter. They made their own syrup. They went outside of the house to use the bathroom or a covered pot if it was just too cold to go outside. Dad told me that he knew only three things to be when he grew up, a farmer, a mechanic, or a school teacher. Actually, he tried all three and more. He decided that he best not teach after a particular situation with a student at Coosa County Training School (J.D. Thompson High School).
When Daddy was less than six, his mother fell ill. She was taken to hospital. He never saw her again. He remembered hearing of her death but not how she died. He never saw her body or visited a grave. Only an incidental conversation brought this to light to the extent that all his children and our first cousins were shocked. Dad only had closure after 70 years when his mother’s grave was found, bones exhumed, and reinterred near his father.
His father remarried and he had stepmothers. Dad wasn’t going to school all that much. At some point, a man, who Dad called Professor, talked my grandfather into letting Daddy go to boarding school in Cottage Grove, Alabama. There he went to school, met my mother, graduated school, and went to Alabama A&M.

Education helped Dad strive into the steady economic rise of former slaves and their children in face of mortifyingly oppressive laws and social norms that disgraced the face of liberty and Christianity. Also, this was a time during the Great Depression, the rise of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, and the march of Japan across the Pacific. Yet, Dad joined the army before finishing college.
After boot camp, the Army gave him permission to marry my mother after threatening AWOL.
Dad served in the Pacific. Once and only once, told me about a particular air raid when he was caught out on the open base. He took shelter in the second worst place possible, near vehicles. Telling me the story, he squinted his eyes. His face grimaced. He balled his fist. Pulling his head between his shoulders, Dad made the noise that Zeros made as they rained bombs and bullets on his installation. From that point on, he said that he always made it to the shelter.
Though the Army was segregated, he enjoyed privileges associated with his well-earned rank. These privileges were, pretty much, erased when he came back stateside. Back from the war, despite Mom saving the money, he faced the challenge of getting a business loan simply because he was Black. He got a loan from a private lender. After the Civil Rights Act, he voted. When the local economy shifted toward textiles and manufacturing, Dad qualified for the highly sought after job of maintaining and repairing thread making equipment at Avondale’s new mill in Rockford. This was about 1966. Instructors in South Carolina, who trained technicians on the Saco-Lowell equipment, threatened to quit rather than teach him because he was Black. Avondale’s local leadership spoke up and delivered a rebuke to the trainers. Additionally, they told Dad that if he encountered any trouble or threats that they would take care of it. Dad said that, from what he had seen, he believed his employer would do exactly that, take care of it. Off to South Carolina he went.

After years of working at the mill, he still considered himself a farmer.
The mill allowed the last three of Dad’s nine children to encounter farming and pulpwood harvesting on a part-time basis; that was tough enough. The older children had been full-time all the time. My oldest brother shouldered a biblical responsibility for posterity in Dad’s eyes. My sisters dealt with their own share of issues with a hard rural life and social norms of the times.
My memories of Dad are from a little younger than age three. Through all these personal and social changes I remember him going through, including the things he told me in hindsight of his ninety six years of his life, he did not fear the “changing people” or the “changing time” even as Coosa County lost population from the time of his birth to the time he and Mom moved in with my brother, even as the mill closed, even as he fought off two bouts of cancer, even as he moved from a county of 11,000 to a metropolitan area of about 5.2 million. Granted, he did miss Coosa County a great deal.
I believe the only thing that he feared was not finding a path through those changes in order to provide for his family by the work of his hands, the smartness of his intellect, and by the grace of God. He wanted to provide a means to something better through a changing world he knew was coming. So, he taught us to know who we are, that we are smart, that we are capable. He taught us to carefully consider events. He taught us that the best choice is often the narrow less traveled path instead of the well traveled wide road.
And I think, as he reached his 70s, he realized that part of his children finding our way was dealing with how he may have uniquely connected to our backsides or some unique ways he sent us in the direction he wanted us to go. What helped me come to grips with that was becoming a parent and understanding there is a cycle of apologies and forgiveness we encounter on a recurring basis that keeps a family healthy.

Holding Cynthia's hand
What affects us most is how we interact with our families and those in our communities no matter who they are. Yes, there were people Dad disliked strongly. That was because of an interaction with someone non-virtually, who shared the same breathable air, while occupying nearly the same patch of dirt or floor space. Actually, Dad told me a lesson he had learned about condemning people he had never heard speak or even bothered to meet. One day, he drove me down a narrow, barely paved, country road. We passed a shrubby spot that one could still tell was an old field. He said:
The corn crop was bad that year. Everybody’s was starting to turn brown. I kept passing by this man’s corn field. It was so green. How could this man’s corn be so green. Good Christian folks’ corn was failing. This man was looked down on by the church. No one wanted anything to do with him. I was born on a farm, had gone to college to study agriculture, taught veterans how to farm. What would it look like me asking him anything? But... there it was. His corn was standing tall.
So, I stopped by and talked to him. Then he told me how to make sure my corn could grow through harsh conditions. It was all about how you lay-by your corn before it got too tall.
My father certainly learned a lesson that day and passed it to me. The lesson helped him make money and put food on the table. It’s helping me do the same today. That is, before casting judgement about someone I’ve never even heard speak, get over myself and talk to that person from a spirit of learning. It may result in improving my outlook, fortune, and hopes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hope Comes in Pieces

Buy on Amazon Paperback and E-book

Ma, your world hurts! Mia Smith, a five-year old girl, regresses into thirty-eight medical and behavioral conditions, one hundred and thirty one allergies, and autism. Many substances and foods in her biological environment cause her pain. Her mother, Terra Smith, practically the Chief Recovery Officer, works with doctors, therapists, and insurance companies to coordinate all the care required for Mia’s comeback. Her father, Craig Smith, puts in the work hours to make sure the family has a home, food, and clothes. The longer recovery takes, the more Mia falls behind.