Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Father's Love

A few years ago I was standing outside the cafeteria at work when I got a phone call.  "Ms. Garner, this is Allison at Herndon Funeral Home.  I have your father here."  My heart dropped.  Funeral home has my dad? After my initial panic, I learned he was there to sign over some insurance policies; he had begun to make plans.  Since I am the executor, she had some questions for me.

My dad turned 89 last month.  I know my time with him is dwindling.........and I am not sure I will be able to stand it when he is gone.  No one has a clue what he means to me.  Since that time, Mother was under hospice for about 10 months--sent home to die of congestive heart failure.  During that time, he and I discussed some more practicalities.  This week he told me the two of them had gone back to the funeral home and picked out their vaults and caskets.  He didn't want his children to have to think about that.  So, as it now stands, everything is in place at the funeral home except Dad's pallbearers. They bought plots in 1975 after my brother's first wife died.  They will be laid next to her. Mother is adamant about a simple graveside service; Dad will have a military funeral, and the funeral home knows whom to contact about that.  I told him not to worry about pallbearers.  I can make a simple phone call, and I know Tony will take care of it.  I threw out Tom and Elton's names.  It will come together.  There are enough men in that church who revere my dad.  It will be taken care of.

While we were on the phone and discussing this, Dad was matter-of-fact; I was a mess, though he couldn't tell it.  I told him that since we are on the topic, I planned to slip this Clemson shirt into his casket.  That's when he told me it was fine if he is put away in it.  So, it will be.  I also gave him a flannel Clemson shirt, and I will take that back and wear it.

As I sit typing this, tears are streaming down my face.  Someone told me yesterday at work she didn't believe I would retire.  I assured her this year is IT.  I need every moment I have to take care of/spend with my parents.

A father's love can not be underestimated-=----neither can a daughter's............

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Simple Life

Today is Black Friday, a day retailers use to get their hands on Americans' money.  They seemingly offer great deals that bribe shoppers into braving crowds to climb over their fellow shoppers and grab whatever what-not is offered at such a reduced price as to cause bedlam in many areas.

Leave.me.out.  I have never partaken of Black Friday.  There is no sale on this earth that would bribe me into the hordes of frenzied mobs for a computer, tv, or anything else.  

When my son was small, yes, of course, I bought for him, but never on this day.  The older I get, the more I long for simplicity in all areas of my life.  My son is grown now and living in Colorado at the moment, so I will send him money and his favorite red velvet brownies.  No one can buy for my mother, so my parents will probably get a food gift card to one of their favorite fast food restaurants in Walterboro.  I have no one to "buy for," and that makes the holiday easier.

I was supposed to work three hours today with my online tutoring; I haven't tutored since July.  My mentoring duties keep me as busy as I want during the week.  But, I cancelled all the hours I had scheduled for this weekend, forfeiting about $60.  It's not about the money.   I don't want anything that is going to stress me.  I am aiming to simplify my life right now, so I am going to cull through more "stuff" to see what I can throw away, donate, and recycle. 

In keeping with my plan to simplify, I decorated.  I opted for simply the tree, no village on the mantel this year or Santa collection on the buffet.  The older I get, the more I live in the past.  This white tree harkens back to the one of my childhood in the late '60s/early '70s.  I strategically chose the ornaments to put on it; these elves have been with me since I was about 3; some are homemade from my childhood/teens.  That was such a simple time, and one that I anticipate returning to when I retire next summer.  








This takes me to all I want for Christmas:  nothing but time with my parents, fur babies, and friends.  To me, that would be perfect.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankfulness

I have so very much for which to be thankful.  Taking one day to honor/celebrate that is hardly appropriate.  I approach each day, each morning, with a heart/head of gratitude.  These are 
some of the things that have been on my mind:


  • my parents' health:  At 85 and 89, respectively, they have minor health problems that               follow  advanced age.
  • my son's health
  • my health:  Other than cancer, I have been very healthy.
  • Priscilla and the joy I get when I see her smile or her eyes light up, and the ability/resources to do for her and her family
  • students who are like little sponges, excited to come to class and eat up whatever we do
  • three bosses who are very good to me and are excellent to work for
  • my furry children who love me unconditionally
  • my bff who knows me as well as anyone ever will
  • my home/fireplace/kitchen
  • unexplained favor from God; each day I ask, "What did I do to 'deserve' this?"
  • anticipating what God has in store for the second phase of my life and spending more time with my parents
I could go on with the minutiae because I am thankful for everything, but these are the main things that are on my mind daily.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Got Integrity?

We teachers throw around the word "integrity" quite a bit. We chant this quote to our students as though doing so repetitively will some how rub off on them and will  "make" them behave.  The quote goes something like this:

               "Integrity is doing what you know is right even when no one is watching."

Yet, how many of us practice what we preach?  I know we are humans and not perfect, but many of us plan to go awry.  We rationalize, "Well, if the boss isn't looking, who will know?"  "If Mom and Dad aren't home, I can't get in trouble."

"Integrity is doing what you know is right even when no one is watching."  Do you have it?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why Clemson?

Why do I love Clemson?  It's partially because of this man:



The day after Dad married Mother in 1949, they boarded a bus for Clemson, where he was going to study.  In those days, it was an all-male agricultural college.  He thought he could support them by doing odd jobs around town while going to college.  It didn't work out that way.  He was able to go a semester, but then had to quit to get a real job to support them.  I tease them sometimes and say he would have a Clemson degree if it weren't for marrying her.

Anyway, he maintains the stamina to stay up into the wee hours of Sunday mornings to finish watching late games.  I, on the other hand, barely made it to the end of last night's game at just past 10pm.  So, I love Clemson because of 1) Dad, 2)I love purple, 3)TIGERS! for this cat lover, 4)Clemson fans are classy, and 5)I love that area of the state.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lovey: A Tribute

We are all appointed a time to die---even animals.  Yesterday morning I came home from petsitting to find someone had thrown up green bile on the kitchen linoleum.  As I was getting ready for work, I found Lovey in the bathtub with green bile.  I knew it was he.  After work I took him to the vet.  Blood work showed advanced kidney failure and lymphoma....likely kidney cancer that had spread.  His temperature was 90...very low.  His heart rate should have been near 200 but was about 100.  As the vet told me, "You don't have to make a decision; the blood work has made it for you."  With his low heart rate, she didn't think he would have lasted more than a couple of days.

I got Lovey about 7 years ago when his original family moved to Australia.  He was a unique cat from the beginning.  I have included some pictures that best capture his personality.

He was a loner among my cats.....except for when he was "dating" Minnie.  Minnie would alternate between Lovey and Miles, my 19 year-old.  I noticed this summer she had sworn off both of them.  It's odd how animals inside form alliances/pacts/relationships just as they would in the wild.  They have those they like---and those they don't.








Lovey did NOT like Humpty Dumpty (I named neither of them!).  He would back him against a wall and torment him with a deep-throated war cry....then when he was done, he either flipped on his side or merely walked off.



Lovey was a smokey gray color, so for many years he wore a Christmas collar year round so I wouldn't step on him since he blended in with the green carpet at night.  One day he took it off and refused to wear it again.  I have no idea how he got it off, but he did.  Here he is in one of his favorite spots:  my garden tub.



And he absolutely was relentless about fresh water from the bathroom sink!  Here he is in the sink and teaching the new baby, Sparkles, who loved him.




I don't expect non-pet people to understand this.  This read is not for them.  It is my way of processing his death and remembering him.  Being a pet parent is somewhat like being a human parent; we take care of them in sickness and in health, we referee sibling spats, we love them, we talk to them, and we know when to say goodbye.  The vast majority of the 14 cats I've had in my lifetime lived well into their teens, with most 16-20 years.  You don't live with something in your home that long without forming a strong bond with him/her.  They are not merely an ornament on a shelf.  They were a main reason I didn't evacuate during Hurricane Matthew.  I definitely would not leave them; if I ever left, they would come with me. 

I also believe that I will see all of them again in heaven one day.  The Bible does speak of animals in heaven, and God is God, so why wouldn't mine be there?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Back to My Roots: Ruffin High School





As I progress through my last, and 29th year of teaching, I find myself daily thinking about my roots--taking a trip down memory lane to Ruffin High School, where it all began in August, 1988.  Ruffin High was built in the mid-1950s and sat in rural Colleton County, between Walterboro and Smoaks.  It was the school for the rural students, while Walterboro High was for the town students. There was nothing there but a post office and houses.  It was definitely "the sticks." I remember it was not air-conditioned when I began, and my dad and I brought in fans for my room.  There was also a summer when he painted a wall of my room mauve, to have a "calming" effect.  In those days, we could pretty much do what we wanted to our rooms. 

Those were the days prior to technology.  We teachers had to use old-fashioned hard copy grade books and calculators to arrive at grades.  Then, at the end of the grading period we passed the report cards around to add our grade.  I remember getting frustrated waiting for teachers who were not silver like me.

Those were the days prior to No Child Left Behind Leaving many children behind due to unreal expectations on the backs of teachers and students.  Teachers were trusted to teach what they thought the students should know.

I don't remember many specifics from those days, but I remember bits and pieces.  I know that if I called a parent or grandparent, the majority of the time they jerked a chain in their children.  What a different world it was.  I simply expected my students to do well and treat each other with respect.  I piled on the vocabulary and the research papers, at least I remember giving the seniors a research paper one year.  There were those who tried to dissuade me because they said the students wouldn't do it, but I would not be deterred.  If I taught them how, they would do it.  This was where I laid the foundation for high expectations.  Perhaps it was a good thing that going into this school, I had no preconceived ideas about poor African-American students.  I simply saw them as my students.

I recall the year I taught AP English.  I had three students:  David Daniels, Wanda Boatwright, and Hope Williams.  One weekend we piled into my Nissan Sentra in Walterboro and headed to Charleston to see the movie Hamlet.  We read Shakespeare, Dickinson, Whitman, Ibsen, Antigone, and The Odyssey, among others.  Oh, how I loved that time.

A couple of years ago I was chatting on Facebook with one of my RHS students, and he reminded me he had graduated on time because I sent his parents a certified letter for a conference.  Of course, I did not remember that until he brought it up.  I did not play, even then.

Those were the days when we teachers had some power.  I shake my head now, but one of my big rules was that if they said "Shut up" to another student in my room, they went to ISS.

I'm sure this is the first of many ramblings as I recall my roots at Ruffin High.  My students defied the odds of "poor children" and have succeeded at the military, teachers, teachers of the year in Atlanta, engineers, photographers, artists, nurses, medics, truck drivers, etc... As I type this, the tears are streaming, and I don't know why.  Here are some pics of the faces I taught from 1988-1996:














LESLEY JAM:  I could never save your picture!  It wouldn't let me!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the Aftermath of the Election

I am a lily white girl of Irish/Scottish descent who will never know what it is like to be a minority in America....to have to "warn" my kids about police harassment and how to come out of a traffic stop alive....about "driving while Black"...or living as a Muslim-American in a dismissive white America governed by a President who ran on a racist platform, inciting hate for minorities.

This post is about sympathy (as opposed to "empathy," which means you've been in their shoes.) and kindness.

This morning an African-American friend called and told me she was thinking about selling her home and moving out West with her ex-husband to be closer to their son.  I stopped her in mid-sentence because I know her relationship with the ex.

But, she, an extremely intelligent multi-degreed woman, was speaking out of fear:    fear of a nebulous America under an indeterminate Trump Presidency.  A Presidency of a man who was a loose cannon on the campaign trail.

One of my former students posted on Facebook yesterday:  "Talk to your kids before sending them out today."  

Their fears must not be dismissed.  They are real and they are merited.

Their voices and the voices of others of color must not be silenced in a Trump Presidency.  When I looked at potential cabinet members, the only person of color listed was Dr. Ben Carson.  Really?  He's it?  People of color can not be ignored/disenfranchised or this country will be ripe for true revolt.

To the Trump supporters who may be reading this:

          Do not be flippant.
          Do not be smug.
          Do not be mean to others.

          Do listen without judgment to opposing views
          Do strive for understanding.
          Do be nice.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ingratitude vs. Staying Grounded

If you have read this blog for any length of time (and I imagine it's just a few of you), then you know I use it to vent and bear witness to what God has done in my life.  There is something that has been in my craw for over a year now, and I have mulled over how to best express it.  I think the title "Ingratitude" is appropriate for this post.  

Let me begin by saying there are two ways I am going to approach this topic of ingratitude:  from the Christian perspective and from the non-believer perspective.  I'll begin with the Christian.  James 1:16-17 tells me, 
         
                   "Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
          coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or 
          shifting shadow."

As a Christian, I embrace this wholeheartedly.  Every intangible gift I have been given came from God through people.....the gift of being cancer-free even after the tumor had perforated my colon, my dad's clean colon cancer surgery 4 years after mine, three jobs I dearly love----God orchestrated them all.  Since I believe this, I praise Him daily and give Him the glory.

Now, I'll take that a step further.  Colossians 3:22-24 tells me, 

                   "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything,, not only to please them while they are watching, but with sincerity of heart and fear of the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Now, I embrace this as well.  I have already written on this blog about being a "silver," meaning duty, responsibility, and punctuality are vital parts of my genetic make-up.  I have rarely questioned authority, but simply done as I was told.  To me, not to do so is the height of arrogance.  I know people who, almost on a daily basis, are complainers.  They have what my bff calls "a bird's nest on the ground," yet they are constant whiners.  One is a professing Christian, and I am trying to give her grace, to not judge her, because maybe she doesn't know the verse from Colossians. Besides, it's not my place to judge.  The other is not a professing Christian.

That takes me to another angle, albeit not a Christian one.  What happened to people just being grateful for what they have?  

Let that sink in a minute........

I believe God is using one of these people to remind me from whence I came.....to keep me humble so arrogance doesn't creep into me.  I am retiring this year after 29 years of teaching.  I have worked for some "doozies" and in some toxic situations, so I have a perspective of nearly 30 years.  I am finally back in a peaceful, cooperative environment, but I thank God for keeping me humble by not letting me forget from whence I came.  Gratitude is everything. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Death is the Great Equalizer

On my way home today, a friend and I got into a discussion about politics--of various levels--and I remarked that Death is the Great Equalizer.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 20:16, "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."  Later, Mark 10:31 states, "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."  Finally, Luke 13:30 reaffirms that "And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last."


There are people on this earth with money and power who abuse those under them.  They come in all shapes and packages:  politicians, businessmen, ministers, husbands--the backgrounds are endless.  They strut around thinking that they are invincible, and many times they are....on earth.  They pile up riches here on earth, but you know what?  We used to say there were two certain things in life:  death and taxes.  We can no longer say that about taxes..........but, Death is still the Great Equalizer.  In Death, these people (and I tend to think they are largely men) will meet God.  He will not be impressed by their former riches; yes, "former" because they can't take it with them.  He will not be bought, bribed, cajoled, or threatened.  They will be brought low, and the "lowly" of the earth will be brought high.

Matthew 6:19 19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and  thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.…

What does this mean?  The love of money is the root of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us.  The greedy will get their just desserts in the afterlife.  Stockpile treasures in heaven where it will last.  Do for others less fortunate or those otherwise in need.  Guard your hearts against greed, both of money and power. 

1 Timothy 6:  9-11
"Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 11But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.…"