Saturday, August 27, 2016

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

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Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality. 

We slowly drove – He knew no haste 
And I had put away 
My labor and my leisure too, 
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove 
At Recess – in the Ring – 
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed Us – 
The Dews drew quivering and Chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed 
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet 
Feels shorter than the Day 
I first surmised the Horses' Heads 
Were toward Eternity –

This is one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems.  The imagery and symbolism are powerful.  In February of 2015, we thought Death was stopping for my mother as she was released from ICU into hospice care at home.  I remember asking the nurse how long she had left.  Her response was "It's anybody's guess."

This is she shortly after coming home:

And here she is last Sunday, welcoming Dad home from early church:

The hospital bed is gone, and new flooring is in.  Death didn't stop his carriage at this house; He kept on going. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Prayer for This, My Last Year









As I prepare this week to pull out my students next week, two little faces come to mind.

One, a little blonde girl starting the FOURTH grade who is already reading at a HIGH SCHOOL level, was not supposed to be here this year.  She was going to a church school.  Even so, I had a feeling she would be back.  No offense to church schools, but they normally can not challenge such a child.  Many of the teachers are not even certified.....at least in my area of the state. 

When I see her in the hallway each day, she *always* begs me to take them now as she reaches her open arms towards me.  

Then, there is a third grader, D.  He is all of what?  7?  8?  He is the boy who came to school sleepy last year because he and his mother were at the laundromat until about 11pm.  That happened at least once, probably more than that.  He saw me in the hallway today as he was getting water, and he had to hug me as he grinned broadly.  He can't wait for next Monday.  See, he was surprised he was "invited" to be in my class.  Now, he feels special.  (The cupcakes' reputation doesn't hurt, either.)

As I prepared my learning centers this week, I could hear the giggling of I and her other classmates as they diligently worked last year.  Third graders giggle a lot.   May there be lots of giggling this year.

My prayer for all of my kids is that I stretch their minds and nourish their souls.  Thank you, God, for the BLESSING of being able to impact their little lives. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I'm Silver!

This week at work we took a personality survey to determine which "color" we are.  I am overwhelmingly silver.  This describes me to a "T"!!

1.  My strength is DUTY.
2.  Steadfastness and loyalty are my trademarks.
3.  To disregard responsibility of any kind never occurs to me.
4.  The keys to my personal success are as follows:

          a.  Generosity
          b.  The work ethic
          c.  A sense of History
          d.  Steadfastness
          e.  A value of order
          f.  Predictability
          g.  Home and family
          
5.  My motto is "Be Prepared."  Silvers enjoy the security that being prepared brings.
6.  I have an instinct for keeping the rules.
7.  I have a strong awareness of right and wrong, with respect to shoulds and should nots.
8.  I value dependability, service, and dedication.
9.  I respect loyalty and obligation.


Silvers DISLIKE disobedience and insubordination.

Silvers may see themselves as stable, dependable, efficient, realistic, orderly, and punctual.

Others may see silvers as rigid, boring, judgmental, bossy, uptight, predictable.

I have to say, every one of these describes me!

This is why 1)I get to work at least an hour ahead.  I don't know that I can break that habit.  2)People who don't do what they are supposed to/break the rules DRIVE ME INSANE

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Last Dance

Tomorrow marks the beginning of  my last dance.  The years have been spent doing the two-step and the line dance with many different partners.   This "dance" is not for everyone, certainly not for the faint of heart.  As I ponder this last call, some random thoughts come to mind.

Over the course of the last 29-to-be years, I have taught in one private and five public schools.  All of the public schools have been Title One, meaning high poverty schools.  Each had its own set of challenges that I will blog about later, once I am able to fully process everything.

Years ago in the midst of some of those challenges, I wrestled with God:  Why.am.I.here?!  This is too hard! etc...etc......

Now I know why.  For His children, life is a series of stages whereby He molds us for what is to come.  I have a friend who feels God has forgotten about him because of where he is in his life.  I have told him God is preparing him for the next stage, but I don't know that he listens(ed).  Men tend not to.

I, on the other hand, know beyond a doubt that God has been preparing me all along for my next stage.  I will be young (young is a relative term) when I retire, but I have teaching and cooking skills He can put to use somewhere.  I know I will be working in some capacity with the disadvantaged.  This morning a former student sent me this in a text message because he said it reminded him of me: Defending the less fortunate.  

For now, as I prepare for my last dance to begin tomorrow, I think of  "my boys".  They need me this year to be whatever-they-need-me-to-be:  school Momma, teacher, cheerleader, baker, provider-of-snacks.  Teaching in Title One schools requires more than just teaching.  In fact, sometimes that is the last need that is to be met.  

So, my prayer/wish for this year is that I be the best "me" I can be to those who need me until the lights come up and the dancing ends.  May it be so.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why I Switched Political Affiliations

                             "I don't understand how you are able to laud such individuals
                         in favor of a narcissistic and blatantly dishonest candidate who
                         has no principles."

This was a response to a Facebook post I made about respecting the republicans who refuse to endorse their party's candidate.  I am not going to get into a tit-for-tat about either candidate because the same could be said of Mr. Trump.  Clearly, he is narcissistic, and his principles change with the wind. 

My response to my good colleague was to say we could "chat" about it next week.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would do better justice explaining myself here for those inclined to read the whole thing.

To understand why I am supporting Hillary, one has to understand my world view, past and present.

I have already explained a little of why I'm supporting Hillary here, but let me really make it clear in this post.

I was reared in a republican household.  My parents are not card-carrying republicans, but they have always voted that way for as along as I can remember, at least in state and national elections.  So, I followed suit.  I also need to say here that I was brought up a Methodist, and when I moved to Beaufort, I attended the largest evangelical church in the area.  Next is where the change began.

A little over 5 years ago I began attending a church that emphasized community service.  It was something new to me, but exciting.  It started small with me.  Five summers ago there was a man who lived nearby who needed a bicycle to either get to work or look for work; I can't remember which.  I was going to buy him one myself.  A church friend wanted to go in with me, so we purchased it together, and I delivered it.

From that church, I became involved with a like-minded group who formed a homeless ministry in Washington Park downtown.  There are homeless in Beaufort, hidden among us.  I had a homeless student in one recent year who lived in the women's shelter with his mother and brother because they fled a domestic violence situation in Florida.  But, I digress.  Back to that homeless ministry.

For about a year and a half, we met every Sunday at the park.  I was the sole cook and bottle washer.  I learned to cook for about 40 people:  stews, chili, I forget what all.  We had fellowship with music, a short verse discussion, and food.  Three of us went in on the food.  All of that ended nearly three years ago when the other two people moved to California.  However, from that ministry I met a dear lady whom I still cook for each weekend. She is wheelchair-bound, having had three strokes.  She doesn't talk well, but there is nothing wrong with her mind.  Below is her home as it currently looks.  My "old self" would not have been caught dead going into her house.  I would have been scared to death.
I began to think about other people when I stopped focusing on myself.  My perception of the republican party is this: strong military, tax cuts for the middle class, anti-abortion, and anti-gay rights.  Make no mistake:  I once thought like this.  After all, I still have my button from the first presidential campaign I was old enough to vote in:  
HOWEVER, when I began to get involved with community outreach, community service, whatever you want to call it, I became a Jesus follower.  That means that I do what I think HE would have me to do.  I have scriptures that tell me:

Proverbs 14:31
He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
Proverbs 19:17
One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.

And my favorite: 

Matthew 25:31-46New International Version (NIV)

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
These verses are clear to me that we are to do for those who are less fortunate. It also makes it clear to me that I can not discriminate based on sexual orientation, or anything else.  I am against abortion?  Yes, I personally am.  Am I against gay marriage?  Yes, I personally am, but I no longer believe we should legislate others' rights.  That goes against the love that Jesus said we are to have for our fellow man.  I will leave the judgment of these areas up to Him.  I just need to serve His people....the people He created in His image.  
                                              
Consequently, I began this election cycle a Bernie Sanders' supporter because his philosophy was most closely aligned to Christ's words that I attempt to live by.  Notice I said his philosophy.   The republicans are the antithesis of Christ's words.  Let me be clear:  I see nothing of Christ's words in their beliefs.  For me to vote for Hillary is the next best thing to voting for Bernie.  Don't get me wrong:  I'm not excited about it, but there is zero way I would vote for Trump with the vehement hatred he spews.  And, much to my mother's chagrin, I'm sure, I will not stay home on election day and risk adding to a Trump victory,

I am not out to please man, but I am out to please God, for He said,    " Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  I hope to hear one day, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

I want to be a sheep, not a goat.

God's Timing

As August rolls around, it means just one thing to teachers:  back to school.  This year, I have mixed emotions because it is my *last* year....ever.  I'm sure I will have flashbacks and recollections of memorable students,---I already have---but I am positive that it is time.  God has shown me with no doubts left in my mind.  

See, two years ago, I thought retirement was an impossibility until I was social security age.  I was *certain* I would die before retirement ever came.  I thought a lot about a colleague, Rick Cavaluzzi, who literally brushed my shoulder as he angrily came into the cafeteria one day a few years ago.  After I left the cafeteria, I eventually learned he had dropped to the floor with a stroke just moments after brushing against me.  Following more strokes in the hospital, he died.  I didn't want to become a statistic.

So, why did I think it was an impossibility?  Back in 2000 when I was going through a divorce, I drew out my retirement.  I was stupid, but I didn't know the ramifications.  So, perhaps "uninformed" is a better word.  It was as though those 12 years I drew out did not exist.

But, when God is working, nothing is impossible!  Fast forward to two summers ago.  I felt Him prompting me to check with the retirement system to see what I would need in order to retire.  The response?  $27,000 plus.  My next question:  Would my 401K  annuity roll over?  Yes, it would!  That left roughly $7,000 for me to pay back to "earn" my years back that I had withdrawn.  I decided I wanted to pay it off in one year so I could retire at the end of 2016-2017.  When I set it up, about $300 was drafted from each paycheck to the retirement system.  That's a lot of money to be losing each month, but God provided.  He always provided through two part-time jobs and extra stipends at work.  He even provided enough for me to pay off some debts.  He. was. setting. it. all. up.

Fast forward about six months to tax time 2016.  In 2014 I had owed the IRS, so this year I waited until almost the last minute to file my taxes.  As I began putting the figures in online, I saw a refund pop up...  A four figure several times over refund....  I didn't believe it, so I re-calculated several times.  It was correct.  Now, God knew something I had longed for:  I wanted to pay off that $7000 early to the retirement system.  At this point in time, what I owed the IRS from 2014 (I had set up a payment plan) AND the balance I owed the retirement system WERE COVERED by this refund.  I was beyond floored!  God was putting His stamp on my plans and bringing them to fruition by summer of 2017. 

By now it is summer 2016.  Our district reports our year of service in June of each year.  By late July when I checked, the retirement system had me eligible to retire by 7/1/2017.

People *constantly* tell me I'm too young to retire, and ask, "What will you do?"  I am not positive, but I know who does know.  God has plans for me...other things for me to do.  I will listen for His voice and do what He leads me, go where He leads me.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Coming Out

This is one of the hardest posts I have written, and yet, it's one of the easiest.  I have written before of growing up in a republican home.  My parents' families were all lifelong democrats, but my parents deviated from that.  I'm not sure when or why.  I had been a lifelong republican as well until this election.  I voted for Bernie Sanders in the SC democratic primary.  At the time, I said I would never vote for Hillary because she's a liar and untrustworthy.  You know the expression, "Never say never."

Truth be told, ALL politicians are dishonest/untrustworthy to a degree.  Even my best friend, an African-American woman of nearly ??  who grew up on the South side of Chicago, suggested that President Obama had to step over some people to get where he is.  It's a given in politics.  I had planned to write-in Sanders' name on election day, but that is not possible in SC.  So, what are my alternatives?  Vote for Hillary or stay home and not vote at all (which my mother has suggested)..

This year I watched both conventions, the first time I can recall ever watching a convention.  I know what they are:  choreographed stage productions to sell the candidate to independents and the faithful who are not feeling so faithful this time around.

I was appalled at what I saw coming out of the republican convention.  Hate, hate, hate.  I was further appalled by Trump's suggestion/prompting this past week that the Russians should hack the DNC/Clinton campaign.  Does anyone remember Watergate???  Nixon had to resign over the same type of thing.  If Trump's remarks were not treasonous, they came pretty darn close in my book.  Every time Trump opens his big, unfiltered mouth and gets his hand slapped, he claims we misunderstood.  The next day, he claimed he was being sarcastic.  How many stupid people does he think are out there?  I, for one, am not one of them.

Is this the type of person we want as President?  Does anyone *really* believe he will "become presidential" after the election, if he is elected?  Give me a break!  What you see is what you get.  He would be firing off tweets to inflame even our staunchest of allies if it suited his purpose.

Now, on to Hillary.  I don't care for her, and I do believe she has been running for President since Bill did (at least).  However, I did learn things about her at the convention that have helped to make it more palatable to vote for her.   She did take time while in law school to go around the country to help the poor and disadvantaged.  That was in a time, the early 70s, where she was not doing it for herself.  Simply, she had no gain from this.  It was when she was working for Marian Wright Edelman, a South Carolinian who later founded the Children's Defense Fund.   She went down to Alabama and posed as a white, suburban mother to see if she could enroll her son in an all-white school.  Her goal was to see if Nixon were allowing tax-exempt status to discriminatory private academies.  Also, when working in Boston, she found a wheelchair-bound girl who could not go to school because there were no facilities for her.  Her work helped to expose private schools' clearly discriminatory practices and helped to pass laws for disabled children.  You can read more about her work in Alabama here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/28/us/politics/how-hillary-clinton-went-undercover-to-examine-race-in-education.html?_r=1

Bernie's supporters fought hard to have some of their key points woven into the Democratic platform.  You can read about that here:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/jane-sanders-why-bernie-voters-shouldnt-get-over-it-w431428.

The only way Sanders' supporters have a chance of accomplishing any of his goals is to vote for Hillary.  In good conscience, I can not sit home on November 8 and risk allowing an unstable, hate-filled man to be elected as president.  This is the most crucial election in modern times, in my lifetime. 

Friday I whispered to my father that I thought I would have to vote for Hillary, and he understood. That is all that matters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hatred In This Election Year

I have spent the last few weeks going through dusty, almost-forgotten boxes in my garage, purging in preparation for my retirement next summer.  I have a gut instinct (and we all know women's instincts) that I won't be staying in this house once my parents are gone.  I have also been bitten by the minimalist bug, albeit a slow bite..........and so, I purge.  

When I pulled down one high, filthy cardboard box and ripped off the yellowed tape (I've been in *this* house 14 years; I don't know when I sealed that box.), I found this doll.  You get a sense of her age both by her discolored appearance as well as the Reagan-Bush 1984 button.  I thought back on what the GOP meant to me in those bygone days.  

We were in the winding down of the Cold War era, and after a Jimmy Carter presidential fiasco, Ronald Reagan strode onto the political scene to save the day.  He represented power and a strength that intimidated our global enemies. (The US hostages in Iran were released on his inauguration day.  While Carter was negotiating prior to that, it is no coincidence that the release came as the reigns were passed.)  I was proud to vote for Reagan and continued to vote republican in every state/national election through 2015.

However, the current state of the GOP is not one I can support, and I have written about that before.  When I look at the GOP today, I see *nothing* but hatred.  Hatred for Clinton, hatred for President Obama, and even hatred for his wife Michelle.  I mean come on, what is there NOT to like about her?

Several years ago I began an "awakening," or a "revelation," if you will.  From my perspective, the GOP stands for inequality for all and serving as a global policeman looming over the affairs of other countries. That is pretty much it.  They don't believe in helping others; they don't believe universal health care is a right.  The republicans I know are pretty much middle/upper middle class who have no clue how life is for the poor, even the working poor.  Because they have healthcare, they don't care that others can't get cancer treatments equal to what they can get, because those poor don't have insurance.  I know because I *was* one.

These same republicans fill Facebook with posts about "Blue Lives Matter," but remain silent at the Orlando Pulse massacre.....silent when black boys and men are slaughtered by police.  Tell me that's not racially motivated.  If it isn't, then I am waiting for an explanation why the police are *more* important than the citizens they are supposed to *serve.*

 Many in the GOP wrap themselves up in their Bibles and quote the Old Testament, mostly making abortion the standard-bearing litmus test for all politicians; therefore, they portray the democrats as morally evil.  For this reason, I know republicans who will NEVER, EVER vote for a democrat....including some very close to me. 

So, this takes me to the current political climate in this country.  I have never seen such venom spewed from ANY political party as I see it from the republicans.  There was a lie circulating yesterday on Facebook that the dems had not hoisted Old Glory at their convention.  Now, *I* am not one to believe such rubbish without checking and double checking.  Sure enough, they did (and I promptly posted it on Facebook), and the young African-American boy who had sung for the Pope last fall sang the national anthem.  Yet, people who are supposedly very smart did not check their source and kept passing the lie around.....because THEY WANT TO BELIEVE IT!   I can't stand injustice, no matter the party affiliation, and I WILL call it out when I see it!

Years ago I was a staunch Fox News watcher, as are others close to me.  However, in my "awakening," God opened my eyes to the hate they spew.  It is now banned in my home, not that the cats can turn on the tv anyway.  While I do agree that mainstream media is leftist, Fox has gone too far to the right.  When I see the people on there (and at times I can't escape them if I am elsewhere), all they do is yell over each other and repeat the same hate-filled rhetoric ad nauseum over and over and over. (My redundancy here is deliberate for illustrative purposes.) 

So, unlike my republican christian counterparts, I can not embrace Donald Trump "because he is better than the alternative."  

*My* Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as myself, do onto the poor and I will have done unto Him.  There is no hatred in *my* Jesus, and I strive to emulate Him.  Therefore, I have to follow Him and His model for how we are to live.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Racism Unmasked

I am one of the privileged class in America; I am white. I have never experienced being followed when I go into a store.  I have never feared being shot if stopped by a policeman.  I can't even begin to imagine what any of that is like.  As a mother, I never had to worry about my son ending up dead in a traffic stop, shot by a policeman.

Throughout the South during most of the twentieth century, lynchings of black men were a common practice.  The name Emmett Till readily comes to mind.  He was a 14 year-old Chicago boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, reportedly for whistling at a white woman.  After being beaten, shot, and having an eye gouged out, his body was tossed in a river.  In order to show what had been done to her son, his mother had an open casket at his funeral.....for all the world to see.

Fast forward to the 21st century:  South Carolina.....Maryland....Louisiana....Minnesota

Walter Scott.....Freddie Gray......Alton Sterling.....Philando Castile.....

all killed by policemen.  Walter Scott was shot in the back multiple times...as he was running away. Freddie Gray was left paralyzed after a ride in a police van and eventually died.  Alton Sterling was tackled to the ground by two policemen, one of whom shot him repeatedly in the chest and back.   Philando Castile was reportedly getting his ID out at a traffic stop when a policeman pumped him with bullets.

America has changed little since the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.  Yes, we have African-American governors, Congressmen, and President.  Yet, what the election of the first African-American President has done is expose the hidden racism that many thought we as a nation had conquered.  There it is, revealed in the fear, the abject fear, that many white officers have of black males.  That is the heart of it:  fear, fear of a group of people they can not relate to, don't know. Fear born of preconceived ideas.  Many police organizations do a fabulous job integrating into the communities they serve, but there are those who don't.  Until local police organizations honestly examine their culture, the culture of rallying around the police brotherhood at all costs, this slaughter will continue. Police are supposed to serve the community.  In order to serve, they must have relationships with the people in the community. It takes work to build that trust and those relationships....but it is vital.  Today, a Congressman asked FBI Director Comey to do something.  I pray he does.  This has got to stop.

Where does this racism come from?  It is taught; no one is born a racist.  It can be taught at home, by peers, and even by politicians.  Mainly, it is born of fear--fear of people/ethnic groups/religious groups one doesn't know....and doesn't want to know.  

Look at this precious little boy.  I'll call him "I."  "I" is the son of a former student of mine.  She has to raise him to fear police officers.  Maybe "fear" is the wrong word, but he has to be cautious........cautious simply because of the color of his skin.  The Walter Scotts, Freddy Grays, Alton Sterlings, Philando Castiles....they are all sons of all black mothers.  They started out just like little "I" here.

Don't be part of the problem.  All the little "I's" deserve to grow up without fearing law enforcement. 




Monday, July 4, 2016

Jesus Weeps

I often feel things too intently.  Things bother me that most would not understand.  I read the news associated with each terrorist attack---Orlando, Turkey, Bangladesh (for example)---and I seek out profiles of the victims.  They had families, lives, future dreams.........They were people....part of humanity....part of the "Love your neighbor as yourself" that Jesus commanded.   Jesus commanded...."Love.your.neighbor.as.yourself."  He didn't mean literal neighbor; He meant humanity.  We are all in this world, in this life, together.  

The vast majority of terrorist victims outside the US are Muslims.  That is lost on so-called Christians, or perhaps it isn't.  Maybe their response is, "Good for them.  That's what they get for being Muslims."  I am always at a loss when I see Muslim-hating posts on Facebook by avowed Christians, particularly when it is someone I know very well.  How can people who claim to be a follower of Jesus spew such hatred?  Was that what Jesus taught?  The more I see these postings, the more I wonder what He thinks, up there in heaven looking down at His creation.

The Bible tells us many will claim to know Him, but in the end His response for many will be, "Depart from me; I never knew you."  

If you claim Christianity, what will His response be to you?