Friday, March 17, 2017

"The World is Too Much With Us"

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not--Great God!  I'd rather be
A pagan sucked in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn."
               William Wordsworth

The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth wrote this in 1802, yet it is so apropos in our consumer-fueled society.  "Getting and spending"?  Really?  In 1802???  This sounds like our world, one in which people are hurried, harried, and spending beyond their means.  Too many "must" have the current "toy" (boat, jet ski, smart tv, etc...), and they are working themselves into a frenzy to keep up with their neighbors, materially speaking.   

"Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away"

Everywhere I look in my town, there is construction.  Woods are being decimated, habitats destroyed----all in the name of "progress."   Oh, how I hate it!  We don't need another Waffle House or car wash on my little island; yet, fight "progress" we can not.

One day, I hope to leave all of this.  I long for the simple life---a piece of land and a small cabin.  I won't require much for just me and my cats.  I also want chickens and a garden.  I have been ridding my life of "stuff" for the last year, and that is first on my priority list when I retire this summer.  Simplification will be my word.

I suppose it is true that things you learn as a child sleep in the deep recesses of your mind, waiting for something to awaken the memory and cause it to bubble to the surface.  I was working on a project inspired by my Grandmother Pearl, and this poem's title kept resonating through my mind.  I am sure I read it either in Betty Linder's senior English class, or it was in a British Lit. class in college.  As I thought of Grandmother, worked on my project, and heard the annoying "boomdaboomdaboomboomboom" assaulting my ears, I longed for the simpler time Wordsworth was searching for in 1802.  May it come to pass for me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What is the value of a life?

If you are not an animal lover, you may want to skip this post.


This is Miles James.  I adopted him from a former church family almost 15 years ago, right after I moved here.  They had a baby boy they named Miles, and they were worried how this Miles would react to the baby.  Such silliness, but I am so glad I took him "sight unseen."  He is an ordinary looking cat:  white, gray, and some black.  He was always aloof until he became the only cat I had left back in February of 2009.  Right after I had to have my then-20 year-old cat Baby put down, I adopted two new girls together.  Then, Miles decided he wanted to be a sweetheart.

Well, this sweetheart is now 20 and nearing the end of his time, though no one knows how long he has left.  I took him in to the vet last week because I noticed he was drinking a lot of water.  Blood work indicated kidney failure.  Many people would have had him put down.  Why would I do that when his life still has value?  Next to the two youngest cats, he is the MOST active.  He will bully any of the others out of their food, he still climbs, and he loves me.  He is not in any pain.  Why would I put him down now??  I have always known with the others when it was their time.  I have the money to put him on a special renal wet food and to give him fluids every day.  I want to enjoy him for as long as I can.  All my cats become my little furry four-legged children----and every one of them has value to me.  They enrich my life more than I could ever explain.  Few will understand, and that's ok by me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

I am Ginger, and I’m a recovering evangelical.  I spent many years in a church that portrayed God/Jesus as “bad cop/good cop” because God was this stern overseer with a whip who would beat me/condemn me if I sinned, and then I had to run to Jesus for forgiveness.  Then, the cycle would continue.  God was very much the fire and brimstone type.  I am reminded of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that I read in the esteemed Janis Blocker’s American literature class in 1979-80.  I was always made to feel as though I were never “good enough.”  That was my take away from that church.  

I still hold scars that may never heal, as does my son.

A few months ago I was at a gathering where most of the people were from “that church.”  Someone asked if I still went there.  I replied that I did not, and I proceeded to tell them about my mother having been in hospice and how I go every Sunday to cook for my parents and do for them.
What followed was dead silence.  It was probably a full minute before anyone said anything and changed the subject.  No one asked how my parents were---nothing.

Condemnation and judgment, the feelings transmitted to me, picked the scabs off my old wounds. 
If you are still with me, you may be asking where I am going with this.  This weekend I traveled to The Shack with Mack and had my beliefs about God confirmed.  I should clarify:  my beliefs I have transitioned to.   I wept at both the confirmations and convictions.  My point here is not to divulge the plot, but rather to process my take-aways from the book.  If you want to read the book, you may want to skip the rest of this.


1.      1.   “It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love
      to open the way.”

God gives man free will. We are not puppets for Him to manipulate to His will.  We often
get angry with Him when bad things happen to us or those we love.  But, it pains Him
 as much as it does us.  He will “work all things for good for those who love Him and
are called for His purpose.”

2.     2.  Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment,
and they provide performance as the basis for identity and value.”

God has no expectations of us to behave a certain way; after all, He knows us best.
He loves us unconditionally.  So often, churches put a premium on our performance
being tied to our value in God’s eyes.  I have always felt that I was never “good enough”
A lot of that stems from familial ties as well as my former church.   I have to retrain my thinking.

3.    3.   “Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge.”

Let that sink in.  This is where the floodgates opened up for me.  How any times have
I judged these “careless” drivers in this town? (I *do* suffer from road rage at the idiocy. I know I have to work on that.). How many times have I judged a homeless person to be lazy, dirty, etc...?    I have been a hypocrite.
 
4.      4.   “Every time you forgive, the universe changes, every time you reach out and touch a
heart or a life, the world changes.

This last quote confirms what I have been trying to do for the last 4 or 5 years.  So,
after all the tears, I sort of feel redeemed here.  Like maybe I’m ok after all, especially
in this current hate-filled climate of our country.

God created us for relationships ---with Him and others---and Love---always Love.
I am a work in progress, better than I was yesterday, but not perfect.  I have work to do, and I know in which areas.  That is another thing this book illuminated for me.  I will need the help of the Holy Spirit for one, just like Mack did in the book.

Man created religious dogmas, rules, and creeds.  Man and his institutions judge us when we “fail.”

The early Church was not this way.  It was plain folks meeting in each other’s homes,
breaking bread together, as in The Shack.  I had that once upon a time with a group of people.  That is where I learned to cook for so many.  But, I digress.

So, for those who would question if I am in Church or when I might return, this is my
answer:

         My parents and P. are my current concerns/missions.  I do not need a prescribed day/time/dogma to worship.  I worship through *doing* for those who need it.  I attempt to be the hands and feet of Jesus, whether it is baking salted caramel cupcakes from scratch to see the glee on youngsters’ faces, or whether it is to bring a hot meal to a shut-in, or whether it is to cook my parents one home-cooked meal a week and chauffeur them to Walmart at 7am on Sunday morning.  My local community is enough of a mission field for me, for now.  And, I talk to God daily, all day.  And, you know what?  He listens, and He answers.  Sometimes, *He* seeks *me* out for assignments.  Talk about a stunner!   He has revealed things to me about others in my daily life so I can pray for them……There is no other way I could have known these things about them if it were not for Him!  This is what He cares about, not what church or pew I am in or not in on Sunday morning.  It’s what I do daily.

Yes, I have a lot of work to do on myself, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

So, if you are still with me, read The Shack.  If you are seeking a closer walk with God, it will impact your life.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Like a Phoenix

I died about 21 years ago.

____________________________________________________

I sacrificed myself on the altar of education.

In roughly 3 full months---94 days---I will resurrect myself.  My bff has a tattoo of a phoenix on her ankle.  She got it after a particularly difficult time in her life.  I will be like that phoenix, and I, too, will rise from the ashes.

I am getting weary of people telling me I'm too young to retire---or better yet, I'm "lucky."

I am neither.

About 4 years ago, I was headed into a meeting when a colleague literally brusquely brushed against my shoulder in the cafeteria---and dropped with a stroke.  He had a couple of more in the hospital and died about a week later.  Rick Cavaluzzi is my model for retirement.  Rumor has it he was contemplating retiring that summer.  I am not sure how old he was, but he was in his 50s.  I said at the funeral home that I would not end up like him.

Why would someone say I'm too young anyway??  Is the expectation that I'll work until I'm 65 or 70 or beyond?  Why?  Life truly is *short,* so I aim to have a rebirth--a second life--while I'm healthy enough to enjoy it.  I will not be a Rick Cavaluzzi.

Then, there are those who claim I'm "lucky."  They truly are speaking without thinking.  There is no luck to it.  I will have worked 28 years in public education in SC, and when I signed up, that was the magic number to retire.  I have earned that right.

Then, there was someone last year who told me maybe I shouldn't retire.  I really resented that coming from someone who stopped doing what he hated years ago.  For many years, he has been doing as he pleases.  I got over the resentment, though, because I realized he wasn't thinking when he said that. 

So, exactly *what* will I do?  I have plenty planned.  As I stated earlier, I sacrificed my life on the altar of education.  I am one of the rare people who goes at something full throttle, and then I can't unwind.  Even if I came home and had no school work to do, I could never unwind; I still can't, even at this stage.  My bff says it may take me a year to truly "let it go."  I believe her.

I gave up so much to teach.  I gave up *me* and all the things I loved.  There are many more blog posts to come, but for starters--- I want to get back to my handwork:









I used to love to cross-stitch and crochet.  I even took knitting lessons and made some sweaters, but I never loved that like I did crocheting.  I was not dexterous enough to work both needles at once.  If you look at the dates on some of these pictures, they were done about 1989--one year into teaching.....and they stopped.  By the time I moved to my current town in 2001, I gave all my supplies to the school's art teacher.

Above you see the bedspread on the trunk in my closet.  It fits a full size bed.  When I was 12 before she died, my sister-in-law taught me how to make the granny square, and this is my prized creation from way back in my teenage years.  I want to revisit this.  Some colleagues knit prayer shawls and give them away.  I could do that with crochet.

Then, there's reading.  In my youth I could read a book a night.  Since teaching, I have been lucky to have read 15 books that were for *my* pleasure, not work-related.  One thing on my list to read is the Koran.  I have it on my Kindle Fire.  I want to *know* what is in it and be able to intelligently discuss it should the occasion arise.

So, I will be like that phoenix; I *will* rise from the ashes and be reborn.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On A Mission Against Ignorance

I write this post very cognizant of the fact I may "offend" people; so be it.  I guess if I offend you, you are among the category of "ignorant, uninformed, gullible," or any other moniker you want to put on it.

I have spent my adult years---close to 29 of them now--on fighting ignorance.  I am a public school teacher (I did spend one year in private school hell, but that's for a later post.).  An English teacher, to be precise.  I'll cut to the chase; when the internet came out (Remember, Al Gore "invented" it.), a CARDINAL rule we learned is "Do not believe everything you read on the internet."  That was in direct opposition to the argument, "But, I read it on the internet, so it must be true."  The older I get, and the closer I get to retirement, the less patience I have for ignorant people.  Let me be clear what I define as ignorant; it is a person who should have the brains to be discerning, but chooses to be easily led by right wing or left wing propaganda because it "suits" their political views to be dumb.  There, that's it;  It substantiates their political views.

In my years as an English teacher, especially since the internet, I have tried to steer students to REPUTABLE websites to get their information.  I have also tried to get them to substantiate what they've read by visiting several websites.  Thus, when I see adults, some of whom have college degrees, posting/commenting on OBVIOUSLY propaganda sites as though they are the gospel (and for some of these folks, they are!) because  it supports  their narrow-minded, bigoted, brainwashed opinions, I shake my head and truly think, "What  'would' Jesus think?"  I really do believe the 90s wrist band, "WWJD" was twenty-something years before its time; it is more appropriate NOW in this hate-filled culture led by The Crusades-minded evangelicals who would use propaganda to fuel their hatred for anyone who is not a christian. 



When I read this, 

I knew we were in trouble.  "Head of church"?  Really?  So, what is next?

This past week in one of my classes we read a nonfiction text on Eleanor Roosevelt as First Lady.  One of my students' tasks was to formulate questions as we read it.  In response to the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII, my Japanese-American girl asked, "Why did they put JA in those camps when they couldn't control what the Japanese government did?" (The point was she tried to get FDR to close them, but ever the politician, he wouldn't until he won his fourth term.)

WOW!  Out of the mouths of babes!  How stupid we are when we don't learn from the past.  How far away are we from repeating this heinous practice?  The only question is, "Will it be against Muslims or Latinos?"  And, The Crusades-loving Christians will be leading the charge.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dad's Health

My dad has outlived all three of his brothers.  Uncle Ed, the baby, died in December of 1989.  He was a brilliant businessman in Atlanta.  His glass furniture business could have made him a millionaire, but alcoholism killed him.  In short, he got back on the interstate near Augusta, Ga---going the wrong direction--and killed himself and a 23 year-old nurse.  He was in his late 50s.  Only six weeks later, the eldest brother, Uncle Robbie, died of a burst pancreas (I think.)  I remember sitting in the waiting room at the hospital and watching the bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Gulf War.  Then, in September of 1998, Dad's second brother, Jim, died of an aneurysm in his stomach.  Dad had just returned from flying out to San Antonio to see  him when Uncle Jim died.  The picture above is the end of a walking stick he hand-carved out of sassaphrass that grew at Grandmother's homestead.  More pictures follow, and at the bottom are pictures of my walking cane he made for me.
That inscription is so full of meaning:  "Good Health, Bro!"  Indeed, my dad has been blessed with good health.  He had a stint put in an artery roughly 23 years ago.  He had colon cancer about 5 years ago.  And, he has battled skin cancers all over his head and face for over ten years.

Today we found out Dad does not have lung or colon cancer; evidently the cancer in the lymph node in his neck began in one of those skin cancers.  The GOOD news, and answer to prayer, is that there is a brand-new drug called Ketruda that just last week got approved (after clinical trials) for Dad's Merkel Cell cancer.  This is an immunotherapy drug, not chemotherapy.  Dr. Chahin (our Middle Eastern-born, Syrian medical school-graduated, Clemson-loving-National Championship attending oncologist) has said he did not think Dad could handle chemo because not only is chemo hard enough for a strong person, but the kind he would need is brutal.  So, as an immunotherapy drug, Ketruda reves up the immune system to attack the cancer.  In clinical trials it was used on all ages, including patients in their 90s.  He sounded very optimistic.  Dad should not have severe side effects.


So, this cane from my favorite uncle has a special meaning for me.  Dad has, indeed, had good health. He begins the immunotherapy on Tuesday at Keyserling Cancer Center, where I had mine nearly 10 years ago.  Dr. Chahin will take care of him as I trusted him to care for me all those years ago.  And, I will be there with Dad every step of the way.

Now, just for fun, here are the pictures of my cane, which stays in my foyer closet until I need it.

(Mine is two-faced!)





Tuesday, February 7, 2017

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For whom the bell tolls---

Today it tolled for public education with the confirmation of the most unqualified person yet to fill the Secretary of Education position.  A woman who could not intelligently discuss education during her confirmation hearing.  She couldn't discuss the difference between growth and proficiency.  She was unfamiliar with special education laws.  Make no mistake:  She was confirmed because she is a billionaire, and the only two republican senators with balls have no literal balls because they're women.  The rest of the republicans either voted party line and/or were bought off by her prior contributions to their campaigns.

I am angry.  I hope I am wrong, but I am penning this post now so if I am wrong, someone may come back and tell me.  Betsy DeVos loathes public education as much as my former pastor who spewed venom against it any chance he got.  She is in favor of vouchers for charter schools, religious schools, and maybe even home schools.  Home schools?  Really?  And, pray tell, what kind of accountability is in home school education?  I know some wonderful home school parents, but like anything else, there are some crummy ones, too.  The fact is that not everyone can teach--even parents.  

Betsy DeVos is from Michigan.  All one needs to do is look at the Detroit public school system to see what charter schools have done there:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/29/us/for-detroits-children-more-school-choice-but-not-better-schools.html?_r=0

I have spent 28 years in Title One high poverty schools, devoting my career to teaching the most downtrodden students.  There are several charter schools in my town, and they are not diverse.  I call charter schools here "private schools with public dollars."  They get around enrolling truly special ed students by saying they don't have the money for those teachers, or they claim they have a lottery system.   I'm not fooled; they cherry pick who is allowed in.

I'm glad I am exiting the system before the inevitable happens.  Maybe someone can come back here in four years and tell me I was wrong...........but I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dad

I have written posts about my dad before, but today as I was cooking my parents' lunch, I was thinking about why I love him so much.  In my opinion, he deserves man/husband of the year sainthood.  One day (a LONG time from now I pray), God will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  He is the most easygoing person I know.  Rarely do I even remember him losing his cool; in fact, I really don't remember when he did.

As a child, I loved him so much, and I was always fearful of disappointing him.  Consequently, whatever he told me to do, I did.  I remember in 5th grade I had Ms. Bodison as a math teacher.  To this day, I remember her standing in front of the class in what must have been a science room once due to the large table at the front, which served as her lectern.   I was having trouble in math due to not knowing my multiplication tables.  She must have sent a note home or bad papers.  I remember a Monday night and standing next to his recliner.  He handed me my brothers' old flash cards and announced I was not watching tv until I knew them.  Now, this was the day pre-cable when we had three Charleston channels:  ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Even so, I knew them within two nights!  I wanted to be able to come back into the living room to watch tv with him (We had the one tv.).



Also, it was probably about the same time that I would stand behind his recliner, patting his head, begging him to stop smoking because I didn't want him to die of lung cancer.  At some point, he decided to do as I asked (He still does.) and announced before dinner that he would smoke one more cigarette, after which he handed me the rest of the pack.  I wasted no time in getting the kitchen scissors and painstakingly cutting each cigarette into small pieces (just in case he tried to change his mind on that pack!)



Fast forward to high school.  At the time, Dad was working at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, and he paid a man to ride on his van with other workers.  We had a powder blue van that he had stripped on the inside and built a bed in the back and added a chair behind the driver's seat for Mother.  We used it to drive to visit my eldest brother, who was in the Air Force.  Well, that was my senior ride to school.  


                           (Uncle Ed, Aunt Eva Jean, Mother, Dad, cousin Stanley, Grandmother, Uncle Robbie, and Aunt Jessie.  Uncle Robbie was the eldest, then Uncle Jim, Dad, and Uncle Ed was the baby.)  circa 1974 or 75

Fast forward to my high school graduation.  I stayed home as my parents went to Charleston one day.  When they came back, Dad was driving a 1980 (This was 1981.) Clemson orange Mustang with black interior.  I never asked for it, nor was I expecting it.  The following fall I was going to Columbia College in Columbia, SC.  I could not drive it up there until my first semester grade report came out. Needless to say, I had it in Columbia the next semester.



This is out of order, but I want to take a few minutes to reminisce about my two trips to France.  The first time I went was in April of 1979 with students from John C. Calhoun Academy.  When I brought home the information, I really had no clue he would say "yes."  He did not bat an eye.  I never asked why, but I assume being that he was retired from the Air Force, he knew the value of world travel.  So, four years later when I wanted to go for three weeks as a college freshman during May Mester (as the three weeks in May was called), he again did not bat an eye.  That trip entailed Paris, Normandy, the Loire Valley (as the first trip had included), but this one added Monaco and Nice.  I remember thinking how small and plain the palace for Prince Ranier and Princess Grace was (She died that following September.).

By the time I graduated from college, I had nothing to pay.  What was not covered in scholarships he paid off monthly as we went along.  When I graduated, he told me what he had told my brothers:  he would pay for my education as far as I wanted to go.  Now, we were not wealthy.  Dad worked civil service jobs after retiring from the Air Force, but my parents were smart with their money.  Anyway, after teaching one semester, I decided to enroll at The Citadel for my master's degree.  I was the only one who took him up on it.  I am so grateful I did because it saved me $$$$ and enabled me to make more over the course of my career, which will affect my retirement in the upcoming months.

This is just a little reminiscing this afternoon.  I'm sure there will be more at a later date.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Misunderstood

For most of my life, I have been misunderstood.  I am loud and demonstrative at work.  There is a big, burly, LOUD male teacher  who has chastised *me* about being loud (talk about the pot calling the kettle black).  He doesn't get it; as a male who is larger than any of his students, he is imposing and can not begin to understand my point of view.

In high school I was extremely quiet, as my peers would remember.  Going to an all-women's college brought me out of my shell.  By the time I began teaching high school in 1988, I had decided that no one would run over me.  I commanded authority from day one, no matter how big the students were.  I really have few specific memories from  that time at Ruffin High, but I remember many of the students.  This week I was reminiscing on Facebook, and the dialogue I had with one of them is below.

I find it amusing she said I was "mean as a whip."  Many would call it that; I was strict.  I don't actually think she meant "mean."  She did follow it up with saying I "sincerely took an interest" in them.  I have no recollection of having given her a bear when she was in the hospital.  I do remember before the students came my first year, I was making my classroom library of paperback books I had bought at the Ladson Flea Market for .25 each.  I made library check out cards for the back of each one.  I expected my students to read and read the classics.  I recall another teacher coming in my room and asking, "Why are you doing that?  They won't read."  I was undeterred.  We may have struggled, but we made it through Great Expectations,  Romeo and Juliet, and MacBeth, "A Doll's House," and "Death of a Salesman," among so many other classics.  I was naive perhaps.  I didn't know what a Title One school was.  I simply expected them to do, so we wrote research papers.  I may or may not have violated copyright laws with vocabulary pages from a book *my* English teacher had used with my class.  But, by darn, my students were going to learn the same words I did.

Then, I lose it when I hear, again on FB, from one of these "boys" who said he owes his vast vocabulary to me.  I lose it when one of my stars revealed he had no indoor plumbing until middle school and that I didn't have to know back then because it might have colored my view of him.

These are the sweetest memories.  

I almost went English bc my high school English teacher was the bomb...lol
Ginger Williams Garner Thank you! I can't remember back that far to know whether I was good or not. Today, people either love me or hate me
LikeReply1January 25 at 7:53amEdited
Darrmell Williams You cared. Mean as a whip but you sincerely took an interest in us. We had fun. And I still have the teddy bear you gave me when I was in the hospital. Lol
Ginger Williams Garner Darrmell Williams , I dont remember the bear! And I have mellowed a tiny bit...tiny!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I am selfish.

I am selfish; I want what I want.  For the believer in Jesus, we are just passing through this earthly life.  EARTH is not our home; HEAVEN is our home--our eternal home.  Let that sink in--ETERNAL HOME--as in NEVER-ENDING.  If we keep that perspective, we won't fret and go to pieces over our loved ones' eventual "passing."

Or will we?  We are human, and it's human to want to keep our loved ones with us.  In truth, we should be rejoicing for him/her to be able to see Jesus and meet God, the lover of our souls.  He or she will be WHOLE with NO illness and no infirmity.  

Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. 2In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.…"

Our time separated from a believing loved one is only as long as our time left on earth.  Take heart, the risen Jesus has gone to prepare a place for each of us in heaven, where there will be no more tears, no more sadness, no more sickness.

This doesn't challenge my belief if I grieve what's to come or has come; it makes me a selfish, loving daughter who wants her father with her as long as possible.