Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dreams Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode? 
I have a dream of living simply one day.  I am growing to hate Beaufort and its asinine drivers.  I want to live some place quiet.  Some place where I have no yard....or practically none.  I want to have chickens so I can play with them and have fresh eggs.  I want q.u.i.e.t.  It will just be me and my cats (however many I have at the time), so I have decided I would like a tiny house.  I even have my dad watching the show.  I kinda sorta know what I want.  Here are some pictures of what I like:

I have some "musts":  
1.  cabin-like with lots of wood
2.  full-size kitchen appliances because I love to cook/bake
3.  stairs to the loft, not a ladder (I will be aging *eventually*)
4.  tub (I'm not large, so a small tub would be fine, even a horse trough as in the picture.)
5.  approx. 300 square feet
6.  Oh, and some place cooler----I loathe this heat!

My African American Experience

Yesterday as I channel surfed, I came across the opening of the African American Museum on the National Mall in DC. I learned that Bush had signed the legislation funding for the museum, and his wife is on the board.   At the time, Presidents Obama and Bush were with their wives on stage.  I stopped to watch a while.  I noticed President Bush and Michelle Obama were sitting so close, their shoulders were touching. It brought to mind some time in the last year or so I saw them on stage somewhere, and President Bush grabbed Mrs. Obama for a dance.    A little while later yesterday, my bff called from Detroit where she was visiting a friend.  As I recounted this to her and the teachers who were not at work Friday due to going to DC, she responded, "Well, you know he (Bush) likes black women."  Then, a slight pause for effect....He loved Condeleeza (Rice).  I had to inwardly chuckle because this is how we talk:  an African American "much" older woman raised on the South side of Chicago who rode the train alone at age 4 from one part of the city to the other and her "sister from another mother" who grew up in a private school in the deep South.  What an unlikely pair.

This and the divisive election year got me thinking about my African-American experience.  To do so, I had to step back in time.  The fall of 1974 I was new to John C. Calhoun Academy, the small private school in Walterboro.  My second brother had had problems during integration at the junior high and told my parents not to send me there.  His books had been stolen several times, and the assistant principal used to lock himself in his office until the "rioting" was over.  In reality, it was probably more like fighting than rioting; this is a small town, after all.

So, there I was in private school.  I had to give up my public school friends, but I had had trouble there, bullied by an African-American girl.  Then, I went to private school and experienced another kind of bullying.  Some boys there nicknamed me "butterball" because I was chubby.  This introvert never felt welcomed there.  Indeed, my fondest memories were in English and French classes.

Fast forward to college.  I attended an all women's private college, Columbia College, in the heart of Columbia.  I don't recall how Pat and I met, but she was an African-American woman from Virginia.  I considered her my best friend.  She was grounded and sensible.  We lost touch over the years but reconnected on FB this past summer.   In spite of not being in touch, I have thought of her often over the years and how I counted her as my greatest college friend.

Now, it's 1988, and I'm starting my teaching career at Ruffin High School in Ruffin, SC.  Except for a brief stint in my old private school, 28 of my 29 years have been spent in Title One schools.  This means they are high poverty schools that get federal funding.  Here are some of the students I taught:  O'Retha, Lesley,  Janette, Hope, Wanda, David, Kakeshia, Shedrick, LaToya, Shaki,   This "young" man has become one of my greatest friends since I reconnected with him two years ago.  (The inset pic is of me and one of my girls from that time, Wanda.) Although we don't talk often, about every six weeks or so Rick (Shedrick) will call me or text me, asking me to pray over something.  I have asked the same of him. He is a Clemson graduate and an engineer wayyy up the line with Duke Power.  He, along with my bff Carol, have been my greatest encouragers of late.

Now, to the lady who lives here:
Priscilla...I can't find a pic of her right now, but this is where she lives.  Several years ago the homeless ministry I was part of ended.  I had been the cook for the Sunday afternoon meals.  It was during this time that I met her.  She lives downtown, and I take her a meal every weekend.  Although she has had a couple of strokes, there is nothing wrong with her mind.  We pray together, and I have told her that God has her there to pray for her children.  She has enriched my life so much.

Finally, I get to my best friend.  I will not put her picture on here because she is anti-social media.  She has said I'm her sister from another mother.  As I said earlier, she grew up on the South side of Chicago and was cared for by a neighborhood woman she called "Grandmother."  By age 20 she was a college graduate, married, and teaching in Tennessee in the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  Fast forward to me as a child, lying on the floor of my living room looking at the Sears Wish Book.  By then, she was likely the buyer for those toys.  She had given up teaching, moved back to Chicago, and was at different times, a buyer for Mattel Toys and Sears.

By my third year at my current school, we were on the same team and next door to each other; I was teaching ELA and she, math.  When I had BOTH cancer surgeries, she was the one who spent the night with me in the hospital the first night after each operation.  Since then, she has been the one who met me at the colonoscopy appointments, took me to breakfast, then dropped me off at my car parked a ways from the clinic because I was not supposed to drive at all the day of the procedure.  Because of my fear of bridges, she is the one who drives when we go to Pooler to Sams Club and the outlet mall.  It was her convertible that I threw up (a little on the door) on when she drove up into her driveway after lunch that day at Cheeburger Cheeburger.  She insisted I go in and lie down while I could hear her hose running, which meant she washed my puke off the driveway.  She was the one who would stay at school until 8 or so at night many nights, then call me on the drive home to Sun City.   When I birth my baby named Retirement in about 8 months, she said she is taking me to choice.

Although I was not brought up with African Americans, they have been the largest part of my life...aside from my son and parents.  This post is merely a short tribute to those I hold dear.   I can not understand the current climate in this country and the deep-seated racism that this election has brought to light.  I will leave this post with this simple fact:  God created man (all of us) in His image.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bullying in America in 2016

Bullying:  a term most people believe is reserved for kids/teens in school and online.  Kids commit suicide because of it.  Teachers are trained to spot it and in steps to stop it.  Kids are trained how to respond as bystanders:  See Something, Say Something.

Yet, it is not reserved for the young.  Back in the early 90s I believe Jerry Springer first said it was ok by modeling it on his "talk show," and I use the term extremely loosely.  I refused to ever watch it; the clips I saw of ADULTS throwing chairs at each other and having virtually every word bleeped out told me all I needed to know about it.  This was the precursor to the bullying we have today.

The internet has made it even easier to anonymously hide one's face while bullying.  Models who don't meet someone's "definition" of beautiful are harassed; a Chinese beauty queen in the Miss America pageant is labeled as too "ugly" to be a contestant;  adults who disagree with one's political views are bullied on Facebook; indeed, presidential candidates have bullied their opponents' spouses and even LOOKS during the primary.    It spans ages and socio-economic spectrum. 

This past week an acquaintance from my hometown posted about the elder George Bush voting for Hillary.  The Bush camp never denied it; they said whom he voted for would be private.  Let's be clear:  1.  It is no secret how close Presidents Bush and Clinton are.  2.  It is no secret how candidate Trump trashed Jeb (and all of his opponents, for that matter).  3.  The Bush camp did not deny the story.  I was merely stating this in response to my friend's post.'t.personally.know. So, when my friend posted last night that he had let go a "few" "casual acquaintances," I immediately knew which two he meant.  A quick check confirmed it was those two.

In the last month I have done the same.  After the "kneeling during the anthem" protest, I posted something that Dabo Swinney said in reference to it.   This former Gamecock co-worker whose husband is a retired Marine pilot attacked Dabo and the NFL player's right to kneel.  Bye-Bye GC!  This was not the first time she vehemently attacked a post on MY page, so it was the last straw.  I asked myself:

1.  When was the last time I saw you or spoke to you:  can't remember
2.  Is there value to our cyber "acquaintanceship"?  uh, no

I did the same a year or two into Obama's administration.  There was one good "christian" woman from my former church whose sole FB purpose was to trash the President.  Now, I never voted for him, but I can not tolerate an onslaught of hate-filled speech, albeit her right to do so.   She is another one who can't intelligently discuss issues, so not only did I unfriend her, but I blocked her.  I don't want to see her postings, nor do I want her attacking what I may nicely comment on someone else's post.  So, bye-bye Mrs. J!

Unfortunately, this election has upped bullying to a new level and even made it fashionable and blase.
When you have THE nominee of a major political party trashing his fellow candidates, including belittling one woman's (Carly Fiorina's) looks as well as the looks of the wife of another (Heidi Cruz), something is wrong, folks.  It certainly appeared that this bullying attracted throngs of people to him because his behavior said it was ok.   

This American society in 2016 is a sad commentary.  We have to look for good stories to read because everywhere we look,, we are bombarded by the evil and petty.

It doesn't appear it will get better any time soon.  As happened when Obama became President, I predict that the nastiness will escalate after the election.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Credit to the Lord and Janis Kinsey Blocker

I rehearsed what I would write on the way to my parents' house; now I seem to be at a loss.  This post is a double tribute:  to God and my English teacher.  I say God because He opened my brain and let the knowledge Janis Blocker imparted take root like an oak tree, growing into the deep recesses of my mind until I would need it over 30 years later.

This is Mrs. Blocker's Facebook photo.  She and her husband own an RV and have camped all over the United States; they have visited each state, many multiple times.  She has been the Colleton County Republican Party Chairperson, and I believe years ago she was on County Council.  This lady would still run circles around many my age or younger.  Follow me back in time to my childhood when I was in middle school.

The year was 1974, and I was in a private school for the first time.  Due to the problems my older brother had with integration at the local middle school, even he told my parents not to send me there.  So, I ended up at John C. Calhoun Academy.  Mrs. Blocker was my 6th grade English teacher.  She would go on to teach me in the 7th, 9th, and 11th grades.  I must add this:  She went to college as a married mother of three and double majored in math and English at the old Baptist College in Charleston, graduating Summa Cum Laude.  Later, she received her master's at The Citadel.  Genius established.

I was a sponge in her class; I soaked up Emerson, Thoreau, her beloved Ben Franklin, and the grammar.  Oh, the grammar.  Diagramming was a game to me.  I didn't confuse gerunds and participles.  Yes, they can both end in --ing; in fact, gerunds always do, but don't confuse a participle with a gerund.  Gerunds are always nouns; participles are always adjectives that look like verbs, so they *might* end in --ing.  I still remember that infinitives are "to" plus a verb and can be nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.  Certain verbs can be linking, but to be sure, replace the verb with "am, is, are, was, were"; if it makes sense, the verb is linking.  Two examples are "feel" and "appear."

Ah.....I LOVED her class!  As I said above, God opened my brain to absorb all she doled out.  No other middle or high school class stuck with me like that.  Even the French, which I adored and excelled in, left me after college.  I exempted freshman comp (as well as French I) because she taught me the nuances of writing.  I understood how to use clauses and phrases to enhance my writing, especially at the start of sentences.  Simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences---I understood them all.

I used what I learned when I taught in Colleton County, but when I left, I was not allowed to teach grammar "in isolation," so the knowledge remained dormant in the recesses of my mind. 

Fast forward to nearly three years ago---over 30 years since I last had Mrs. Blocker in the spring of 1980.  I needed a part-time job and needed one badly (not bad...we need the adverb form here.)  I was online, filling out a JCPenney application.  I later went to a website I often looked at for grocery deals.  I saw an ad for an online tutoring company.  I don't need to elaborate on the steps, but within six weeks, I was tutoring online.  It was a God-led thing.  The way it fell into my lap was simply God-ordained.  My assessments from my mentor were always high---especially in content knowledge.  That was always "Exceeds Expectations,"  and it still is.   In fact, today my Senior Mentor is amazed at my content knowledge and how fast I am in asynchronous sessions.

 Within a few months I knew I wanted to be a mentor with a team of tutors under me.  I took the mentor test and passed, but I had to wait a year before I was invited to be a mentor.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that I needed the time to do mentoring work, and at the time I didn't have it then.  I currently have 34 mentors under me whose work I formally evaluate.  I also mentor them through emails if they have questions/concerns.  Finally, I conduct mock sessions of applicants to see if they have what it takes.  What I have declined more applicants over than anything else is grammar.  Very few have been able to "tutor" me on the simple concept of adjectives vs. adverbs.  (They don't understand that adverbs can modify adjectives or other adverbs; they seem to just know they modify verbs.)

So, a year after I took the test, I became a mentor with the company.  When I look back, He orchestrated the whole thing.  There were times when I was tutoring that I made over $800 and $900 a month; the average was probably about $500 a deposit every two weeks like clockwork.....u-n-r-e-a-l.  He knew back in 1974 when I first set foot in Mrs. Blocker's class that I would need all the knowledge she would impart.  As I prepare to retire next summer, this part-time job is my retirement career. 

So, like an oak tree becoming rooted to its spot, I grasped all the knowledge she imparted to us.  Over the decades, those roots grew deep, and the tree did not die, even when it was dormant. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

Related Poem Content Details

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 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:!  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.