Friday, December 30, 2016


I knew by his face it was not good news.  When the doctor came in Wednesday, he had a somber countenance and began to wash his hands.  While he did, Dad said, "Well, I  hope you're going to tell me you'll see me later."  But, I was watching his face.  As he turned around from the sink, he said, "Unfortunately, the growth did not come back benign."  I knew from way back in Janis Blocker's English class (I don't know which of the four years) that "bene" meant "good," but "mal" meant "bad.  I knew "benign" meant not cancerous; the opposite is "malignant."  It didn't register with Dad at first; he said, "Well, at least you didn't tell me I have cancer."

I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Everything will fall to me to handle.  All business and  I will always have to be the one who goes to really important doctors' appointments with him.  Mother is nearly deaf.  My brother is just about there, and he and his wife have their own medical issues.  In fact, he was at his own doctor's appointment when I took Dad to his.  While Dad can hear fine, he is the patient, and patients don't always hear what they need to.

I have been processing this new reality and trying to stay sane.  I have five months from tomorrow before I retire.  It had been my prayer this year, and it still is, that I will have some years with my parents once I do retire.  Time....we can never get back time.  There is so much I regret about time and my own child, but I can't dwell on any of that.  I am fortunate that I have an understanding boss about when I have needed to go with Dad to doctors' appointments.  

For the last two days, this thought has been weighing heavily on my mind:  Tomorrow night is the big Clemson-Ohio State semi-final game of the College Football Championship.  I have a zoo, so leaving for a night has always been a concern.  However, it would mean so much to Dad to watch the game with me, so I am getting everyone settled in here, and I am going to spend the night and watch the game with him from his "man cave," i.e.  Matthew's old bedroom for three years and my childhood bedroom.  We will both wear our Clemson shirts that I bought him.  I feel this is a message from God to do it because it has pressed on my mind so hard for the last two days.

Seize the day, for we do not know how many we have left....any of us.  Don't live with regrets of "I wish I had...."

P.S.  If you are a praying person, I would covet your prayers for strength for me and healing for my dad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Those words--the title of my blog--never have had the meaning that they now do.  (I want to start by saying I have the settings so no one in my family can see this.)  Today, my dad got his second cancer diagnosis, and I don't feel "good" about this one.  Maybe it's because he's 89 this time instead of 84; maybe it's because it was found in a lymph node, and cancer does not begin there.  That means we don't know where it is at this time.  We are waiting on a referral to my oncologist here in Beaufort and the one Dad went to before.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 44; four years later Dad was diagnosed at age 84.  He had it much easier than I did because he had a flat tumor on the wall of the colon.  He was out of the hospital on the sixth day and mowing his lawn the following week.  He didn't need chemo or radiation.

Tonight I came home and took a hot bath.  I do a lot of crying in the bathtub.  All of my makeup is off by then, and it's cleansing to let the tears fall where they may.  I don't know what I will do when my dad does leave me, whether by this cancer or whatever means.  I truly don't know what I will do or how I will go on.  I know I will have to, but I sure don't know how I will. this is how we all should approach life and its trials.  Life is precious, and none of us know if today will be our last on this earth.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Meaning of Christmas

I have never liked the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  Most of the time, I feel like an outsider looking in.  The commercialism turns me off.  Don't get me wrong; I like to get presents like anybody else.  But, the smallest things make me happy:  the dark chocolate Hershey bar thrust at me from an unknown, random 1st grader this week, the bag of assorted Lindor truffles (sorry, little 4th grader, but the rest are going to Priscilla's house today (I ate 3 that I shouldn't have.), the French lavender body set from another child, and the Bath and Body Works lotion and assorted cat notes from my "daughter from another mother."  It takes little to make me happy.  It made me happier to see Ashley's giddiness over her B&B pumpkin body wash I gave her.  She was excited over the container and said she had never seen that in the store; of course not, as I ordered it online.   She *is* like the daughter I never had; that was my same giddiness over the pumpkin spice creamers by bff gave me.

Let me speak of the Hershey candy---as soon as the little *unknown* girl thrust it at me and said, "Happy Christmas," I immediately thought of the widow's mite in the Bible.   That widow gave all she had; this little girl only knows me from my duty station in the hallway in the morning and the one time I subbed for an hour in her class; yet, she wanted to give me this candy.  It's dark chocolate, so could it be she didn't like it?  Maybe; maybe she can't read it yet to know what it is.  The point is, she saw me and wanted to give it to me.  Her gesture meant so much.

In the rabid push of commercialism, I focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  It is my duty (and joy) to bring happiness to others where I can.  Jesus did for others all the time; that was His ministry.  I am an epic failure at emulating Him, but still I try.  I listen for God's voice, and this week He has left me in tears with what I have felt coming from Him and the responses those couple of gestures have brought from the people He told me to minister to (and if you are reading this, you know who you are.)  

Today, I will take Priscilla her Christmas meal and settle in for more Christmas movies on Netflix with my fur babies.  Tomorrow morning I will take meal ingredients to my parents' house and cook there.  I have never done that before, but I will banish Mother from the kitchen.  Dad will likely want to help, and that will be fun.  We always talk when I cook on Sundays, and he hangs out at the doorway, doing little things to help.  Hopefully, my son will call from frigid Colorado, and my brother and sister-in-law will come for the noonday meal.  There's nothing fancy about it, but that is fine because it helps keep the focus on what is truly important:  Jesus' birth to save the world from itself.  Lord knows, we need that now more than ever.  We need a little Jesus.

                    Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friends vs. Acquaintances

Friends vs. acquaintances..........what's the difference?  I taught middle school for 19 years, and students seem to lump everyone they get along with in the "friend" category.  Then, they are perplexed when said friend stabs them in the back.  I have tried to teach them the difference between the two.

I have 1 friend...yes, 1.  Everyone else is lumped into " acquaintances." (My dad is my friend, but he is my dad, so I don't really call him a friend.)  Let me explain my reasoning.

A friend is someone you share life with--either in person or from afar.  A friend is someone who genuinely cares what you are doing and going through.   Let that sink in.  It's someone you know you can call and talk to, and she or he will be glad to hear from you and glad to listen.  A friend is also a confidante.  You know you can tell her/him anything, and it won't be divulged to anyone else.

I have written about my bff here:  While she doesn't know everything, she knows more than anyone else in my life.  If you read that other blog post, you get a sense of how loyal she is.  Yesterday, she totally shocked me....and I am NOT easy to surprise.  She showed up at my door at work bearing a McDonald's pumpkin spice latte (She knows that obsession!), a cupcake recipe book, and a Calgon take me away kit.  And a card....the card that made me cry.  Anyway, she knew I was feeling low yesterday morning, so she surprised me all the way from Sun City, where she lives in Bluffton.  We really rarely see each other; I had not seen her since August, but we talk daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

A friend doesn't have to be physically present, but she/he has to care.  That's why I lump everyone else into the "acquaintance" category.  I don't waste my time or anyone else's telling them my challenges or frustrations/problems because I know they really don't care when we get down to it. People are selfish and preoccupied with themselves.  It's not a cut against them; "it is what it is," as it says on a sign a former student gave my bff several years ago when she gave me the "Teachers touch one life at a time" sign (Thanks CH!). I also categorize acquaintances 

Middle school students seem to feel like they need a lot of "friends."  I could never relate to that because when I was their age, I was a loner; I'm still an introvert.  I'd rather than one genuine friend than a hundred would-be friends who are "fair weather" friends or back stabbers. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just Another Day

Today is my birthday, just another day.  It wasn't always "just another day."  In fact, in all previous years, my parents always made it special.  Even though I was born a few days before Christmas, and the doctor told them to take me home on Christmas Eve and put me under the tree, it was always special.  I always had a separate cake and gifts; my birthday never got lost in the busyness of Christmas.  Even up until a few years ago, my parents got me a cake.  Now, they didn't this year; however, they did take me out to eat Sunday.

Today, I had to work for the first time ever.  Today promised to be "just another day," or so the devil would have it.  However, God brought a few people to brighten it.

My parents called right after 5am and sang to me.  Around 10am, my bff showed up at my door at work.  She came with a pumpkin spiced latte in hand and a bag of pumpkin spice creamers, a cupcake recipe book, and a "Calgon, take me away" kit.  I cried when I read her card.  I cried a lot today.

Later, the sister of a former friend sent me a recorded "Happy Birthday" via Facebook.  I don't even know how she did it.  I should note I have never even met her.  Then, there were the Facebook messages from many people:  current and former colleagues, former students from a few years ago as well as from decades ago.  Tomorrow night boss #2 wants to take me to dinner at Breakwater, a local restaurant that's too ritzy for my taste and pocketbook, but the gesture is nice.  For now, I'm going to let Calgon take me away, and then I will settle in with the furry loves of my life.

P.S.  A young buck of 40 at work said there was no way I looked 54.  THAT was nice!

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.  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


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:

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 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 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.…"

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Divine Appointment

There are those who believe God is like a clock maker; He made the universe and sits back and lets it and its people spin.  Others believe He orchestrates every detail of their lives.  I fall in between.  God gave humans free will, but I know He intervenes at times when it suits Him.  This is how I know it was a divine appointment when I met Priscilla.

In February it will be four years since I started working with a homeless ministry at Washington Street Park.  I met Priscilla through that. (It ended three years ago when the others moved to California.)   Some friends and I were out on a Sunday afternoon with bag lunches, looking for people who needed food.  I will always remember I was driving, and my friend in the front seat spotted P's daughter on a bicycle.  We ended up following her home---to Priscilla.  That's how it all began.

In the nearly four years, there have been four birthday cakes.  The first two were Dwanye Wade cakes because she dearly loved him.  I say "loved" because she has wanted me to make the last two cakes.  

Priscilla has had two strokes.  The last one will have been in January of 2015.  At that time, I visited her in the hospital before she went to rehab in another town.  Seven or eight weeks later she was home.  I know God has her here for a reason, and I believe it is to pray for her children.  There is nothing wrong with her mind, and each time I go to see her, she wants me to pray for her children, so I pray for all of our children.  I could understand her before the second stroke, but now it's harder, so I don't ask many questions.  Some people just don't need words.

I spoke with her grand-daughter last month, and she said at times she will see Priscilla's lips moving and she knows she is praying.  His spirit meets with her spirit, and God knows what her heart is.  It matters not that she can't enunciate her prayers.  She raised this grand-daughter.  According to Trina, Priscilla's husband wanted to get rid of her (the baby).  Priscilla put her foot down and said no.  They would raise the baby.  Trina is now a nurse who lives down the street and checks on her daily.  

I will be 54 in December, but my life has been so enriched by knowing Priscilla.  I realized this morning I was not really living until I was involved with the Washington Park ministry and met her.  Once I am retired, I hope to be able to take more time with her.  Now, I am so tired after working all week and doing for my parents on Sundays.  Some weekends I just leave her meal on her porch because I'm too tired or just want to avoid people.  

Priscilla was my divine appointment.  I'm glad I followed God's calling. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Entertaining Angels and the Nastiness of Society

Yesterday on my way home from work, I stopped by the house I pet-nanny for and fed all the fur babies.  It required I take an alternate route home along a road that connects the two main roads on my island.  Since the hurricane, FEMA has been picking up yard debris, and yesterday was this road's turn.  A man with an orange reflecting vest stopped me for the front end loader to pick up debris.   As we talked for a few minutes, he asked me to be patient.  When I replied with "Of course," he said I would not believe the profanity he had heard that day.  He was not from here, but from east Tennessee and is a retired fire department batallion chief.  In talking, I told him I could not believe people were harassing him for HELPING US.  Just because they were "inconvenienced" for a few minutes.  We got into a discussion about how that is such with our society.  When he was a fireman, he had people thank him for saving their homes, but then they asked what took them so long.  We have an element---a large element---of society that wants-what-they-want-when-they-want-it.

As our conversation came to a close, I told him most people were very happy to have the help from other states; we wouldn't be where we are now, nearly three weeks later, without it.  When the community was feeding the linemen at Beaufort High, I told him I made several batches of cookies.  I felt it was the least I could do.  He told me, "Sister, you'll be rewarded for that one day."  Then, "Have a blessed day, Sister."

That has stuck in my mind.  Hebrews 13:2 began resonating with me:  "2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
Was he merely an angel from east Tennessee who came to help put our county back together?  Or, was he a heavenly angel?  Either way, I hope I took the sting off the nastiness he experienced yesterday. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

When You're Never Good Enough

Sometimes there are people in our lives who, for reasons known only to them, set out to hurt us with their words.  Words DO matter.  I say they knowingly do it because even when told their words have hurt us, they deny it.  "THEY" deny it.  As though they even KNOW how we feel!

All my life there is a person who has never been happy with the way I look.  I know because this person over-compliments me about my weight loss and when "she" thinks I am wearing something that looks good on me.  But....let me eat something "SHE" judges I shouldn't, and I get either the silent treatment or an admonition about eating it.

This person has largely shaped the kind of person I am today....the good and the bad.

This same person is extremely self-centered, wanting what she wants, when she wants it.  When I try to accommodate her, guess what?  It's still not good enough.  She wants something else.

How do we put those negative voices out of our heads when we can not avoid the person?  The pain is neverending.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's Not All About YOU

This may offend some people.  That's ok; so be it.  I ventured into the post office yesterday for stamps.  I rarely go there, but it was on my way to my friend Priscilla's house.  There was one person assisting at the counter, and about a 5 minute wait.  There was another gentleman  attendant on the phone with someone in Minnesota.  The lady attendant explained that they were having computer issues.  I replied "That's understandable," and a gentleman in line said something similar.  When I got up to the counter, the lady again apologized and thanked me for my patience.  She and the gentleman who had been on the phone both said not everyone had been so patient.

As I got in my car, I started thinking about what they said:  Not everyone had been so patient.  We are surrounded by selfish, "IT"S ALL ABOUT ME" people.  A couple of years ago I saw that on a t-shirt when a parent was picking up a student at my school.  I shook my head and thought to myself, "No wonder kids are the way they are with parents like that!"  

But, I digress.  My retired friend in Sun City told me an evacuation story the other day that illustrates this "It's ALL about me" mentality.  She has a friend who thought she was entitled to come back to Beaufort County before everyone was allowed.  Bottom line:  She and her "significant other" had to sleep in their car near Savannah because they violated the warning not to return to Beaufort County until authorities gave the all-clear.  When the neighbors all reconnected one night this week, my friend, who is known for telling it like it is, said, "Well, what did Nikki (Haley, our governor) say?"  Another neighbor pointed out, "Leave it to C (my friend) to tell it like it is!"

But, it's true.  It's not just kids these days who think "It's ALL about me"; it's septagenarians and people  in between, too.  I have read people's nasty online comments about Governor Haley's handling of the return, and actually it was left up to local authorities to decide that.  In any case, these people are only thinking of themselves and what they want.  The authorities have to take the entire community into consideration when making these decisions in light of what is best for all.

Yes, there have been wonderful stories of people helping others in the clean-up and feeding the linemen who came from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas.  I am not discounting that; the focus of this post was on the selfish people who think, "It's ALL about me."

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hearing God's Voice

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew and Gov. Nikki Haley, I have been out of school for 8 days.  Wednesday I had the idea to go get firewood for the winter.  I have some left from past winters, but it won't be enough.  I toyed with driving out to my usual vendor yesterday; then, something told me to wait until Sunday on the way home from my parents' house since I literally pass it.  

I firmly believe it was God telling me to wait.  He talks to me sometime through impressing things upon my mind.  This was one of those times; I could just feel it.

Wednesday night I had to petsit.  As I entered the neighborhood, I spied a stack of wood by the road along with the limb debris.  Then I passed another, and another.

Thursday when I went over to feed all the fur babies, I had the idea to do this:

I filled the back of my SUV and part of the backseat floorboard.  When the man came out to see what I was doing, he said I could take it all.  I found out this is river birch.  I have no idea if it will burn well, but I have enough wood from past years to get it started.  Anyway, with God, when He sends it, it will work out.  I decided to go home and get the truck.  So,, yesterday this was the truck load:

And, this morning early I went back to my friend's house to medicate her lab and feed her cats.  I finished getting what I could physically carry from each of the three sites:

So, if I had not listened to that *strong* voice in my head, I would have missed out on this free wood.

Listen for God's voice.  You might be surprised by it sometimes.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Witnessing of God's Faithfulness

This is Priscilla, my friend for whom I have been cooking for nearly four years (In February, I think).  I was concerned about her during Matthew, but then again, not really.  I knew God would take care of her.  She has had two strokes, the latest will be two years in January.  My mother has asked if her mind is ok; there is *nothing* wrong with her mind.  It is harder for me to understand her since the latest stroke, but we don't always need to have a conversation.  She always wants me to pray when I visit.  Because of her continuous prayer requests, I recently told her that God has her here for a reason:  praying for her family.  When I met her grand-daughter recently, we talked about this, and she said Priscilla is often sitting with her lips moving, and she knows Priscilla is inwardly praying.  God doesn't have to hear our audible prayers for He knows what is on our hearts. 

My friend evacuated to Macon, Georgia during Matthew, but she is now back.  Yesterday as we rejoiced in God's goodness to spare both of us, our families, and homes, tears streamed down my face and I was humbled.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What's Important

The older I get, the more I reminisce.  First, about my childhood as I scoured my mother's antique trunk a few weeks ago for long-forgotten pictures.  Then, my mind camped on my grandmother each time I took a seemingly insurmountable task and punched it in the face.  Now, I am thinking of Janis Blocker's 11th grade American English class and Henry David Thoreau.  It's funny how reminiscing can lead to dreams of the future---a simple life that is unhurried, free of nasty neighbors, free of rednecks with their deliberately obnoxious, broken tail pipes, free of the nauseous sound of revving motorcycles---just plain free

I have a friend who is somewhat wealthy, considering "wealthy" is a relative term based upon one's individual perspective.  Let's just say that her financial advisor told her and her husband last year that they have enough assets to last them into their 80s, and they're younger than I.

Yet, she is always worried about money.  Yesterday, on one of her husband's days off, he didn't get home until after midnight.  He was salvaging sailboats that had been sunk/stuck by Hurricane Matthew.  This morning in a text with me she said, in part, "He made $6000 yesterday, so I can't be too mad with him."

I have thought a lot about that text.  To most people, it wouldn't mean the same as it does to me.  I look at that and shake my head.  Would $6,000 mean a lot to me, a third-class citizen teacher?  Sure, it would.  That is one bill I could pay off--and he made it in one 14 hour or so day.  Yet, at what cost?  The cost of worrying about money all the time?  Being fixated on making sure they had "enough"---whatever that means.

No, that's not for me.  Let me drift back to Walden's Pond and Henry:  

                 "“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden
So, I'd rather stick with Henry, who has best encapsulated my feelings about life:

"I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.  I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."  ---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This Little Saw, the 5 Loaves and 2 Fish, and the Oil

Faith can move a mountain.  I used that faith and this little saw to remove Ginger's Jungle, as I called my backyard after Matthew blew through this past weekend.  I looked at that saw and the mountain of debris and shook my head.  It seemed an impossible feat.  I took it one saw cut at a time, though.  As I have worked the last three days, I was reminded of the stories in the Bible of the 5 loaves and 2 fish that Jesus and his disciples used to feed the thousands--and of the Hanukhah miracle of the oil lasting 8 days in the Temple.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, is impossible with God.  I have a feeling I will hold on to that little saw for the rest of my life as a reminder of His faithfulness.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just God, the fur babies, and me

I don't think I will ever forget October 7/8, 2016.  I had made the decision to stay in my home when Hurricane Matthew (named after my son, ironically) decided to pay my coastal town a call.  It was predicted to be a Cat 1 or 2, so how bad could it be?  I had friends and colleagues staying just a few miles from me.  I figured we'd all be ok.

I got peeved when I lost cable during the Clemson-Boston College game.  My son in Colorado was facebook messaging me with updates, along with my dad an hour away.  Matthew, the hurricane, was scheduled to stop by around 1 or 2 in the morning on Saturday.  I went to bed with my phone charging and proceeded to "chat" with my son and dad about the game.  I was too nervous to sleep. The wind started picking up, and after midnight until about 4am I was on facebook with various people:  a colleague here, one on Hilton Head, a friend upstate prayed for me, and another friend upstate let me know she was praying for me.  I was nervous; I thought my house was going to be damaged by a tree.  The wind was knocking stuff around up there.  I kept praying God would make it stop; that he would halt the wind.

And He did.  He manipulated the wind in such a way that all those oak limbs fell into my yard off the roof.  There is no damage to my roof that I can see.  He took care of me, my property, and my fur babies.  I didn't lose power until 1:40am on Saturday morning.  I had it back by noon on Sunday.  Can't get much more blessed than that because there are still thousands in my county without power, and my parents an hour away have no power, but they have a generator.

There is a verse in the Bible where God says He will be the husband to the widows.  I'm not a widow, but He took care of me as a husband.  In the scheme of things, Matthew the hurricane was nothing more than a blip in my life.

My Parents Named Me Wrong

About 1:30 today I called my dad to check in on them.  I told him they had named me wrong.  I think he knew where I was headed with this because of the tone of his voice.  I told him they should have named me Pearl after his mother.  In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Hurricane Matthew came through my town as a Category 2 storm.  I didn't sleep; there was wave after wave of torrential rain and fierce wind.  I was not worried for myself but for my house and vehicles.  I was praying all night that God would make it stop.  See, if I had damage to my property, when could I get it fixed?  I am one person, and I work.  To put it simply, I had no time for Matthew's shenanigans.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was afraid to go outside, but this is only a piece of what I saw:

I wish I could upload the video because this does not do it justice, but it's too large, I suppose.  Anyway, I decided yesterday that it was time to pull this out:

Dad's little saw.  I didn't think it would work, but it has done wonders.  Here is what it was able to accomplish:

I got rid of just about all the trash today.  I digress a bit, but I can't stand weak women.  It's a flaw of mine, I guess.  But, whiny women get on my last nerve.  I could have waited around for Prince Charming to help me, but I'm way past the age of believing in him.  So, if I need something done, I DO IT!

I won't lie; if this were June, July, August, or September with the oppressive heat, I would not have done it.  I thought a lot about my grandmother today.  We were not close because she was not that kind of grandmother; none of my grandparents were.  But, I believe Pearl Harrison Williams would be proud of me.