Thursday, September 29, 2016

Less reliant on church

I knew way back in 1988 that this particular boy was smart; he'd sit front and center in my room with a huge grin on his face, soaking up whatever grandiose grammar and literature I thought I knew and was imparting to my classes.  I have spoken to him several times recently for prayer requests.  One morning this week as I sat at my desk in school an hour early, I scrambled for a pencil to write down these words:

"As you grow in your faith, you become less reliant on church."

Now, I know many people will cringe at those very words, but they are so spot on.  In this era of mega-churches and judgmental, anti-Jesus-like "christians," one must be careful.  While I agree that young christians need to develop a solid biblical knowledge, they must be aware of wolves in sheep's clothing.  If you can not see a line item church budget, and it seems as though the pastor is living larger than his flock, beware.  Anything other than a line item breakdown of the budget by individual staff's salary is suspect.  Ask why the pastor's salary is hidden.

Then, as you are listening in the pews, be on the look-out for anti-Jesus teachings.  Jesus was accepting of everyone; indeed, He sought out the undesirable of society.  Beware of those throwing stones/casting judgment.

Finally, ask what they are doing with the tithes and offerings.  Do they do any good in the community?  Do their actions mimic those of Jesus?  If not, find another church.

As we grow in our faith, we don't need the church building.  In fact, the early church was not a building.  The true "Church" is people, not a building.  Bricks and mortar don't matter.  How I long for the simplified life of believers meeting together over a meal, planning what they might do for their community.   They have no need of a building; they have their faith and follow what Jesus the simplest of ways.

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.