Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Unreunion


This week I went to see the Pixar movie Inside Out.  I didn't think it was Pixar's finest when I left the movie, but I have found myself thinking about the themes several times over the week. Instead of a classic good vs evil plot, the movie has a joy vs sadness plot. Each of the main character's memories are represented by a marble and are colored according to what kind of memory she has; purple for fear, green for disgust, red for anger, blue for sadness and golden for joy. Joy, the emotion, has to rescue the golden core memories from being touched by Sadness, which changes the colors of the marbles. I know that sounds confusing but stick with me. What the moviegoer finds out in the end, of course, is that joy and sadness are not exclusive, and the core memory marbles

Over the past thirty years, I have looked back on the "high school years" as fraught wit.....(cue needle scratching across a record.)

Wait right there, I'm stuck! I wanted so much to be able to express what the 30th year Unreunion of the Battery Creek High School Class of 1985, with special guests form 1984 was like, but I can't. A reunion is a collective experience not necessarily meant to be shared with everyone else. What we experienced together is unique to any other group.

We are a group of kids that understand the implications of being raised by a Vietnam Veteran.

We are a group of kids that love the sound of screaming F-4's over the marsh.

We are a group of kids that inhale deeply when we are around pluff mud, and the same group who discovered in 9th grade that the smell was caused by rot.(Thanks Mrs. Eberhardt) But we still long for the smell. (Love it is a stretch.)

We are a group of kids that remember dancing around the school yard before the bell rang to keep the sand fleas from landing in our ears.

We are a predominately white group of kids that went to a predominately black school, which I think enriched our character in different ways.

We are a group of kids that marched with the band in yellow shirts and blue dickies pants with the fingers cut out of many pairs of white gloves.

We are a group of kids that understand the changes that have taken place on Hunting Island. It is very difficult to explain to someone who didn't know that beach before how much of it has washed away.

We are a group of kids who grew up in a Beaufort that offered a 4 screen movie theater and the Hardee's parking lot for entertainment. And the drive-in.

We are a group of kids who remember when Frogmore was Frogmore, Land's End was not marked by a brown park sign, and Fort Fremont was not for the faint of heart.

We are a group of kids that understand 125% humidity.

And now we are a group of kids who have grown into interesting, mature and beautiful adults raising a generation of interesting and beautiful children who we hope have the privilege of friendships that transcend time and location such as ours as they make collective memories of their own.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude Repeat

I have really enjoyed reading all the posts about Gratitude over this past month. I have posted a couple of times, but am undoubtedly grateful for so many things. This is a list:

I'm grateful I have a nice car that won't break down, hasn't been impounded or at risk of being towed to the Quik Pawn Shop. There was a time...

I'm grateful that I have more than a job, but a calling and a career. There was a time getting hired for minimum wage as Christmas help was a difficult task for me.

I'm grateful the electricity is on, and I can afford to run the heater. I've been cold.

I'm grateful that I can walk up and down stairs without fear of falling. There were times I was shaking so bad, I couldn't grip the banister.

I'm grateful that this warm child is snuggled up to my side. I've never had anybody love me like he does. I've never loved anybody like I love him.

I'm grateful I have a home. There were times I was couch surfing. 

I'm grateful I have a relationship with my Dad, there was a time we were estranged.

I'm grateful I have dozens and dozens of friend, and a few very close friends. There was a time I worked hard to destroy the ties I had to anybody who loved me.

I'm grateful for my husband. There were times I thought I would die young and alone.

I'm grateful for plenty to eat and choices. I lived a whole summer on cheese sandwiches. Cheap cheese, like Generic Kraft. (Ew)

I'm grateful I can answer the phone without fear it will be a bill collector. There was a time I didn't even have a phone to answer.

I'm grateful I can wave at police officers when I pass them on the road. There was a time I feared they were going to pull me over and send me to jail.

I'm grateful I don't have to visit the Jefferson County Courthouse once a month. Yes, there was a time I  had to do that.

I'm grateful I have sock choices. There was a time I only bought white athletic socks because I could manage to match them.

I'm grateful I lived yesterday without harming anyone, including myself. There was a time I tore through people like a tornado. 

I miss my Grandmother so much, but I am grateful she saw something worth saving in me and lived to see me sober, married and teaching. There was a time I couldn't bear to look at the disappointment on her face. 

I am grateful that through my difficulties, I found a God of my understanding. And I am grateful that at this time I am learning about that same  God's Grace on this miserable sinner. There was Time when I was morally, spiritually and physically bankrupt. I did not know God.

Updated November 27, 2014
And every year there is so much more:

Over the past few years, the dynamics of my family have changed, but I'm grateful that I married into a loving family and can make new holiday traditions. I was afraid I would be lonely.

I am grateful that I have a beautiful, healthy, charming, intelligent son. I'm so afraid he will be riddled with the family illness, but then I'm grateful he has a loving father who will always be there for him!

I am grateful for the new friends I have made this, I have made many and I'm still astounded that anyone would want to be friends with me. 

I am grateful for all the friends I have had for years who allow me to be part of their lives. Especially Christy Cubelic who has been my friend through everything. 

I am grateful for the connection for the connection with high school friends through social media. There is a bond there that is strong, although we haven't seen each other in 30 years.

I am grateful that I get to work with kids, there is no greater gift than to be able to touch and influence their lives. It's amazing.

I am grateful for my church family. This is still a new concept for me, but they have embraced my son and I and have helped us grow spiritually. 

So, until next year...


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Yeah, I'm a Liberal

Since the past mid-term election, I have been chomping at the bit to talk about why I'm a liberal. Why I feel like I have to defend my position shouldn't even be a thing, but here in the buckle of the Bible Belt right ring conservative South, I often feel on the defensive. In fact, at bible study last week, three days after the election, I felt like an Auburn fan right after the 2012 Iron Bowl. The fans for the other team were laying in wait to remind me of the resounding defeat. No less than three people told me that night that I would come around. What? I'm 47, I've worked and paid taxes for more than 30 years and I've voted in virtually every election since I was 18. I may have missed a couple of times during the lost decade, but that may have been for the best, anyway. Point is, I'm around, no more coming.

Also, it's not a game. It's people's lives. Let me tell you a little story about a scare I had today. Sometime before lunch, one of my youngest sister's friends contacted me to see if I had heard from my sister, that nobody had heard from her since 7:30 Tuesday when she talked to her brother and said she would be home in 5 minutes. Keep in mind, she has 3 children ages six, five and three. They were at home with their uncle and grandfather. She never showed up and all attempt to reach her had failed. When her friend contacted me, she was on her way to the police station to file a missing person's report. I called the local hospital to see if she was there, and the sweet, patient, receptionist said she was not but she gave me the phone numbers to 7 hospitals in the Beaufort-Hilton Head area. Things got real, my mind went everywhere, all I could see was her wrecked somewhere hurt or dead. Thankfully, I didn't have to call 7 hospitals, and her friend did not have to file a report. My sister made contact and informed her friend that she was ok, that she had felt overwhelmed and suicidal so she drove to Charleston to stay with an old boyfriend until she felt back in control.

What does this have to do with being a liberal, you may ask? Because if my sister had access to basic mental health services with consistent care, she might not be in this position. When I talked to her this evening the first question out of my mouth was, are you taking your medicine? She said kinda, mostly. I asked her if she was seeing a counselor, and she said she was, but she owed over $300.00 and couldn't go back. I asked her if she had medicaid, and she said, yeah, but they don't pay for that shit. My sister has a history with mental illness, she has struggled since she was 12 or 13, but she can't afford the care she needs.

Ok, I can hear the grumbles and complaints, let her buy her own insurance like the rest of us! She shouldn't have had all those kids, they aren't our responsibility, she needs to take care of them! She needs a job and needs to quit living off the system! How much does she expect us to pay for? On and on, arguments I've heard again and again.

Well, here's the rest of the story. My sister had a rough upbringing. Not the worst, I'm sure you, your daddy or somebody you know had it worse and did better, but it still wasn't easy. My Mom suffered from the same mental illnesses and was basically incapable of caring for her (or me and my other sister for that matter). Her dad is just a case. I have no explanation. However, she went to school nearly everyday, she HATED missing school. When she was a senior in high school, she had to come live here in Birmingham to finish high school. And she did! With good grades and a job at a dentist office. Two months after she graduated, not long after she got pregnant, unwed, our mother died. That's a blow for a 17 year old. She moved back to South Carolina, got married, had the baby and started college. (She was able to attend because she kept her grades high and had a Palmetto scholarship, money provided through the state lottery...another liberal and progressive idea we will never see in this state). Along the way she had baby two, but still continued attending college and graduated magna cum laude.

Since graduation, she has worked. Not in her field, because she needs a master's to be certified, but she has had a job mostly in doctor's offices. She's paid her taxes and tried to raise her kids. She benefitted from WIC and food stamps, but still has struggled. Two of her kids are now in public school, but the third goes to daycare.  They weren't able to attend Head Start because they are too bright and there are no real alternatives to pre-k education for the working class and poor. And now for the last two years, her illness has been rearing it's ugly head on a regular basis. Not long ago, she did attempt suicide, therefore today's scare was very real. It shouldn't be difficult for her to receive the care she needs. We don't cut a patient off dialysis if they get behind on the bill.

I don't want to paint the picture that she is perfect or a victim. She has made some pretty questionable choices that haven't helped her situation in the least, but I don't want to dwell on how the cart got in the ditch. But I am sick and scared over this. I'm helpless in this, just like I have been my entire life living with this illness that has riddled my family for generations. I can't talk, yell, counsel, hold her hand, not hold her hand or fix any of this. I don't know if it will ever get any easier for her. But I can continue to support and vote for programs that might offer that hand up. I can expect our extremely wealthy country to take care of all of it's citizens and welcome in others who want to be here so bad they would risk their lives and their children's lives. I can support legislation that protects human rights, even sometimes at the cost of individual rights. I can continue to support and encourage inclusion of all people, no matter race, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity.

 I can hope that mental illness is viewed as a genuine disease that needs to be treated,  not cured by trying harder.  And I can pray for a society  openly or privately, to whatever God I want to worship, for these things to happen.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Summer Reads Curation

I've been dying to try that word out. Curation, the one I used in the title. I suppose I'll get just as tired of curating things as I did of un-packing things, but for now that's my new jargon.

Wait, that's not why I'm bringing the ole Blog out of the closet. (not that closet). Just the closet where things need dusted off and tried on again. Today's discussion at the lunch table was about books we've read, and certainly dominated by my opinion and comments. I can't help myself, I've read so many wonderful things, I can't wait to tell people about them, but I don't often get the opportunity.. But then, if I feel just a little bit of interest, I'm off to the races, my brain starts firing and recommendations just jump out of my mouth. 

So, probably in a effort to get me to shut-up, one sweet teacher suggested I make a Summer Reading List. So I spent the rest of my day with a part of my brain subconsciously engaged in "curating" the perfect summer list. I tried to take into consideration the tastes of my colleagues and friends and come up with a crowd pleasing list that also had literary and social value. Wait, don't stop reading here, the list is of AWESOME books mostly well-reviewed in the mainstream. No weird, creepy, intellectual obscure sub-genres only known to librarians. These are crowd-pleasers. So, without further ado, this is my Top 10 recommended Summer Reads for 2014, curated from popular adult and young adult fiction. (see, i used my word again)

The Book Thief 
by Marcus Zusak. A remarkable book set in wartime Germany during Hitler's reign, this books shows the power of reading and books, but is much more. 

Oh, by the way, I hate writing book reviews, so I won't be going into much detail. You're just going to have to trust me that these books are worth the time. 

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel If I were ranking these books by favorites, this may come in at number one or two. This is a good read if you like adventure but also a new and incredible look at one human's struggle with spirituality. I love this book. And the movie is good, but don't cheat yourself by not reading the book. 

Fault in Our Stars by John Green
 WIthout becoming too sentimental like Nicholas Sparks lifetime movie drivel, Green deals with the reality of kids fighting terminal illness. You will not forget these characters anytime soon. This is a young adult novel, but is a great read for people of all ages. This will also be in theatres, I think in August, so put this one close to the top of your list. And if you love it, John Green has some other awesome young adult novels such as Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. He's also the coolest history teacher around. Check him out on Youtube or follow this link to his website: http://johngreenbooks.com If you have teenagers or pre-teens in your household, turn them on to this guy and you will be a hero. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers
 This is what I am currently reading. It is a dystopian novel that asks the question, what if our lives were transparent? Unlike other dystopian novels, this one has really made me think about the influence of social media on our living habits. It's not the best written novel either, it's not lyrical or beautiful like Life of Pi, but it's a good little mind bender. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
 Now if you want an escape murder mystery page turning experience, this book is for you.I read this in something like two days. Take this one to the beach. It is so much fun.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout 
I included this on the list even though I don't think everybody will love it, I think everyone will be able to recognize the characters in this book as someone you know. It is devastatingly honest. 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This book is getting a lot of attention right now, in fact it just won the Pulitzer Prize. This is a long epic story of a boy and a girl that experience the same catastrophe in an art museum and what happens after. The first book I thought about to compare this to was Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and the way his conscience destroyed him. Dare you to read both this summer. Extra gold star for you if you do. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Now this is a beautiful love story as well as a coming of age novel. Both main characters are faced with some harsh situations and decisions to make while still high school students. It was also good to read as a teacher as a reminder to have compassion and empathy for all students, but also as a reminder to be a good human. I really liked this, it left me with that little buzz I get from hearing a good story. 

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
I ran across this little gem two or three years ago and was carried away by the story of a boy following his destiny and the adventures he has along the way. This, to me, was like a folk tale or fairy tale for adults. It's a short read and very well worth the time. It doesn't really fit into the tome of most of the other books on the list, but give it a try.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I did not want this novel to end. Set against a backdrop of an extremely violent situation, the reader gets to see how relationships can be formed in the most unusual circumstances. 

Bonus Material:
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yeah, I know you've seen the movie, but it does not compare with this gem of a novel. All Alabamians should read this, and all Birminghamians should be required to read it. 

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This is for those of us who love epic novels and exploring family relationships.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
When you look up the reviews for this novel yourself, don't turn away. This is another great family centered epic and you will care for these characters, particularly the main character more than expected. 

Secret Life of Bees by Gina Prince-Blythewood
This is  a coming of age story set in the 1950's south and the relationship that develops between a white girl who has lost her mother and a black family of very strong women.This is just a beautiful story. A real cry out loud book.  Actually, this is a pretty good movie, too. 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
This is not light reading. It is a very intense novel about twins born to a nun and a surgeon in Ethiopia and their search for belonging and success. This is great if you want to do some deep, serious reading. I learned a lot about Africa, missions and even surgery and the price of coming to America.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This is another pretty heavy read. It is set on an American Indian reservation and is about how a son deals with his mother's molestation. This is strong and gritty, but opens up questions about the Native American experience. 

As i've written this, of course I've thought of many others to add. Let me know what you are reading, and by all means, lets talk about these together! 



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Art

Have you ever seen, heard, read or felt something so achingly beautiful it just stays in your mind and works it's way into your soul? I heard a piece on NPR this week that has simply haunted me.This caused me to think of other works or pieces that have had the same overwhelming feelings. I am completely untrained in the Arts except for an entry level music appreciation course I took somewhere around 1986, so my list may seem less than extraordinary but these are the things that have endured in my memory through many years and many lifetimes. 

Books (so many, these are the tops)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson 
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Six of One and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Movie
Life is Beautiful starring Roberto Benigni

Paintings/Sculpture
The original Claude Monet Water Lilies and studies at a special exhibit at the Tullieries Gardens, Paris in 1999.

Music( again, cannot be just one)
The Wall by Pink Floyd
The White Album 
Unchained Melody
I Am Weary Let Me Rest performed by the Cox Family

And now this, Der Leierman performed by Dietrich Fishcher-Dieskau from Franz Schubert's Winterneise.

I have no idea what he is singing, but I can feel it in my bones. It is so rare to just come across something so beautiful and haunting. I have played it over and over again. Maybe I heard it just at the right moment. I wonder if it will persevere? 

Enjoy for yourself. 
http://www.npr.org/2011/12/13/143579090/winter-songs-bill-t-jones-picks-schuberts-winterreise

What haunts you? 



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I think I know my purpose in life

If anybody is keeping track, I'm two days late writing. It is January 21st, 6:56 pm and COLD! If I had written on Sunday I would have written about a beautiful Alabama Sunday in January. Missed it by two days.

I have had a bit of a hard time focusing on one topic this week. I wanted to write about my progress in Weight Watchers (again) and kind of give a little spin about the pressure that media and society puts on people to look, dress and act in a certain way. I was feeling all irritable and hungry and needed an outlet. Then I started noticing how I judge people. In just a few minutes after thinking about societal pressures, I caught myself wondering why the traffic girl on the news was wearing that shirt. (You know, because I'm a fashion diva.) I saw an old rusty car at the thrift store and I thought, aww bless them, they have to shop at the thrift store (where I was shopping). And the meanest thought, wow, if I had that overbite, I wouldn't even smile. Now, these are unfiltered thoughts drifting through my mind, and I would never, well I hope I would never say these things out loud. But I wonder if everybody has this vicious inner dialogue going on. And I wonder what influences these thoughts? I would guess every movie, book, magazine, article, discussion, friendship, commercial or any other social interaction I havc digested over the past 46 years. I wonder if I can change it? 

But finally I settled on talking about Week 3 of The Next Big thing, my new membership class. This week's session was title "Who Is God?" Easy, right? And as a tool to explain God and define our beliefs in the Christian Church, we started studying the Apostles Creed. According to Luther, the Creed should be used by the head of the family to teach our beliefs. (Remember, he was a Reformer, and wanted to bring the teachings of the Bible to everyone, not just ordained members of the Roman Catholic Church.) So the First Article of the Creed states, "I believe in God, The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Here is how Luther explained the meaning of this Article.
    " I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.
      He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
      He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from evil.
      All this he does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
      This is most certainly true."

Isn't that beautiful? Only thing is I wanted to know about the people who don't have land, animals, are not safe, are hungry, neglected or scared. So Pastor simply said, it is our duty to use our blessings to bring these blessings to others. 

Ohhhhhhh, it's starting to sink in this thick head. 

Flashback to one of my first study classes at this church. The discussion surrounded the notion that you can't good yourself into heaven. Well, I thought you could. At that time, the point was made that we also had to accept Jesus as our savior and understand that we were unworthy sinners that didn't deserve heaven, but that this guy had died a bloody, awful death for us so that we might see heaven. So I'm thinking, that's it? I've just got to believe that and I can go to heaven? I can worship and thank Jesus for dying for me by being a good person,even though that wasn't contingent on my salvation. Well, it is and isn't. It seemed there should be more.

Alright, back to this week.  I understood that the way to accept Jesus was to share with others my blessings by using my God given talents and gifts in the service of others. And then I had a glimpse of the path I have been led down. I'm a teacher, a servant of students. When I show compassion, love, empathy and understanding to my students and others associated with my profession, I am doing what God wants. Perhaps, through me, others will have the blessings promised in this Creed.  What do you think? 

Source:
Luther's Small Catechism. St. Louis: Concordia House, 1991. Print.

(this cite may not be perfect, I would have had to drag out the ole APA manual and look up every exception to get this one right. If you are interested in more information, visit these websites:
http://www.gardendalegoodshepherd.com/
http://www.lcms.org/



      

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Pastor Wears a Star Trek T-Shirt or Week 2 of the Next Big THing

Here we are already at the second Sunday in January, the 12th,  it's 6:56. The weather is typical for an Alabama winter,meaning it's chilly but not cold and expected to get a little chillier this week and then a little warmer. In the background, my husband is watching football and my son is singing in the shower. I've just returned from the second week of new member classes, and feel even more strongly that I have chosen the right church. (Or God has sent me to the right church.)

It could get boring really fast for me to write a summary of each week's lesson, mostly because I don't know enough to make it interesting. This week we covered the Bible in one hour and 45 minutes. That's pretty amazing, huh? Really we talked about the history of the Bible, how it came to be and how we should use it. Primarily, the Bible exists to bring people to Jesus and salvation. That in itself is a great deal to think about.

Also, from this morning' s message, we talked about our obligation as a follower of Christ, and Pastor made the point that anytime we are talking with others about God, we are witnessing for Him, which gives this blog some sort of responsibility. I've been thinking about that all day and hope that I do a good job with whatever I write. But remember, these are my thoughts and observations. 

What I really want to write about this week is the Pastor of this church who so passionately brings the message of Jesus to his flock.

Here's why. When I think about religious people, I have an awful stereotype in my head of people with a great deal of arrogance, a really buttoned up kind of person that makes you feel like you need to filter everything that comes out of your mouth. Or sort of an older, somber, quiet guy who only shows passion behind the pulpit. Or maybe a bible-thumping judgemental, you are going to hell type. No, not this Pastor. He wears a Star Trek T-shirt, and that says it all for me. 

This weeks disclaimer-he does NOT wear a Star Trek T-shirt behind the pulpit. There, he looks like one of God's biggest angels.