Click here to read my post for OdysseyOnLine at Clemson
“I took a quick step back in order to take a second look. I was shocked to see a rat in the bushes. It was not a cute rat like the one I used for this article. That was simply a ploy to encourage you to click and read the article. No, it was a dead rat – yes, dead as a doornail rat.”
Click on the link to read. Transferring colleges in as I start my senior year is going to be filled with mixed emotions. I love College of Charleston and hope that I will love Clemson as much!
There are things I could never imagine happening to me. That is saying a lot considering I have a highly overactive imagination. I can imagine an asteroid crashing into earth close my home. My friends will tell you that they are not allowed to mention comets, or meteor showers, or a protentional eclipse. I can imagine a tsunami wiping out a beach as I sit in the sand. I can envision an earthquake while I am in a three story building. I am afraid that someone might break into the house when I am all alone and taking a shower (that might just be a throwback to Psycho). I can even imagine how our country might look like after the current elections. Yet, I could never have believed what would happen this week.
I arrived at my class at school, and we began a group team building exercise. The instructions were simple. Everyone was to stand in a large circle. The professor would read a statement, and everyone would quickly, without much thought or hesitation, step into the circle to the extent that they agreed with the statement. If you strongly agreed with the statement, you would walk into the center of the circle. If you slightly agreed, you would only take a small step or two in the circle. If you strongly disagreed, you would stand in place and so on.
The first statements were innocuous.
“I like chocolate.” Almost everyone was in the center of the circle.
“I like pizza.” People were a bit more spread out on this one.
“I am a dog person.” “I am a cat person.” There were some strong feelings on this one.
The statements then focused more on issues.
“I am a feminist.”
“I believe everyone has the same access to prosperity.”
“I believe everyone should have equal access to education.”
With each of these statements, everyone in the group shared the same opinion. We all appeared to be on the same page when it came to social issues and ideals.
After each statement, the professor would ask us to return to the circle if we had moved. After a few more statements, I heard this one.
“I believe in God.”
Without hesitation, I began my first step into the circle. As I moved, I suddenly became aware that no one else was moving. I hesitated for a split second. Do I keep going? Surely everyone is thinking about the question and will be stepping in. Maybe they are just waiting for the others. I took another step. The room was silent and still.
I kept taking steps towards the center of the circle. I could only see those in front of me or just to my side. Everyone was looking at me in the circle, but no one looked me in the eyes. I felt alone and exposed. I thought of the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultery. Everyone circled around her, pointed fingers, and said she should be stoned. Could this really be happening? I just wanted the professor to direct me back to my spot in the circle.
We quickly moved on to our next activity. I don’t remember much about what we did the rest of the class. I still felt as if I was standing alone in the middle of the circle. That feeling would stay with me for a while; in fact, I am still carrying a bit of it with me as I write.
I would not have been surprised if no moved into the circle had the statement been, “I am a Christian” or “I am religious” or “I go to church.” I know many people who want nothing to do with organized religion. I understand those who have questions about faith. I certainly have many questions about God, the church, the Bible, and theology. I am still shaken by the fact that no one moved into the circle. Even if someone had moved just a step or two into the circle, it would have been easier to understand. How could these people who share the same values about social issues and social justice not believe in God?
I have been thinking about this all week. As I began to process this, I looked at the world and the events of the past years. I remember bombings and killings in the name of God. I saw religious people who hated those who are different, people who say that God hates those who are aren’t like them, people who claim to follow God but turn their back on the poor, sick, and lonely. Politicians have been throwing around claims about God for months. Churches are splitting because they can’t agree to love one another any longer because of issues surrounding race, gender, who you can love or which bathroom people can use.
I must wonder if these bright, talented, young people I know, who want to change the world, look at all of this and decide that God can’t exist. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller writes about his experience at Reed College, a secular liberal arts college in Oregon. He and a few Christian friends discuss a way to talk to people on campus about their faith since students seemed hostile to their views. They come up with an idea to offer a confession to the other students. The confession below expresses what I have been thinking:
“So this group of us on campus wanted to confess to you,” Donald said.
“You are confessing to me!” Jake said with a laugh.
“Yeah. We are confessing to you. I mean, I am confessing to you.”
“You’re serious.” His laugh turned to something of a straight face.
“There’s a lot. I will keep it short,” Donald started. “The thing is, we are followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and all, and he represented certain ideas that we have sort of not done a good job at representing. He has asked us to represent him well, but it can be very hard. Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus didn’t mix spirituality with theology. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, too.”
There is a lot more! I want to confess and apologize for not always carrying the message of Christ in my life, but I am going to keep trying.
The text below is an assignment for my Religion and Society class.
“Experiment with Ahimsa,” following the model of Gandhi and his autobiography. After re-reading about Gandhi’s understanding of ahimsa and his experiments with Truth, conduct an “experiment with non-violence.” For some set time (3-7 days), attempt to refrain from all forms of violence towards other human beings and animals, including (but no limited to) anger, hate, gossip, personal criticism, evil thoughts, jealousy, and physical violence toward any other being. Try to remove violence from speech, mind, and action; and try not to support others if they engage in violent speech, thought or conduct. You must maintain a record of your experiences and “experiments with Truth”, using Gandhi’s book as your model to emulate.
As we discussed this in class, I asked about food and football. The Professor smiled and explained that we would have to make our own determination about how far we were willing and able to go with food in this process. Since football is a sport and there is no intention of harm, I am going to say that watching football wouldn’t be a hindrance to this process. ” In fact, he (Gandhi) was a path-breaker of sorts, even in football, when in 1896, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, still a young, relatively unknown lawyer in South Africa, was amongst a group of pre-dominantly Indian men, who helped form the Transvaal Indian Football Association” (Ayush Srivastava – The Goal). There was even a team called the Passive Resisters. Later, Gandhi would say that while his country was in turmoil against the British, people should be more interested in changing the country than sports.
While reading about Gandhi and his idea of ahisma, we learned that Ghandi believed non violence went far beyond “doing no violence or harm”. Gandhi taught that ahisma was non violence in our thoughts, intentions, actions, and our lifestyle. It was about compassion and love.
This summer I am taking Women’s Global Health and Human Rights at College of Charleston. One of our big assignments was to create a YouTube video PSA. Only after completing the video and posting it on the class site did I learn (finally read the rubric) that I had to get over 400 hits to get full points.
This is my first attempt at making a movie or a PSA so it is a bit rough around the edges. Please be sure to click on the link and help me get 400 views!
Would love some feedback or ideas about how to make the next one better. I already know that the audio on the videos wasn’t the best so that is something to work on!!
Although I may be inconsistent in posting on my blog at times, I traditionally post on New Years, March 7th, my birthday (both belly button and recovery), Thanksgiving and Christmas. Remembering the past year, I am reminded to “be careful what I ask for”, because 2013 brought many lessons about trust. As I began this post, I read the post for New Year’s 2013. This is what I wrote:
A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing. I have several words that seem appropriate, but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me. I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad, yet much of it good. I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust into my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself. I survived the end of the world in 2012, so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!
I began the year trying to recover from the flu, and in spite of getting the flu shot, it was my Christmas day gift. For the next few months, I would battle one round of bronchitis after the other. Breathing treatments, antibiotics, injected and oral steroids became constant companions. I would battle each round coming ever so close to victory, only to find myself pushed back into a corner once again. In May, only two days before I was to take my grandson to the live auditions for X-Factor complete with Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
All of these battles with bronchitis occurred as I prepared to begin my lifelong dream of going to college. I stepped onto the College of Charleston campus in early January not sure if I would be able to survive as a college student. I can now tell you that I not only have survived, but I have done well. I have enough credits to apply as a degree student instead of a “non-traditional” student and I am only a few credits away from being a sophomore. Did I mention that I have a 3.82 GPA?
Being sick for so long took a financial toll since I wasn’t able to work during that time. The cost of COBRA for me to keep my insurance was over $500 a month, and I still had deductibles and copays. In October, the biggest financial hit came when my car blew the transmission. Being without a car for close to two months was devastating, but I managed to finish school for the semester and keep my part time job.
As summer approached, I was healthy again and was able to start a new fitness program. It was another step in learning some great ways to exercise without a gym, and it was a thought-provoking experience in learning balance. I was reminded that fitness goals and healthy living are a work in progress, not something to achieve overnight.
I managed a couple of very short trips this year. Jan, Anna, and I took a day trip to Savannah. We laughed, talked, shopped, discovered “Your Pie Pizza”, and walked all around Savannah even though it was still a bit cool that day, and had a great day. I had to take a trip, have an adventure, and see a play for my three of my classes, so a short weekend trip with Ginger, Sassy, and Jerome made getting an A on all three papers easy. Jan and I continued to have Friday adventures including doing some genealogical research, climbing an old haunted staircase in a house that was built in early 1800, and visiting a couple of library archives. We did manage to find some great food along the way, as well.
So, what does all this have to do with trust? If you look at most of last year, you may begin to see that I wasn’t able to do things for other people the way I usually do. Money, health, and time took away my ability to take care of others and do things for the people in my life. All that was left for me to give was myself. I have always been sure that “I” was not enough. Last year, I had to trust my friends and my family with my vulnerability. Every time they stayed by my side, supported me, bought me lunch, visited me, called me to make sure I was OK, took me where I needed to go, went beyond everything I expected, I thanked God for showing me what trust and love are really about.
I didn’t learn to trust anyone as a child. I didn’t understand love until I had children of my own. I did not trust God, and I was not convinced that God would or could love me. I do not believe God sends catastrophes, broken cars, financial problems, etc. into my life, but I do believe God has used all of these things to help me learn about love and trust. God continues to be patient and understanding with me.
I do not think I am going to choose a theme for 2014, but I will be writing to tell you about my year. I will give you one sneak peak at the upcoming year. The “three stooges” (we must think of a better name) are going to see JILLIAN!
I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year!
What does Luke Bryan have to do with “Must Be Present To Win?” Those who know me won’t be surprised when I explain. This post is obviously about winning. Jan and I were in the car the other day and I mentioned that I was really getting tired of the song, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.”
“I don’t think I know that song? Who sings it?’ I was confused by her response since she is a county music fan and knows all the current songs.
I tried to sing a piece, but she still had no idea about the song. I decided to Google it and let her listen to the chorus, so that she would be terribly embarrassed when she realized she knew the song. I found it and played the snippet of the song I found. I then discovered that the song is That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan. Here are the lyrics:
‘Floatin’ down the Flint River/catch us up a little catfish dinner/gonna sound like a winner, winner.” So, I had it almost right. And, she did know the song, of course. I still haven’t lived that one down.
On a more serious note, two years ago I attended a day conference here in Charleston presented by Google. As a surprise, they donated two newly released Samsung Galaxy Android Tablets. The first was given away at noon and the second at the closing session of the day. I had an appointment that couldn’t be changed, so I left just as the last half hour of the session started.
When I left my appointment I had several text messages and a couple of phone calls telling me that my name had been drawn to win the tablet. HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN! As you can see, I am not over it still.
You may know that it has been a rough few weeks. Several things are going on, but primarily I am struggling because my car died. Living in Charleston (very little public transportation), tying to go to school and work, and do all the other things I do is now a true challenge. I have cried, screamed, and prayed a lot- trust me!
Yesterday, I received a call from the local pharmacy where I fill my prescriptions. They announced that there had a been a drawing from all the people who used the online refill email last month, and I was the winner. My prize is two tickets valued at $20.00 each to a trolley tour around Summerville on what is known as the Sweet Tea Trail. While it isn’t a Samsung Tablet, I did win. As odd as it many sound, that phone call changed my mood. I didn’t do anything to earn this prize nor do I really deserve it. I won simply because I did what I needed to do.
I began to think that life is like winning both of those prizes-you must be present to win. If I choose to withdraw and be miserable or simply focus on the negative because I don’t have a car…or money…or my own home…you get the idea, then I lose. I can’t enjoy those things that make life worth living…family…friends…laughter…you get the idea.
Being present simply means getting out of bed each day, doing the next right thing, being part of the lives of the people I love, laughing out loud, acting like a kid, working, going to school, helping where and when I can, having faith that God is present in my life no matter what the circumstances, and praying. Some days I am going to be more present than others; we all have those days when we need to retreat and regroup. We might even need to cry sometimes. A friend told me that everyone has a bad day; you just don’t want it turn into bad weeks and months.
Today, I have been present. I got up early because I didn’t sleep well, but used the extra time to get a few things done. I went to school with all of my assignments for the day complete. I met my friends for lunch. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed hanging out. Right now I am supposed to be working on ten short summaries of essays for one class and critiquing three stories for another. Instead, I decided to write this blog post, first. (Please don’t tell on me!) I doubt I will have chicken or catfish for supper today, but all in all, I would say I was a winner.
I’ve heard the phrase “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” expressed in several ways. I once heard, “the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming right at you.” Another explanation is that there is a way out of the darkness or through the challenges. On Tuesday, I was floundering and felt that I couldn’t even begin to find my way to the tunnel. At one point I was sitting on a bench outside at my college, crying and feeling very alone. Let me back up and tell you what happened.
Sunday, we went to the Corn Maze. Jan and her kids rode with me, and as we were headed home I heard a beep. I thought it was my car telling me it wanted gas, but as I looked at the dash I realized my check engine light was on. The car was still running normally and all the gauges seemed fine. We laughed because the last time my car broke down, Jan was in the car with me. The next morning I drove to an appointment and called the car dealership to make an appointment for my oil change and have them check the light. As I started the car when I was leaving, the check engine light went out. I was so excited. I called my daughter and my friends proclaiming that my car was healed.
I drove on toward my work and I pulled off the interstate into the exit lane. Before I could get to the top, the car made some chugging noises and jerked a couple of times. As I rolled towards the light, I heard a pop and a puff of white smoke came out of my car like a smoke signal from an old western. The engine was running, but none of the gears worked. Soon the tow truck was taking my car to the dealership. Let’s just say that my experience with the service department was not a good one that day. They gave me a ride home and promised to look at the car as soon as possible.
I have been going to a local park and ride to get to my college classes this semester, so my daughter gave me a ride to the bus stop the next morning. I finished my first class and saw that the dealership had called. I called them back on the way to my next class. The news wasn’t good. The transmission would need to be replaced or rebuilt. The estimate was $3800. The blue book value of my car in good condition is about $2800. I dont’ have $3800 to repair it or enough to replace it since I could only sell it for about $800 at best. I still have to come up with $130 for the diagnostic labor to get it out of the dealership, plus a tow truck. All of that to say, I no longer have a running vehicle.
This is where the sitting on a bench alone in the middle of school campus and crying comes in. Some very kind maintenance people working outside that day came to check on me, offered me coffee, a ride home, smiles, and wishes for a better day. I called my daughter and she helped me realize that this was not the end of the world. She assured me that she and her husband would be there to assist until I could figure out the next step. She was caring but wouldn’t let me give up on school and work. I have been without my car for 5 days now. I miss my car; I loved that car.
Yet, I haven’t missed work or school. I have everything I need. I have a place to live and money to pay my bills. My daughter has been strong for me and is working with me to use her car when she doesn’t need it. Her husband is changing his schedule a bit to drop me off and pick up at the bus stop on school days. My 16 year old grandson gave me a hug, told me he loved me, and asked if I wanted to use his car…his very special car that he loves. They have all encouraged me been there for me. My son has offered his help. He found a program that may be able to get my car on the road. He made the contact and is helping get the information and paper work.
My friend Jan, came today and picked me up for Friday adventure day. Funny thing happened on the way to adventure day; we went to the store, came out, and her car wouldn’t start. True Story! We found a nice man dressed in camouflage, driving a big truck, with jumper cables and he was able to get the car started. We spent about an hour getting a new battery with a very talkative, somewhat clumsy sales person, who installed the battery. We then rushed to pick up her children from school. They smiled and told me they had missed seeing me. Jan has encouraged me and checked in on me all week, in spite of a busy work week and activities.
My friend Sonia and another friend Erica have offered me their cars when they don’t need them and rides to work. Lindy has emailed, texted and offered encouragement. Other friends have offered ideas, let me know they are praying for me, and that I am not alone.
Yes, I don’t have a car in a world that requires a car to survive, particularity in a city with very little transportation options. I have no idea how or when I will be able to get my repaired or get another vehicle. Yes, I could get a car loan..maybe. I don’t really make enough money to qualify for a loan, but if I could find one, I couldn’t afford the payments. Yes, I do know this for a fact. Like all of my other friends, I am looking at Christmas coming very quickly and I need to put every dollar aside that I can for this car. I don’t know what I will be able to offer others this year and that makes me sad.
Yet, I am grateful and know that I am blessed. I have fairly good health for a woman my age. My mind is sharp (don’t ask my close friends about that) and I am fulfilling my dream of going to school. I love going to school more than I have ever loved anything I have done and I have a 3.82 GPA so far. Most importantly, I have family and friends that I trust and know in my heart love and care about me. There were times in my life that I couldn’t say that. While I may not be able to even find the tunnel right now, maybe I dont’ have to find it. And car or no car, maybe, just maybe, I am finding another way to get to where I need to be with the help of those people in my life.
It sounded like a genetically altered, monster sized rodent trying to scratch its way through my roof in the middle of the night. I might have considered the many reasons this creature wanted to get through my roof and into my bedroom at 2:00am, but my mind was busy imagining other explanations for the noise that woke me up. Let me assure you that the noise was real. I know this for a fact because the dog barked and my daughter got out of bed to scour the outside perimeter of the house. She gave the all clear, turned out all of the outside lights and went back to bed with the instructions to “take care of the boy” (the boy is my 16 year old grandson) if anything did happen. My reply to her was, “He should take of me; after all, he has all those knives (my grandson has a collection of throwing knives).”
I headed upstairs and made a quick stop in the bathroom where I suddenly remembered that there was a fire extinguisher and rope escape ladder in the closet. I decided to grab the fire extinguisher and take it back to my bedroom. It would make a great assault weapon in case a pack of marauding villains or monster sized rodent tried to get in. I crawled back into bed and sat looking out the window. I was able to scrutinize my backyard, the neighbor’s backyard, and the adjoining golf course. After feeling somewhat satisfied that we had managed to scare away whatever caused the noise, I was able to go back to sleep.
The picture I shared on this post was one shared by a friend on facebook tagging me as the person most deserving of the comment. The people who are closest to me know a secret kept from the rest of the world- I have an incredibly overactive imagination. My friend would tell you that this is an understatement. I believe the words I have heard about my imagination include astonishing, bizarre, and unbelievable. Oh, and let’s not forget dramatic.
I have to admit there is truth in what they say. I have been this way all of my life. My imagination was my salvation as a child growing up in alcoholic and abusive homes. It helped me workout the worst case scenarios in my head in order to survive when some of those imagined ideas became reality. My therapist once told me that I needed this survival tool as a child, but that I might need to replace it with something else. Although it may be hard to believe, I am much better than I used to be. I try to follow Pooh’s advice to Piglet, “What if it doesn’t happen; which is, after all, the most likely outcome anyway.”
However, the imagination is still fully intact. This brings me to my dilemma. Why can’t I write a simple story for my fiction writing class? I have been thinking for a couple of weeks and can’t come up with a single good idea. Flying fairies, talking animals, alien invasions, cheating spouses, dysfunctional people have all been turned into great stories. I don’t know if there are any more original story lines out there. Maybe it is like American Idol when they tell the contestants to take someone else’s song and “make it their own.” I just don’t know.
I have another couple of weeks before the 5,000 plus word story has to be in a first draft form for review by the professor and my class. I know something will come to me. I just hope it comes soon. As soon as that story is revised, edited, and turned in, there is another one due. I think that perhaps I need to sit down and simply start free association writing. I can hear Dory’s voice now encouraging me, “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…”