Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coincidence or God's Perfect Timing?

Coincidence: a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection

I look for these coincidences, big or small, in my daily life. For example, if I make every green light on my way to work in the morning, I see that as a remarkable event. How did my pressing the accelerator at the right time or getting in the perfect flow of traffic result in my making all ten green lights over a 6-mile drive?

Now, I know that city planners collect data on the number of cars that travel a certain road, I know about those strips in the pavement that trigger the light, and I know that the light stays green for a certain time period. But, on the days I make every green light, I feel like I have beaten the system or I have been a witness to God’s perfect timing. I have a little celebration in my head and say a prayer of gratitude when this happens.

Recently, I experienced a wonderful example of remarkable events occuring without my doing anything to make it happen.

This coming summer, my family and I will be vacationing for three months in North Carolina. Last year, my husband and I bought a spot in a resort near Boone that is just beautiful and oh so cool. 

We, the whole family, are excited about going. We are going to several events (#1 is Taylor Swift concert), touring the Biltmore, hiking the local area and just getting to know the area and the people. 

Our place has community swimming, basketball, tennis, golf, fishing, etc., but the resort is mostly inhabited by retirees. A few children will be visiting grandparents, but for the most part, it's an older crowd. 

My week-long visits there last summer were fun, but I was also the taxi driver and the 24-hour-a-day entertainer of the children.
I was determined that things were going to be different this time. I have already contacted churches in the area to find out about vacation Bible schools and camps nearby for my 10-year-old granddaughter.

My adult son, Drew, who has Down syndrome, is a bigger problem. His whole social center is in our home town, Tallahassee. I have been searching for adult day programs and Special Olympic events happening around our summer place but wasn’t having any luck. I had emailed several long shots that I found on the internet but never got a response for anyone. I decided that I would wait until March to continue my search as I thought more summer activities would be planned during the spring.

Remarkable Event #1

Last week, I got a call from Daniel, a college junior and the leader of Drew’s local Young Life Capernaum club. Capernaum is a Christian group for people with special needs. Daniel had gotten permission from the Young Life organizers to take a Capernaum member to work as a camp counselor at a Young Life camp over the summer. He then asked if I thought Drew would be interested. He would be Drew’s coach, working alongside him and seeing to his needs. The only problem that Daniel could see was that they would have to work for an entire month.
The only hurdle was finding a Young Life camp that would fit his and Drew’s schedules. Our first choice, Windy Gap, is only 40 miles from our NC place, but no counselor spots were available.

Remarkable Event #2

I remembered that last summer my daughter had worked for a week at another camp in NC, Carolina Point, which is 90 miles from Boone. It’s a new camp and is specially designed for Capernaum groups with a zero-entry pool and other activities designed for people with various handicaps. I asked if a spot were available there.

This week, I was told that Daniel and Drew will be working at Carolina Point from mid-June until mid-July. Their job will involve taking campers to the top of the zip-line course, putting them in their harness, praying with them, sending them on their way. They will get to interact with every single camper.

When all of this worked out, I said a prayer of thanks to God for all the people who had orchestrated this. I am so very happy for both Drew and Daniel for this opportunity. It will be Drew’s first time away from family for such a long period, but it is a great way for him to become more autonomous. I’m sure we will visit him during that month, but for the most part, he will be finding his own way.

Was this a mere coincidence? Using that term makes this huge event sound trivial, and it is so much greater than simply making all of the green lights on the way to work. When all of the stars align, all of the energy flows toward one goal or outcome, all of the people working with just a little help from me -- that’s when I have to say that I have witnessed God’s perfect timing.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Inheritance: Gift or Curse?

The closer I get to the grave, the more I worry about how events will play out after I'm gone. 

Many people are like me. We are getting older,  have accumulated a little “stuff” and want to make sure it goes to the person who needs it most or who will appreciate it and care for it.

In my experience, very little goes as planned after someone dies.

When I was 22, my paternal grandmother died. I'm not sure how things went down with her children, but her will and instructions about inheritance caused a rift between my father and his siblings that was never resolved.

When my maternal grandmother died, my mom and her brother also experienced a falling-out. Although their inheritance had been gifted before my grandmother's death, they disagreed about many other events, such as the funeral and material objects.

One of my close friends was the primary caregiver of her mother, seeing to her care while she was able to live in her own home and in an assisted living facility after her mother’s dementia progressed. My friend took her mom to doctors' appointments, battled the staff at the assisted-living facility when they did something wrong and, as her mom’s power of attorney, took care of her mom’s financial necessities. When my friend's mom was close to death, she brought her mom into her home to die.

My friend's siblings won't speak to her now because they say she took advantage of their mother, mainly by spending the inheritance to pay for their mother’s care. 

In all of these three cases I have mentioned, these siblings have said extremely hurtful words to each other that can never be forgotten. They felt betrayed by the parent. They had to constantly be on guard in case the other family members were planning an attack.  Because of these events, they were not able to grieve properly.

The deceased parents thought they had planned for every eventuality. They had wills and trusts that spelled out everything that the lawyers, executors, trustees and inheritors were to do; however, they couldn't possibly plan for the emotional fall-out that occurred.

Reading about many other similar cases and seeing how these three families went through this inheritance problem, I wonder if a person can really plan for what will happen after his/her demise. It seems impossible because you are dealing with emotions as well as money and other tangible items. Lawyers and financial advisors are more than happy to help make plans, but they don’t know the family members like you do. They are also charging a hefty fee that will take money out of the inheritance.

How do I make sure that my wants are carried out? I can’t. However, I have made a will and a plan which I, like others, hope will be carried out like I wished.

One way to make sure material objects go where I want them to is to simply ask family members what they want. Each time I visited my grandmother before her death, she asked me to look around her little house and take something I wanted. I always laughed at her because I thought there was no hurry or that I would have a chance to get a picture or a piece of china later. Now, all I have from her is an electric rice cooker.

Another idea is to spend everything and leave nothing. Then the family can be mad at the deceased but not at each other.

Others leave everything to charity which sounds very noble and Oprah-ish, but I don’t see that happening in my family.

Families and inheritance are often like oil and water – never mixing but instead pulling against one another. These events are sad to watch and even sadder to be a part of. It destroys the memory of the loved one and instead makes family members concentrate on getting what they feel is their fair share.

It’s important to remember that inheritance is a gift, not a right.

My friend Will, who has been through some tough situations dealing with family and inheritance, said, “The things you receive mean nothing when the love is gone. Nothing!”


Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Gubernatorial Moments

Recently, I was honored to receive a Governor’s Shine Award from Governor of Florida, Rick Scott. The award is given to eight or nine teachers each month to recognize not only the teachers’ efforts in the classroom but also their particular subject area. January 26-30 is Literacy Week, so this month language arts and reading teachers were given the award.
had never met Governor Scott. A few times we have been in the same church service, but I’ve never been introduced until the award ceremony. Although I’m not a fan of his politics/political party, his view on education, or his cutting funding from education and the disabled population, he is still the governor; therefore, he deserves respect.
After our short meeting, I can see why he is such a successful person: he’s got charisma. According to author Kevin Daum, charismatic people "genuinely and instinctively focus their eyes, ears, and soul on your being, not theirs. They make you laugh, they make you feel heard, they make you feel special or fascinated or safe or interesting. It isn't the same feeling in every case. But people connect and stay because they are having strong, positive emotions in the presence of someone truly charismatic.” 
When Governor Scott looked at me, I felt that he was interested in only me and what I had to say. He seemed very genuine in his interest in my family and career, even commenting that he couldn’t believe I had been teaching for over three decades. I don’t think he had an earpiece with someone telling him these tidbits of information about each award recipient; he had either studied beforehand or he just has one heck of a memory. 
Regardless, I felt included and valued, which is what a person with charisma can do. 
Now I see how he can win the highest political office in the state without ever having held a political office -- ever. I understand how his corporation can be fined $600 million dollars for Medicare fraud, him plead the Fifth Amendment 75 times and then not be implicated, and afterwards go on to be elected by the majority of voters.
Thirty-eight years ago, I had my picture taken with another governor, George C. Wallace of Alabama. I was a page for the state senate and was photographed with my representative, T. Dudley Perry and Gov. Wallace. My 18-year-old self felt very honored.
grew up hearing the name Wallace associated with the governorship. Wallace had a long, if somewhat chopped-up reign as governor. He served from 1963-1967, 1971-1979 and 1983-1987. The period between ’67 and ’71, his wife was governor until her death while in office, so he was still pulling strings. After his famous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” at the University of Alabama to stop integration, he became labeled as a true segregationist. He ran for President several times and was paralyzed when an assassin shot him during a campaign stop in 1972.
How could Wallace go from being a staunch segregationist in the ‘60s to winning the African-American vote to be elected his final term? He had charisma. When I was a little girl, I went to a fish fry/political rally for Wallace, and I remember how excited my mom was to meet him. He could charm the ladies and, even with his short stature, he presented himself as a tough guy ready for the fight, which appealed to men. He was a fine orator who could hold his own at the podium. In essence, he was mesmerizing.
Is charisma all it takes to be elected to political office or to just get ahead in life? No, but it certainly is a big part of success. I have always appreciated a person who looks at me when I‘m talking to him/her and seems to feel like the words I’m saying are the most important ones ever, even if he/she has heard them a million times before. When I'm around people like this, I have to remember that just because they are charismatic doesn't mean they know what they are doing. I hope that in my thirty-eight years between governors, I can see the difference between someone who is playing to my vanity and patronizing me and someone who is truly wise. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What's in Your Time Capsule?

“According to the International Time Capsule Society at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, there are approximately 10,000 time capsules in the world. However, they also estimate that no one remembers where 9,000 of them are buried.” –

Recently, repairmen working at the Massachusetts State House in Boston discovered a time capsule originally placed in the building’s cornerstone by founding fathers Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. How exciting finding and opening that box must have been for those involved, and because of the technology we have today, millions of people were able to see the box’s contents via various media.

The box contained five folded newspapers,  23 coins, a copper medal with George Washington’s image and the words “General of the American Army,” a seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, and a silver plate with fingerprints still on it, bearing an inscription dedicating the State House cornerstone on the 20th anniversary of American independence in July 1795. Since the plate was silver, it is assumed that famous silversmith Revere made it.

The Paul Revere/Samuel Adams time capsule and its contents

Time capsules are fascinating because they are actual artifacts left for future people to discover. Finding one makes a person feel like a true archaeologist. 

These memory containers are scattered throughout the world, and I understand why so many are lost. I can't remember where to find my shoes from day to day. 

It’s interesting to see what people think is worthy of being placed in one. Most of the time, the contents are items that represent that particular location and events. Usually there’s a newspaper, photos, medals, coins, etc., but I found several stories about strange items in several capsules.

For example, the National Millennium Time Capsule in Washington, D.C., buried in 2000 and scheduled to be opened in 2100, actually contains a Hostess Twinkie. In 2007, the people of Tulsa, Oklahoma unearthed a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere with only 7 miles on its odometer. 

A 1957 Plymouth Belvedere like the one placed in the Tulsa time capsule.

The car was placed there, along with a gallon of gas and some Schlitz beer, to be opened in 50 years and awarded to the person or his descendants who correctly guessed the population of Tulsa in 2007. 

Workers unearthing the Tulsa Belvedere

Here’s the story of the outcome of that time capsule: Tulsa Time (not the song by Don Williams)

The Time Capsule Company sells mini time capsules to be filled on a wedding day or on the day of a baby’s birth. The prices range from $20 to $70 for the product. They also offer ideas for items to be placed in time capsules which include:

I'm sure there are events I have lived through worth remembering. At least, wouldn’t they be exciting to some unknown entity 100 years from now? So what would I put into a time capsule to be opened in the future? I tried to think of items that would not only represent me but society as well and found it very difficult. I asked some of my students, and their first response was “My phone!” I’m not surprised at that suggestion.

Here’s my list of several worthy items that I would include:

A high school yearbook: I know books are on the way out with all the advanced technology and that digital cameras make seeing pictures of your friends all too easy; however, I think school yearbooks are here forever. Maybe I’m prejudiced because I was a yearbook sponsor for 33 years, but I have seen various forms of technology come and go, but that book has stayed. A yearbook can show people in the future what our youth was like as well as fashion, trends, sites and events of the day.

A K-cup: To me, this little coffee pod is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Is it because I was the official coffee maker in my house for my adult life and got sick of cleaning the pot and preparing the coffee for the next day? Probably, but I love the perfect cup of coffee the K-cup makes every time and with such ease.

A “selfie”: What better way to capture the huge egos of today? With Snap Chat, texting, Instagram and Facebook, we can show our faces in front of many fascinating backdrops/scenes.

A selfie taken at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina

A collection of great albums: My choices would be Beyonce (always my #1), Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Norah Jones.

 A bottle of cheap wine: I don’t drink, but I’d bet that even a cheap bottle today would be worth a lot of money if it were 100 years old.

It’s fun to consider what is important enough to share with future generations. Paul Revere and Samuel Adams thought their items were worthy. Maybe the people in charge of their time capsule will throw in a bottle of Sam Adams beer when they replace it in the Massachusetts State House. That would really confuse future finders.

What would you put in a time capsule?

Friday, January 2, 2015

What are you going to DO?

After hearing about my upcoming retirement, people often ask, “What are you going to do when you retire?”

It took me a while to come to the decision to do nothing for a year. I think it’ll take me that long to get used to a new routine of not having to go to work. After that year, I’ll just see what presents itself.

I’ll be only 57 this year, so everyone assumes that I’ll go back to work until that magic age of 62 when I can start collecting my social security. Having only half of my regular paycheck beginning July 1 makes me think I’ll have to get another job at some point. I’m just not sure I want to teach anymore. After 34 ½ years, I’m wondering if teaching was the best choice of a career for me.

Why did I become a teacher? I admired all the teachers I had and wanted to have that type of respect. I’m a pretty funny person and having that captive audience was a good incentive to teach, too.

When I was in high school, I took one of those interest inventory tests which said I’d be a good funeral home worker. Sometimes when I’m delivering the lecture of my life and look out at my students with their heads on their desks or a zoned-out look in their eyes, I think that’s actually what I am doing.

I now have the opportunity to find another career path. Since I’m older and hopefully wiser, I have made a list of criteria I want in a dream job.

1.  Go to work around 9:00 a.m. and get off at 2:30 p.m. No more going to work in the dark! I’d also need an hour for lunch so I could calmly eat a meal while discussing important world events with my very intelligent co-workers.

2.  Leave work at work. Don’t bring home anything from the office to do at home, not even checking work email.  Now that we can access our work-world via the cloud 24/7, more and more work will be done at home. Work stress becomes home stress which then becomes work stress.  Many people love working from home as in virtual teaching or being a virtual assistant and that might work for me. However, I need to be around people. I can’t see being at home all day, cleaning and cooking for my family, as a thrilling job. I know it works for many people, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for it.

3.  Wear a uniform. Honestly, when I look at jobs I might want after I retire, I look to see the dress code.  I’d love to wear scrubs, especially now that they come in such nice patterns and colors. At a local hospital, the clerical staff is required to wear a uniform of gray pants, vest, skirt, jacket with a nice light blue blouse. That’s it. Every day. I can’t imagine having to make no decision about what to wear.

4.  There would be an actual break in the schedule for you to go to the bathroom, get a sip of water or take a walk around the building to clear your head.

5.  The boss has everything planned out for you so you don’t have to invent plans. However, if you come up with something great that would benefit all, the boss would gladly listen and share your plan with others to see if it’s feasible. In short, the boss would be a leader who sincerely listens to his employees.

I know that I’ll never find a job that will give me all of these options, but I said earlier that it is a dream job, right? If I truly find myself needing to go to work again, I’ll take just about any job where I can use what I have learned over the years. 

At my age, I decided that I will never work for a company/boss who doesn’t respect and do its/his best for the employees or clientele. I have often told my friends that I hope I am never so desperate that I have to work for Comcast because of the terrible experiences I have had with that company. It turns out that I am not alone according to a recent piece at Huffington Post.

Most Hated Companies in America -- Time Warner and Comcast

As far as a future job is concerned, I'll just have to wait and see what comes. For the next year, however, you'll find me here:

or here:

Right now, I'm tempted to find a job like Kevin Spacey did after quitting his long-time, well-paying job in American Beauty:

What is your dream job?