Pieces of My Culture

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A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

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We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad, much to my shame and regret.

Music is a big component of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”. My first concerts were the Dooobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. I never learned to play a musical instrument, but from the time I got my first transistor radio music has been a part of my life.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Casseroles are the preface and postlude of every funeral; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting.

In reflecting on the elements that shaped me, I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.

 

(originally posted Dec. 2015)

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Adventures in Subbing #1

pixabay

pixabay

I am in my fourth year of substitute teaching here in Alabama and I’ve come to look at it as more than just a job. When  I was a full-time teacher, I had so much on my plate and so much on my mind that many days I was too exhausted to think much past the next set of papers I had to grade. Now I’m looking at things from a little different perspective.

Some days I just sit and don’t do much more than take roll and pass out an assignment. Other days might be jammed packed with instruction and discipline. The variety is usually enjoyable. I have learned to be an observer and I try to make connections with students when I can.

From time to time I’ll be sharing my thoughts, observances, and tidbits from the classroom.

“A circle was ugly without you.” -from Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

 

Being on the outside of a circle, looking in, is a lonely place to be. I’ve felt that way over the years, but fortunately not too often. It hurts, no matter how old you are. But, the middle school years are the hardest. If you aren’t in a circle, your outsideness really shows.

One day I saw a pretty young girl sitting all alone in a room full of kids who were talking to each other and laughing while they sat together. I didn’t know her or her story, but I wondered. Did she choose to sit alone? Did she just not have a friend in this particular class, but when the bell rang would she meet up with her BFF as she headed for her next class? I sure hoped so. That’s what I wished for. I wish everyone had a BFF waiting somewhere for them. A person who was interested, a person who cared. But, I know that isn’t always the case. So, all the more reason to be kind. And to remember how ugly that circle can be when you are on the outside.

(edited/reprinted from April, 2016)

Netflix/Amazon Summer

 

 

The summer is gone and along with it a lot of my free time for movie watching.  But, I did get some viewing in and here are some of my brief reviews.

 
A Girl Like Her ( PG-13)       

I’m not sure why I picked this one, but I think it is one that  could and should be shown in  middle schools. It is a much more realistic portrayal of bullying, girl style, than movies such as Mean Girls. You may actually end up with some sympathy for the bully, like I did.     

 

 

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)    

 I just enjoyed this romance, as much for the the lovely clothing as the sweet story line. It also gives a beautiful view of Rome.     

 

The Great Gilly Hopkins (PG)    

In view of becoming  a foster parent, I wanted to watch this movie. (We are now offically approved foster parents.) I also have great respect for Katherine Paterson, who wrote the book and has a bit part in the movie. There were a few plot points that needed to be fleshed out, but overall it was good and it did move me to a few tears.  

 

 

That Sugar Film

This documentary will make you really rethink how you look at sugar, unless you already have given it up.

 

 

Paper Man

My husband stumbled on this and it was a hit with me! “A washed-up writer forms an unlikely friendship with a teenager from Long Island.” It stars Jeff Daniels and Emma Stone.

 

 

Almost Famous 

Another movie  dealing with a writer, but oh so much more. And I sit here wondering, how did a kid in 1973 gets offered $35 for his first article and here in Alabama in 2015, it was all I could do to wheedle $25 out of the editor of a local magazine for my articles, pictures included?

 

 

Mothers and Daughters

Watched this at an emotional time. I cried .

 

Now, between teaching, fostering, and hurricanes, I haven’t had as much time for movies. I did, however, see May It Last, the Avett Brothers’ documentary, at the local theatre. That’s deserves another post all on its own.

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Charlottesville and Beyond

I don’t watch much news. When I see something on twitter, I look up what’s happening in the world. Is that the best way to be alert? Probably not, but that’s me right now.

So I totally missed the goings-on in Charlottesville. But, facebook to the rescue. After being told what I, as a white woman, should be doing, I had to first read about what was going on. I read up and am appalled and sad. I in no way agree with what these protesters were doing. If I was a person who was in the right place at the right time, I would have been on the side of the counter protesters.

I wasn’t there. I was just returned from a trip visiting relatives in Florida. While there, my mother-in-law had emergency surgery and her life is hanging in the balance. I saw my grandkids off to their first days of pre-k and second grade. These children have friends who are “brown”. They do not seem to notice a difference; they never refer to their friends except by name unless they are asked to describe them.

I read this from a well meaning person I respect: “For all my white friends in different parts of the country, we must continue to chip away at the bedrock of this hatred in every conversation we take part in, and every action we take.” I understand his concern, but why must I do this in every conversation I have?

Michael Eric Dyson wrote this in The New York Times: “Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents.”

I am speaking out now, but not because I love America, though I do like it an awful lot and I’m grateful to be one of its citizens. I’m speaking out because I love Christ. I strive to follow him in all I do including the way I treat everyone on a daily basis. I believe that in the Bible God has given instruction on how to live. Do I follow His instructions every day? No. Do I bend over backwards to consider the needs of others? No, not nearly enough. I do strive toward this end; I am learning more everyday what it means to serve others and to love my enemies.

I may not chip away at this hatred in every spoken conversation. I may be hanging out in a hospital waiting room, meeting my grandchildren’s friends, or hugging students when I substitute teach. An older, Middle English definition of conversation meant behavior or manner of living. This is the conversation with which I hope to chip away at hatred.

But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation    –   I Peter 1:15

 

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BFFs

I Can’t Even With You

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Today’s PAD Challenge was to choose a well known phrase as a title. Here goes!

I Can’t Even With You

This poem will be a bit facetious
A bit about aposiopesis
It use to be all about that bass
But now that woofer’s been replaced

I can’t even with you
I don’t even have a clue
I’m just shakin’ my head
I’ll just odd with you instead

When she’s using aposiopesis
Seems to me to be a little specious
On those days she can’t even with you
It sounds like a false hullabaloo

I can’t even with you
I don’t even have a clue
Maybe you should just go girl
Maybe just give it a whirl

Cessation of brain activity
Makes for a little festivity
When she tells me I can’t even
It’s not something I believe in

I can’t even with you
I don’t even have a clue
I’m just shakin’ my head
Let’s just leave it unsaid

Simple Bounty

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Bounty is good things that are given or provided freely and in large amounts, according to Merriam-Webster. When I think of the word bounty, I think of bountiful, a word often heard around Thanksgiving. Sometimes I think we forget what a bountiful amount of possessions we have. And what an abundance of blessings.

I don’t want to go all Green Acres or anything, but I really have felt the need for simplicity lately. Kim John Payne , author of Simplicity Parenting, describes the four pillars of excess as having too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed.

I experience at least three of the four pillars of excess on a weekly basis. Just one trip to Target puts me face-to-face with too much stuff and too many choices.

I can’t seem to totally transform my closet into a model of a capsule wardrobe, so I still battle with too many choices there, also. I love the idea of narrowing down my apparel to a selection of 37 fabulous pieces. But there are problems. Like, when you plan to wear the white top but your only clean undergarment is dark blue. Then there are all your sleeveless dresses that require a little sweater – for protection when the indoors feels like winter and to hide your flapping upper arms. I know it’s doable, it just takes time to get simplified.

Too much information is a sneaky excess. It assaults me every time I open my laptop. Ten Ways to….How to Do Whatever in Six Easy Steps… The Best…Wait Until You See What They Look Like Now… If I google a word, I will get a definition, the book, the movie, and the urban slang option.

One pillar of excess that I don’t really have to deal with is speed, except when I’m running really late. I do not jog. I love my slow cooker. I slowly savor my peanut M & Ms.

What I think I’m learning is that to really appreciate the bounty of blessings, I need to sort through the abundance of excesses in my life. The busyness of life can be like blinders, keeping us from seeing what is really around us. It may sound like a paradox, but paring down can actually increase the bounty of your life.

Worldview

by Jonathan Pie

By Jonathan Pie

 

“It is our way of looking at life, our interpretation of the universe, our orientation to reality. “ – from Christian Worldview – A Student’s Guide by Philip Graham Ryken

Whenever we bump into the world, our worldview has a way of spilling out. It comes out in what we think and love, say and do, praise and choose. – from Christian Worldview – A Student’s Guide by Philip Graham Ryken

Read that again and let it sink in. … what we think and love….praise and choose… . Much of what I think no one will ever know. But I will, and I must live with it. What I love? I’m afraid what I really love shows in what I write about and talk about. My love for Christ often fades into the background, and that is truly telling. And shaming. My worldview shows in what I choose to do with my time.

I’m beginning to think my worldview needs a little adjustment.