Monday, February 24, 2020

A Voice That Yearned to Be Heard

A Voice that Yearned to Be Heard
Laurie Fowler

My dad loved words and loved language and loved reading and loved storytelling. His dream was to be a college professor, but his life took a turn when he found the exciting world of newspapering. “They pay me to read the paper,“ he boasted, after securing a copy editor’s position.

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

My dad moved on from being a copy editor to a reporter to managing editor to editor and publisher to vice president of a publishing company. However, he would always wait until the deadline loomed to finish his writing because being pushed to finish and being pushed to be a better writer was a part of him that couldn’t be undone.

 His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

With a passion for life, community, and justice, my dad chose precise words, constructed lyrical sentences, and wrote eloquent paragraphs that became stories, columns, and editorials.

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

My dad was a man who wrote his opinion in editorial pages when it wasn’t popular-- about the death penalty, government corruption at the local and state level, why he was a yellow dog democrat in a very red state. 

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

My dad stood up for what was right even if it cost him a job, or made him unpopular, or made him vulnerable. His was a voice for the downtrodden or wronged.

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

My dad’s columns were love letters to his family. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, really family celebrations of all kinds were his subject matter and we were his characters.  His insightful words told stories of our family’s triumphs and challenges focusing on what really mattered.

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

My dad had a great American novel in his brain, but his lungs gave out too quickly for him to write it. The world is less vibrant without the stories he had to tell. 

His was a voice that yearned to be heard.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Teaching is hard work

What works? Economics teachers who talk about seasonal employment give examples of Christmas retail and Christmas tree lots; this real world connection makes economics real to students. World History teachers connect current events to the history of trade in Africa.  Where are the new markets for the US and China? Africa and Asia are the most open territories.  U.S. History and Government teachers discuss impeachment either in terms of Jackson and Clinton or in terms of the current push for Trump’s impeachment.

What doesn’t work? Speed discussing topic that the kids have no connection to, learning a difficult topic independently on devices with no teaching preceding it, or showing a video on Jane Addams and Hull House when kids don’t know what social work or social problems of that time period are.   Maybe reviewing with Jeopardy! is great for some kids, but there are definitely students not paying one bit of attention to the game or the questions.

Teaching is hard work and apparently some teachers have forgotten that.  Teaching is hard work because everyone who has attended school thinks they know how to do it.  Teaching is hard work because kids have tons of ways to ignore the teachers. Teaching is hard work because kids have trouble reading. Teaching is hard work because parents expect all kids to make straight As.  Teaching is hard work because class sizes are big and classrooms are small. Teaching is hard work because standardized tests have created data monsters in the central office and in the state legislature. Teaching is hard work because challenging kids and creating thinkers is a daunting task.  Teaching is hard work because good lessons require lots of preparation. Teaching is hard work because making a difference is not an easy endeavor. Teaching is hard work because teachers have forgotten that kids need the human factor more than technology or the newest textbooks or the latest curriculum.  

Teachers have the most incredible opportunity to reach kids in so many ways. They can make connections to current events, pop culture, and other classes.  Teachers who are excited about their content have students who are engaged and interested in their content area. I can think of many teachers I have had the privilege to know.  They care about their subject matter and about their students and it shows.  Note to teachers—teaching is hard work if you do it right. You make a difference and you matter to the future generation. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Approaching Advent

Advent season in the Episcopal Church is one that always has challenges for me.  I was raised Baptist so the idea of Advent was one that I first encountered in college.  The idea of watching and waiting during the excitement of the Christmas season was not one that I was familiar with. Also, I am not sure I had ever heard any advent carols except for O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

I am not very good at watching and waiting as anyone who knows me would tell you.  I am a doer not a thinker.  I can make lists and check them twice, no problem; slowing down in a usually busy season took a little getting used to. 

Over the past 30 odd years, I have learned to appreciate Advent. I know more than one carol.  I adore the Advent wreath. I now “get” Lessons and Carols. I love that the new year in the Episcopal Church calendar begins at Advent.  I love even more that North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia, also observes Advent. The service on Sunday, December 8, gave me such a sense of peace and focus.

The nine lessons presented evoked many different feelings during the service last Sunday. I managed to put some of those feelings into words even though they still seem inadequate.

·         Wonder at hearing the story of how we get to Christmas

·         Cheer as I found myself smiling as the kids sang their solos
·         Delight at seeing the procession of the advent flags that symbolized each of the readings
·         Joy in hearing the songs that make me feel like it is Advent season
·         Comfort in sinking into the familiar rhythm of Lessons and Carols
·         Enthusiasm at singing selected carols along with the choir
·         Gladness that North Broad Baptist Church is an open, accepting place for people of God
·         Elation at singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing at the end of the service
·         Rejoicing that Christmas was now “real” for me

Thanks be to God! The baby boy is on his way. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The perfect computer travel bag

Each August as teachers are preparing their classrooms and buying school supplies, I am on the prowl for the perfect travel computer bag for my busiest work season. By looking at my online order history, one can see that this is a quest that I have been on for a while. Being a true travel nerd for six years, I have specific requirements for the perfect computer bag.  It should be colorful, lightweight, multi-pocketed, and sturdy. It should hold a computer, iPad, charging cables, a Diet Coke, and snacks; an easy access pocket for boarding passes, headphones, and my phone are also important.  These are not impossible characteristics to locate in travel bags because I can search Amazon, Google Marketplace, and eBags to try and find the perfect fit.  Alas, I am still in search of the perfect bag after trying several possibilities.

First up is  the basic businessman black rolling bag.  It is functional as it holds my computer as well as my other electronics and handouts for the training; however, even with the convenience of the wheels, it is not attractive. I have also misplaced many a charger for my computer and my phone because I forget about that one awesome pocket where it made so much sense to put those things when I was boarding my plane.  A day later when I am unpacking, I have totally forgotten the existence of that very special pocket and thus cannot find those chargers.

So I moved on to a vibrantly colored Vera Bradley for January through August or the Alabama patterned one for football season. These shoulder totes are so roomy they can hold everything and the kitchen sink. This, however, is a problem because I then pack TOO much into this bag that I will be carrying on my right shoulder.  No matter how many times I try to remind myself to pack lighter and to alternate shoulders, this option causes shoulder and back pain. In addition, without internal pockets to corral things I often find myself rooting around in my pocketbook like my great-grandmother used to do when she was looking for a Kleenex—not a pretty sight!  In this kind of bag, I also usually end my trip by finding a smashed granola bar, a bruised apple, and a leaky water bottle at the bottom.

Next, I chose a bright red backpack with wheels that seemed to fit my specifications.  Brightly colored, lots of pockets, and wheels were wonderful, but the internal frame made it impossible to put in the overhead bins of the teeny tiny regional jets I often take to get to smaller towns.  Having to grab my computer, phone, meds, and chargers as I am walking and trying to board a plane got very old very quickly. So nope, this alternative didn’t work either and was soon abandoned.

At the moment, I am using a hip Manhattan Portage bag in bright red recommended by my much cooler brother, Lee. He had one that I admired and he gave me the info for ordering my own; however, my brother has much less to carry when he travels.  The bag has many advantageous features. It has lots of pockets that are very convenient; it has a padded laptop sleeve; it can convert from a back pack to a messenger bag.  But, it also is so durable that I can pack six books, an umbrella, a sweater, snacks, magazines, and a crossword puzzle book so it gets cumbersome in a hurry.

Never one to give up on a quest, I have recently ordered a new smaller shoulder back that will hold my new work computer, some handouts, and my mini iPad.  Let’s see if this bag is a finalist for the best travel computer bag or if I will revert to a previous choice or continue looking for the perfect bag.  My hopes are high and I am ever optimistic that THIS will be the perfect bag.  What do you look for in a travel bag? I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Not Ready Yet

Not ready yet

I'm still not ready to not have my daddy. It's been five years and I miss him still and I guess I always will.I miss him on big holidays and events like Father’s Day, but it’s the little things that bring tears to my eyes, that make me catch a ragged breath, that make me miss him even more.
  • ·         Seeing tables of books with the sign FATHER’S DAY BOOKS and wondering, has Dad has already read that?
  • ·         Hearing Faded Love by Patsy Cline, or On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, or Have Mercy by The Judds and wondering if Dad’s voice is now in tune as he sings in heaven.
  • ·         Gazing at the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird and still wondering if he saw the book and read it on his own or if he had an English teacher who assigned it to a class of white high school freshmen in Rome, Georgia, in 1960.
  • ·         Noticing that he was reading a new book almost every day from hardback bestsellers to paperback spy novels from the grocery store and wondering if he, too, is waiting excitedly for the next Daniel Silva novel to come out in July.
  • ·         Hearing someone order a coffee with two sugars makes me anticipate his voice following up the order with I’d appreciate it and wondering if I will ever learn to drink “real”, not candy bar (Dad’s reference to the fancy stuff at Starbucks) coffee.
  • ·         Understanding in so many more ways, now that I am fifty, what life is not fair truly means and wondering if Dad felt that it was not fair that his life was cut short before he got to do all he wanted here on earth.

I have so much more discuss with my dad.  This is a partial list. I am sure I will think of other things as I live and work and travel this year.
  • ·         The good things and bad things I have been going through.
  • ·         The books I'm reading and which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t
  • ·         The books he’s reading and what he would recommend or let me borrow
  • ·         All the people I meet while traveling and the funny things I see and hear. I know he would get my silly, punny sense of humor.
  • ·         The many places I’ve been since I last saw him and all the adventures I have been on with friends, family, and on my own.
  • ·         Lord have mercy, the Trump presidency would be a very interesting topic
  • ·         EFM and all that it meant to me.
  • ·         My trip to Israel and all the amazing places I visited
  • ·         Trying out for Jeopardy again with the online test.
 I know I am blessed to have so many wonderful memories of my Dad. He was a man with integrity in his professional life and he lived and loved to the fullest in his personal life.  He was always my champion and my best editor. I miss you, Dad, today and always.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Walking with Gospel Music and Waterfowl

Sitting around all day with nothing to do is for some a dream come true.  Students finishing high school or college and people counting down the days to retirement look forward to days of freedom; however, for me working from home when I am supposed to be out in schools working is a bit depressing. 

I was heading toward depression even though I have good medication for that. Yes, I have been catching up on emails and some easy work stuff.  Yes, I have been on a Netflix binge. Yes, I have been reading for fun. Yes, I am bored.

As a remedy to this boredom, I got up yesterday and went for a walk around Garden Lakes park.  It was a beautiful morning—the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, the breeze was ruffling the leaves.  

I plugged in my headphones and chose the Gaither Gospel Homecoming album and set off on my walk. Gospel songs are reminders of my grandparents, Grannie and Papaw. Songs like How Great Thou Art, I Surrender All, It Is Well with My Soul, Sweet Beulah Land, and When the Roll is Called Up Yonder put a spring in my step.  I was reminded of not only my grandparents’ love for me, but God’s, too.  I am in a dark place at present going through some tough personal things.  But these songs buoyed my spirit and I was able to open my eyes to God’s creation all around me.

I observed the native waterfowl and their springtime behavior.  I was surprised that there were a bunch of species represented in this little lake in northwest Georgia—mallards, big white ducks, Canadian geese, and even a heron.  I noticed the birds paddle with their feet concealed under their bodies and then drag their feet behind them to steer themselves. I was amused when I saw a Canada goose land on the water, and he looked like he was water-skiing.  I loved the diving duck with his butt in the air looking for food under the water. And finally, I saw that a mama duck is just as protective of her ducklings as a human mama. 

So my friend’s suggestion to get out in the sunshine and walk was good advice. I walked almost two miles, saw the beauty of God’s creation, and remembered who I am and whose I am.  The dark times will pass and there is something better waiting on the other side. Thanks to gospel music and waterfowl for helping me remember that.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Real Meaning of Community

I am staying with my Aunt Jenny in Rome on and off for the next few months.  Jenny who is a member at North Broad Baptist Church was volunteering at their quarterly Community Brunch Saturday morning. So because I have a passion for feeding hungry people, I tagged along.

We arrived at 8:00 to a kitchen full of people bustling about making a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, grits, and biscuits.  Because it was the Saturday after Easter and other reasons, the number of volunteers was expected to be low; however, I am sure Julie (the Community Brunch liason)  and MIcah (the pastor) and many others must have done some mighty praying since over 35 joyful volunteers showed up to feed God’s people.

The Community Brunch is a true chance for people to give and receive God’s wonderful hospitality.  Our guests were escorted down the elevator to Rutland Hall for a breakfast feast.There, we directed them to choose a place at  one of the twelve decorated and inviting tables waiting for them.  Greeting them with smiles, the volunteers took drink orders and followed by food orders and brought everything to the guests.  All the fixins a person might want or need were on the tables--jelly, sugar, pink stuff, yellow stuff, salt, pepper, syrup, butter, and napkins. We brought them coffee, water, milk, and orange juice. We noticed that the grown ups were giving the kids the orange juice and said you can have some, too. In their world, orange juice is a luxury and they were willing to give that luxury to the children.

We wanted our community guests to feel welcome and well taken care of. We wanted them to find a place where they were accepted and where they could sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with their friends.  We wanted them to feel like dignified human beings. And I believe they did.

Some of my other noticings included--

If we asked how someone was, they always said blessed or glad to be here or happy to see us.

Our guests waited patiently in line to get into the breakfast and then went back to wait in line for seconds. Those patient people were truly hungry both for food and human contact.

Our guests were patient and sat socializing and drinking coffee to wait for 11:00 for go plates to be distributed. Many of them were taking plates to friends and family who were unable to attend because of illness or disability; however, our guests who didn’t have much themselves made sure that other members of the community could also share in the bounty.

The addressed me as Miss Laurie, which at first made me uncomfortable, but later I realized they were being respectful in their own way.

I saw that many of our guests had on layers of clothes including coats on this late April Saturday in Georgia because all they had was what they wore and what was in their backpacks.

I saw people taking care of friends and family with mental and physical disabilities with a tender touch.

I saw a gentleman collect the uneaten pancakes and biscuits from his table mates and wrap them in a napkin for later. I wondered just how hungry he was.

Everyone we served from the oldest to the youngest said please and thank you.

We were all one community celebrating God’s love at a meal.

Sharing a meal with others is one of the holiest ways to show God’s love and hospitality.

Their faces lit up when we got refills of the drinks. They enjoyed sitting at tables with other people they knew. They enjoyed holding each others’ kids so the parents could eat.  They enjoyed the food. They enjoyed the fellowship. They enjoyed being in a loving environment as a child of God.

Our faces lit up when we got refills of the drinks. We enjoyed sitting at tables meeting new people. We enjoyed holding the kids so the parents could eat.  We enjoyed the food. We enjoyed the fellowship. We enjoyed being in a loving environment as a child of God.

By the end of the two hours, as you can tell from the paragraphs above, we and they were now one--one community of North Rome, one community of love and friendship, community of God’s beloved people.