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Monday, September 15, 2014

She's going up the ladder, I'm coming down. Or did I ever go?

During her summer visit my oldest granddaughter (a senior this year) told me that she didn't know what she wanted to be or do with her life. I answered "I don't either, isn't it exciting?"
As my mind skimmed through the plethora of occupations I've had over 4 decades, I briefly considered not giving ANY advice.

Bean picker: Had a darn good tan that summer.
Red & White cashier: Worked here about one year, ran away from home.
Waffle House: Two days, poured coffee on jerk and quit.
Manager at horse ranch tour farm in Florida: Two years, that was a fun job.
Carnie: For one night, on a hitchhiking trip down the Florida panhandle,  let me tell you when the Ferris Wheel turns off, get the hell out of there.
Tomato picker: One day, I was slow... can't remember if I quit or they fired me.
Shrimp boat mate: 3 years, my favorite job ever.
Wal Mart Inventory Receiving: About 1 year, manager was a biatch until she found Jesus, after I left…naturally.
Check printing factory: 6 monotonous months, I think I fell asleep while standing.
Sewing room: 6 monotonous months as well, put a needle through my thumb.
Country store clerk: Loved this little store, until a crack head robbed and tried to kidnap and kill me.
Waitress: 6 years, customers, management and co-workers. Still do!
Restaurant manager: Same restaurant, new location. Loved these people here too!
Herb shop owner: Second favorite career, unfortunately I was 15 years ahead of the alternative lifestyle curve.
Self employed start up answering service: Had 6 line switchboard. Before mobile phones. Too tied down.
Secretary auto brokerage: They went bankrupt and tried to tell me there was no money to pay me, I started packing their office equipment, they found money to pay me.
Group Home Hab/Tech. Job was great, pay and management not so great.
Artist: Floor cloth painting, love this. Starving artist.
Residential Paint Contractor: NC, economy wiped us out.
RSFH Mt.P: Food & Nutrition: I worked with some of the best people to this day I have ever met.
Starbucks barista: You can teach an old dog new tricks. 87,000 variations to be exact.
Residential Paint Contractor: I enjoy the cabinet painting, the paperwork gives me a reason to drink.
Artist: When I want to be.
Writer: Eternally.

Why all the jobs? Work really wasn't that important, living was. A good friend and employer had  a term for my malady. "Damn gypsies." he'd spout. Note: This philosophy does not a pretty retirement portfolio make. I may be living in a van by the river in the end, and actually, that may suit me fine. Although I may have walked a crooked mile with a crooked stick, I’ve seen a lot, met a lot of wonderful people and had phenomenal experiences.
So what do I wish for my granddaughter's career? Considering my own illustrious list above, should I even give her advice??  Let's see, what are some of the old standby's....

  • I just want you to be —Happy? Nope happy is overrated.  
  • Content? Well...sometimes. 
  • Adaptable?  No, too flighty and non-committal. 
  • Everyone starts at the bottom and works their way up. Uggh. I hate frig magnet philosophy.
  • You have to start somewhere...hmmm. I kind of like the last one, but let's just re-define somewhere.

So, I told her "You have to start somewhere, but don't let other’s expectations of age, sex or life circumstances define your starting point. If you feel like you have the capabilities to do better and KNOW that you CAN do it, bypass the protocol and start on the rung a little further up the ladder. Be true to yourself and aware that this is YOUR path and YOUR time spent sojourning here."
I was elated about a month later to get a text from Abby. “Grandma, I applied for a job at the veterinarians office nearby. They didn’t have a sign up or advertise. But, I knew that I would like to do this, so I went and asked them if they needed help. I start next week.”
Ummmm…proud grandma, mopping keyboard here.  
Advice is a tricky thing. But, I don't think a good lick of confidence and individuality ever hurt anyone. Plus, I'm grandma...I'll catch you IF you fall.
Now, about me? What do I want to be/do when I grow up?  Let me get out that kaleidoscope and look through it again.

She's Going Up The Ladder, I'm Coming Down | | Bold. Smart. Local. Now. | Charleston, SC

She's Going Up The Ladder, I'm Coming Down | | Bold. Smart. Local. Now. | Charleston, SC

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hope Floats, Mt. Pleasant's First Families

I like graveyards. It's not like a morbid fascination, I just enjoy the stories they tell. Bravery, loss, love, hate, unity, respect, reverence and yes — sometimes a chuckle. It is even more fascinating when you can walk these sacred grounds with people who share their stories, put a face - an event to the etched names and dates.
Sharing, what an underrated commodity! Share — the first images I conjure are of generosity — the giving of money, goods or food. Almost as an afterthought I include knowledge and experience.  But, I think it's by far one of the most unselfish and valuable gifts we can give each other. I am richly blessed to have beautiful souls all around me that share their knowledge freely, enabling me to see and understand my world much deeper. Sometimes just making time and closing my mouth will create such an event. Such is the case on a recent jaunt with low-country historian Suzannah Smith Miles. What started out as lunch at See Wee Restaurant on Hwy 17 North concluded with this fascinating history lesson lying dormant a mere 500 feet behind the restaurant.
The sun spun fleeting shadows over the 325 year old grounds of the Wappetaw Meeting House burial site. If it had not been for Suzannah, the grave stones and serene landscape—albeit fascinating, would have only vaguely intrigued me as a passerby. I’d  have never known the history this 1 ½ acre plot holds — The intolerance of another shore, a shipwreck, kindness and true naturalization that led this group of people to mold and meld into our community.
Suzannah explains "Wappetaw Meeting House was settled in the 1690s by the original FFMP (First Families of Mt. Pleasant) who came from Essex County, Massachusetts. This was group of 52 who came from Salem, Ipswich and Boston. Some of their names you'll easily recognize (like Whilden and White) and another is very well known , Legare - who was a silversmith in Boston before he came south with the Wappetaw group. They were basically Puritans-cum-Congregationalists and one of the reasons they came South was the aftermath of the Salem witch trials. Interesting stuff. The churchyard is beautifully cared for now by the New Wappetaw congregation, the church that was built in McClellanville to replace this one in the late 1800's."
Suzannah pointed out that the gravestones that remain are smatterings of what was. The faintly inscribed dates and names reflect time periods of a mere 150 years. The first 175 years of the grounds are re-claimed by the earth now. Worms have since rotted wooden bell towers and crosses, fire and war have consumed structures, hurricane and elements crumbled the earthenware crypts leaving once beloved remains as tomb-less grass covered mounds that rise and fall across the terra firma.
The events of that walk through the graveyard lingered in my mind most of my evening. I thought of these settlers —what they must have felt when they trudged the surf to our shores from their shipwrecked vessel, how they were comforted, clothed, fed and accepted by the Quaker Governor Archdale (for whom Archdale St. downtown is named) and given this land to settle.
Suzannah explained "Before this group of 52 settlers arrived in the 1690's, there was no community at Wappetaw. There were however, Huguenots and Quakers in Charleston and other parts of the low country, also Congregationalists and Anabaptists and Jews. They made up about 50% of the population; the other 50% (generally) were Church of England (Anglican). Carolina had THE most favorable laws concerning freedom of religion than any place in the colonies. Those laws, called the Fundamental Constitutions, were written by the humanist John Locke and were later used when writing the Declaration of Independence."
I can't help but wonder how such a tolerant diversified group of peace loving people ever embraced the hell of slavery? Maybe tolerance is a curse as well?
Anyway back to this group that settled the grounds we walk today in East Cooper. These 52 shipwrecked Congregationalist escaped hatred and embraced acceptance. They thrived, molded, loved and lost here among-st our first settlers, they fought our battles and died here. Are our communities practicing the same today?  I ask myself. Do we welcome and nurture other cultures? Do we embrace difference? Of course I can point to instances where some cling to prejudice and lance the wounds of hatred and past injustices lest they forget. But more so  — I look to and am inspired by the generosity of the low country as a whole to work together unified to keep alive the spirit of oneness and community. I am so grateful for this venue, Moultrie News —which has enabled me to meet wonderful teachers, drink in fascination their knowledge and lastly - offer me the same opportunity to share freely.
I was able to get a sneak preview of a new map that Suzannah is creating. It is part of a program she's working on with the East Cooper Land Trust called "Mapping East Cooper History." Suzannah explains  "The point is to let people know that where they are living was likely a productive plantation at one time.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Priest Walks Into A Bar.....A book review of The Beer Drinker's Guide to God

A priest walks into a bar — Walks up to the register, counts the till and turns the open sign on. So what's the punch line? There's not one. You are at Padre's in Texas and if Father William Miller is in town you just might find him doing any of the above including pouring and toasting stouts with his compadre's.
What you ask. A priest that owns a bar? Oh yes, but Episcopalian priest Father William Miller's heavenly spirit (insert cloud opening revelation music here) and earthly spirit's (better than Budweiser) filled life is so much more. We SHALL conclude that the bar was a logical business venture that stemmed from his calling to test the spirits of goodness. And we SHALL call his transparent book The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God a blessing that naturally ensued. His name is not just a signature on the joint venture, it is his life's pursuit to experience true holiness.
I had the opportunity to interview Father Bill last week while he was on a book tour for the incredibly entertaining book "The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God."
I told Father Bill that I spit wine onto my computer screen while belly laughing when I received the request from Charleston Grit to do his book interview. He quickly (priest tone) assured me "Spitting onto your computer screen is a waste of good wine." We were off, it was an incredible interview with a man who clearly loves life, the afterlife, laughter and a good aperitif.
I asked if he had the WWJD (What would Jesus Drink) bracelets in his Marfa Texas bar, aptly name Padre's. He laughed and said "No, but that is a good idea."
He's the real deal alright, no mail order ministry here. His bio states "Father William "Bill" Miller studied at Abilene Christian University, McCormick Seminary in Chicago, the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. He has been awarded numerous academic honors. He has served congregations in Austin, Houston, and Hawaii and his churches have experienced exponential growth and become centers for the intersection of the arts, spirituality and creativity. He is the author of two popular, engaging and critically-acclaimed books: The Beer Drinker's Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth About Lager, Loving, and Living (Simon and Schuster/Howard Books) and The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul (Church Publishing/Seabury Books). He loves music and has founded three jazz festivals and collaborated with musicians on various creative projects. He is the priest at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on the island of Kauai, where he lives with his dog Nawiliwili Nelson.
The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God  is the insightful written journey of Father Miller's quest for lightening up and enjoying the blessings of his creator. When the book arrived I knew that I was going to have to delve in hard to read it before the interview. I can't read in bed anymore — at least more than two paragraphs because books are my Ambien. So— this left me with ~old school~ cramming before the interview. I honestly held this book in my hand while stirring pasta sauce for Chicken Parmesan and walked from my kitchen to the mailbox at end of drive while reading it. I have laughed out loud, gasped, contemplated, questioned, researched, underscored and highlighted this book!
One thing is quite clear, Father Bill has a sense of humor and evidently God does too. I asked, "Father Bill, tell me one of your ~God has a sense of humor moments.~
"Ok, It's Easter Sunday and I'm pastoring a church in Austin Texas. There is a big Easter egg hunt scheduled after the service. We have hired character entertainment, a costumed Easter Bunny to surprise the kids and walk out behind me at the closing of the service and into the church yard where the children hunt for Easter eggs. I'm closing the service and nervously looking about for the furry mascot rabbit. He's nowhere to be found. I couldn't prolong the service any longer and closed. Heading down the aisle past the apprehensive faces of the parishioners and anxious children I prayed silently, Lord, please let the Easter bunny show up. I realized the absurdity of this request but continued on. As I continued down the aisle I noticed the congregation was wide eyed, staring at something behind me. I just knew I would turn to see the furry costumed Easter Bunny, I didn’t. But— beyond the  large bay windows looking out into the churchyard, there was a perfect white rabbit standing on it's hind legs and looking into the church window! The costume bunny eventually showed up, but it wasn't nearly as good as the God winked Easter bunny in the window.” He finished with a laugh.
Father Bill’s laughter made me think of a paragraph from the preface of The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God, “Rarely does a contemporary religious work reveal anything funny about God. We are much too serious in our attempts to understand a God who is far more playful than those who claim to speak on his behalf. The trust is that serial solemnity and spiritual awareness have nothing in common. God is funny. God is the originator of irony, the progenitor of the punch line.”
And finally I asked “Overall what do you think the Christian community’s response is to a priest with a growler in hand?”
Father Bill answered, “Far and wide the message seems to be well received. I have talked to every denomination in every location that you can imagine — including conversing Buddhism with Trappist monks in Tibet and theology with Oxford scholars at a bar. A good stout is universal. It opens up the lines of communication between us.”
The Beer Drinkers Guide to God is chock full of personal stories and adventures in Father William Miller's quest for the good grapes or mead. Come out and meet Father Bill, buy the book, talk to him and have a good meet and greet downtown Charleston, Monday August 18th at 5 pm at Blue Bicycle Books.