Monday, December 28, 2015

“Where’s Bronner?”

An honest and uncompensated review of Bronner: A Journey to Understand, written by Sherri Burgess.



On Jan. 19, 2008, Sherri Burgess’ life was altered the moment she asked her two sons, “Where’s Bronner?”

In the moments before, Brooks, 8, was playing Wii, Brody, 6, was watching a movie, and Bronner, 2, was playing with toys.

In the moments before, her plan for the rest of the night consisted of giving Bronner a bath and reading to him before bedtime.

In the moments before, her life was charmed and she was a princess living her happily ever after.

“Where’s Bronner?”

The answer would force her on her reluctant journey that offered no respite, no rewards for travel, and no earthly destination. The luggage required for her journey could not be contained in a rolling cart, but in the pages of the most cherished book of her faith. The ticket for her journey had been purchased on her behalf on Calvary.

“Where’s Bronner?”

As she saw him face down in the family swimming pool, she ran to her beloved baby and pulled him from the water. All efforts to breathe life into his body failed.

“My whole life – everything – was over. Not that I had given up yet. I thought he could be revived. I was hoping for resuscitation, but, even so, I knew that from that moment on nothing would ever be the same.” (p. 55)

Her life would never be the same and it was forever altered. However, it was not over. Her days were now measured by the moments before and she plunged into the one thing that had sustained her long before that night – Jesus.

Sherri mercifully prayed for God to save her son. She writes that God not only didn’t answer her prayer, but He knew what was coming.

“He, Himself, allowed it because He knew He could use it to bring glory to His name and to His kingdom, to bring lost souls to Himself, and to refine a couple of Christians who were too caught up in the things of this world.”

In Bronner: A Journey to Understand, you will read the details leading up to that moment the Burgess family was forced to reconcile to the fact Bronner would not be resuscitated. 

And, you will read about the gut-wrenching realization that not all of our prayers are answered in the way that we like. Most of all, you will read about the total dependence on a relationship with Christ.

I heard Sherri speak at a women’s conference at First Baptist Church of Anniston at McClellan a few years ago. What moved me was her love of scripture. She did not allow her grief to define her journey, but rather what God says. As she encouraged the women to be relentless in our pursuit of our Savior, it occurred to me that He had been preparing her for her journey long before Jan. 19, 2008.

Those who do not follow Christ can’t fathom that her unanswered prayer and her complete and total reliance on Christ could sustain her. But, that is the beauty in her journey. 

She writes from honesty, from pain, and she writes from the joy in knowing that when she asks, “Where’s Bronner?” she can answer without hesitation that he is with our Heavenly Father. 

This review is posted on Amazon as a verified purchase.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

For the love of Photoshop...

In my classroom, there are two types of students - those who love Adobe Indesign (ID) and those who love Adobe Photoshop (PS). It's really that simple.

There are also a a few idiosyncratic students who prefer Illustrator, After Effects, and Garage Band. Then, there are those who like Publisher, but we tend to ignore those admirations.

For the most part, it's a clear cut love for either ID or PS.The problem is the love affair is short-lived. There is a 50-minute window in which my students are allowed to learn about the design software and then they must venture back into the undoodled world. Our students have MacBook Air laptops, but they do not have the Adobe Suite on them. So, the endearment is usually confined to the classroom.

So, what can you do? While there is not another application quite like Adobe's Photoshop, there are some alternatives.
  1. Pixlr is for photo editing and effects. Online or offline. Browser based or native app. Mac or Windows, as well as iOS and Android. The toolbar is most similar to Photoshop, so it is the one I prefer students to use outside of class.
  2. Sumo Paint is an online image editor and is focused more on illustrations, rather than photos.  
  3. Gimp is best for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be used on Mac or Windows. 
  4. Photoshop Express is by Adobe, but it is limited in that you can only upload a jpeg and it has less features than the full version.
So, this summer, when you are bored and wish to put your photo into the background of a historical picture of JFK or swap your face with a presidential candidate, you have some options.

Peace out. 
Blessings.
T.S.



It's not about you...

I've done everything imaginably wrong as a teacher.

I've called students by the wrong name. In the second semester.
I've lost projects that needed to be graded.
I've given assignments that flat out didn't work.
I've worn my shirt inside out and didn't notice until 6th period.
I've stared at a roomful of teenagers and could see that watching an episode of South of Sunset was more interesting than listening to me.
I've given A's when students didn't deserve it.
I've given F's when students did deserve it.
I've meant to praise more, but allowed paperwork, emails, and phone calls to overwhelm me.
I've allowed negativity to get the best of me some days.
I've written lesson plans and, for educational assistance, Googled objectives, before/during/after, and rubrics and still not understood what I wrote.
The list could go on and on...

In all of my failures, doubting myself, and wondering if I'm doing any good at all, I remember one thing a former journalism professor told me, "It's not about you."

That advice really fits for anything in life. Because, it really isn't about me. It's always about the students. It's why I choose to become a teacher.

When I turned 40, I suppose you could say that becoming a high school teacher was my midlife crisis. Although I was working in my dream job as managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine for The Anniston Star, I left to teach high school. Some celebrated and some pondered my mental status.

Well, I just finished my third year of teaching and I realize there are so many things I would have never learned in a newsroom. (No offense to my former co-workers as you may relate to a lot of these).

  • I've learned how to awkwardly Dougie and to Nae Nae,
  • I've learned that teenagers have dreams, but are sometimes scared to dream.
  • I've learned teenagers may stare blankly at you, but they are listening. Sometimes, they just like to stare.
  • I've learned that there are life lessons in everything. Literally. Just ask my students.
  • I've learned that jumping jacks are a good thing when they are dragging. (Thank you Ron Clark for that validation.)
  • I've learned that it's OK to eat lunch alone, but it's much better when you eat with a friend.
  • I've learned to laugh at my mistakes. Because, honestly, most of the time the students are already laughing.
  • I've learned to listen. I mean "Deer in the headlight" and "I'm not moving until you are finished talking" kind of listening. Sometimes, teenagers just need to be heard.
  • I've learned that teenagers think they are the only ones who make mistakes and they need compassion, not condemnation. 
  • I've learned that F10 is your BFF when you allow students to choose the music.
  • I've learned that when adults believe teenagers are all thinking about immoral and illicit things, some are really thinking about how they will eat that night or if the power will be on when they get home.
  • I've learned that my "last nerve" is really longer than I thought.
  • I've learned that choosing to be "too nice" is always better than the alternative.
  • I've learned that my heart has multiplied. Because every time a student has graduated, a piece of my heart is released into the world. Every new student has filled that empty spot and the growth continues.
So, as I venture into my fourth year of teaching, the main thing I'm going to keep in mind is that, It's not about me. It's about them. I'm going to repeat it over and over and over....

Selfie with some of my students at the 2015 Alabama SkillsUSA competition in Birmingham, AL. We pretty much rocked. 

2017 Edit: I'm completing my fifth year of teaching and I could also add that saying goodbye to students is one of the most difficult encounters in the journey. However, learning about their adventures and moments of the transition from teen years to young adult is so rewarding.

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!
Theresa



Monday, February 23, 2015

The Road Paved with Wisdom

I read a sign recently that stated, "Rules are made to break." I used to believe that and I tested it in my youthful days. But, the older I get, the more I cherish the simplicity of living. I don't look at rules as something to keep me out of life, but to keep me alive.

In reading Proverbs 3 recently, it really hit home that God rewards us for our devotion to Him and following the rules He sets for us. It's not for His good, but for ours. Because He loves us.

In reading the wisdom of Proverbs 3, there are 10 things that really stood out to me. Along with the rules God gives, there are 10 rewards when wisdom is the path taken. It's pretty clear that God wants us to treat others with love and kindness. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to show wisdom in the choices we make.

I've simplified the chapter, but I think you can see clearly when we follow what God has set before us, we will not have shame or doubt littering the road we travel. Instead, our road will be paved with wisdom.

Read Proverbs 3:1-35 here.

1. Don't forget His Commandments.
Reward: Long Life and Peace

2. Be Merciful and Truthful
Reward: Favor and High Esteem with God and man

3. Trust in the Lord
Reward: He will Direct your Way

4. Fear the Lord and Live a Holy Life
Reward: Health and Strength

5. Give First Fruits and Store
Reward: You will be prepared

6. Take Corrections (ouch, this is a difficult one)
Reward: Reveals Love

7. Seek Wisdom and Wise People
Reward: Tree of Life and Happiness

8. Be Wise and Discrete
Reward: Safety, Rest and Peace

9. Be Kind to Others
Reward: Blessings from God

10. Be Humble
Reward: Inherit Glory and No Shame. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Noble with words

While cleaning recently, I found a typed note from an anonymous writer who graciously mailed me after I spoke at an event. Well, so I wasn't really cleaning. I was thinking about cleaning and tripped over a box and the note was on the floor. I picked it up. That is considered cleaning.

In any regard, the note corrected my grammar. The message was simple. It included a noun, verb, and an odd statement about a word I used that didn't exist. There was no return address. There were no fingerprints on the paper or envelope.

To be honest, I was actually impressed with her typing skills and devotion to correct grammar use. Although it's been several years, I still think the note is adorable. I would never take the time to type a message, including the address on the envelope, and then purchase a stamp and actually mail it.

I kept the note as a reminder that perfection would never be an option for me. I also wanted to remind myself that making up words while speaking to crowds of people can cause grammatical pandemonium, but it might sell stamps.

To be honest, I understood the writer's need to inform me that my use of a word was incorrect. It probably kept her awake for many nights. Writing me gave her some satisfaction that one less person in the world would misuse a word. When she mailed the note, she could finally get some rest. She was at peace with me, myself, and I.

There was also a time a woman told me all that was wrong with Longleaf Style magazine and how her writing was better than mine. She didn't come right out and tell me that, but she made it pretty clear she was a real editor and the magazine was looking to save money by hiring me as managing editor because I missed a spelling error. It was such an amazingly awkward conversation.

A few weeks after our conversation, she sent me something she wrote and asked if I would consider publishing it. I thought about sending her an anonymous letter. But, I didn't have a stamp.

My two grammatical benefactors are not alone in feeling the urge to share mistakes.

I admit that I irritate my students all the time by correcting their grammar. I plead with them to overcome the sickness associated with using only lowercase letters and no punctuation. But, it's my duty to rid them of the linguistic plague that attacks with a vengeance.

If we do not stand together and become the glue that bonds words, inflections, punctuation, and functions of the alphabet, then we are nothing.

So, today, during Noble Prize Week, I wish to salute my anonymous writer and the real editor, who both helped me to appreciate the power of words.

Because, I've learned that we must all not only use words correctly, but we must be noble with them.

Apology to Three

Have you ever noticed that the number three is somewhat of an odd-number out? One is a lonely number and pairs are exceptional and balanced. But, when you add one more to two, which every math genius knows makes three, something changes.

Three is a crowd.

Three is the bear who suggests leaving porridge on the table to take a stroll in the woods with two other bears, only to have a sleepy intruder sample his porridge and break his chair.

Three is like a wheel that doesn't have much use unless you add another wheel, which is only good if you are riding a tricycle. Then again, a bike on two wheels is much more fun than a tricycle, which can be easily throw you off balance if you shift your weight too far to the left or right.

Three is that person who can't seem to get the message that he is irritating when he constantly tells computer algorithm jokes and no one gets them.

Truth be told, three is the guy who bought a sword at a novelty shop and bragged to his two buddies that he was an expert swordsmen and ended up a musketeer.

I admit that I haven't always been fond of three. To me, it seems like bad things always seem to happen in threes. But, lately I've had to face my own harsh judgement towards three.

Three is a precious baby who was produced from the union of two.

Three is that person who rescues you from a lagging conversation between you and a guy telling jokes about computer algorithms.

Three is a number multiplied by it's square. There is a joke about this a guy was telling recently, but I sort of checked out...

Since I'm now a teacher, three is tenure.

But, what I realize most of all is that three is the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

So, with that, I officially apologize to three for all the years of  believing you were odd. Even if you are odd cause you are not even...




Sunday, June 29, 2014

God loves ugly

I'm not sure why so many women hate themselves. We are our own worst enemies. We hide behind masks of Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl. We embellish ourselves with vanity and pride. We completely ignore our heart.

I'm most bewildered at Christian women who look in the mirror and can't see their beauty. 

I love the song God Loves Ugly by Christa Black. It's not a new song. It was released in 2010. This song is a real journey. In her book, God Loves Ugly and Love Makes Beautiful, she reveals her own struggles with childhood sexual abuse, an eating disorder, and depression. 

I can't relate to the sexual abuse, but I can relate to her struggle to love herself and see herself as beautiful. Sometimes, I turn on this song and just listen to it over and over. I soak in all the words and allow them to permeate inside my head and heart. 

Her song has power because it's her personal realization that what the world sees as ugly, God sees as beautiful. It's a song that I encourage you to turn on, then close your eyes and focus on what she's saying. It's a great song for those days when even Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl can't help you.

Listen here>> God Loves Ugly by Christa Black

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7



Friday, January 31, 2014

The Empty Chair

In one brief moment, I realized that all of the questions I had about my new journey had been answered. God’s reply wasn’t in words, but in a gut-wrenching feeling that I was right where I needed to be in that moment.

“Please don’t cry, Mrs. Shadrix.”

I could barely breathe, much less talk. The more I tried to contain the lump in my throat, the harder it was to hold back tears.

There had been many times when I doubted myself. I wondered if I had made a mistake of leaving a job as a magazine editor, which I loved, to venture into a career that I knew nothing about. 

At 40 years old, I became a high school teacher.  And, in my 40 years, I had never encountered a 16-year-old pleading for me to not cry.  

I looked around the room at the other students who were holding back their own tears. Each of us desperately tried to avoid looking at the empty chair in the classroom. But, it was there and it showed us no mercy.

Just a few days earlier, the orange chair embraced life as she casually took pictures of herself on her computer. Wearing a pink shirt, she took a few pictures of herself on her classroom Mac computer before the bell rang. One was silly and one was sweet. So fitting.

Her big eyes had a way of taking hold of your soul. Even when she was being mischievous, looking in them left you powerless.

She was sitting in that orange chair during the first weeks of school when I called her name and asked her to meet me in the hallway.

She had lied to me about something the day before and, as I told her, lying was something I couldn't tolerate.

Her mouth said, “I didn't lie,” but her eyes said, “Please just love me and let me get away with it.”

“Yesterday, you looked me right in the face with those angelic eyes and you lied to me,” I told her. “I care about you and I can’t let you get away with lying.” 

Caring about her meant I had to write her up.  It was my first lesson in teaching. It's not about being mean, but it is passing on life lessons to young people. 

She will never know that I didn’t feel prepared to teach and that she was the first student I had to formally discipline. She will never know that I didn’t even know how to complete the discipline form.

She will never know that if I could go back in time, I would spend every moment in class letting her know that I did, in fact, care about and love her. I would beg her to not go out on a late night ride with her friend.

I would plead with her to have mercy on me so I didn’t have to hold back tears when talking about her death to her classmates.

I would beg with her to not leave that chair empty every day.

No one really prepares you for dealing with the death of a student. But, God did prepare me.

When I was able to talk, I asked the class if they had ever heard about the stages of death. I asked if anyone had ever even talked to them about death.

The room was silent. 

"No one talks about death, Mrs. Shadrix," one student whispered.

In that moment, I realized that when I was a young woman and changed my major from journalism to social work, it was God.

In that moment, I found myself pulling out of my memory, Elizabeth Kubler Ross and the five stages of death from her groundbreaking book, 'On Death and Dying." It was God.

I realized that the brief time I spent working for Alacare Home Health & Hospice prepared me in some way for that moment. It was God.

In that moment, I realized when I left the world of social work behind me to take a dream job at The Anniston Star and Longleaf Style magazine, it was all God.

In that moment, I realized becoming a high school teacher was all God.

In that moment, I stared at the empty chair in my classroom and knew I would never forget the life that it once supported. I knew the pain of mourning is real. The denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and anger are all real.

Day in and day out, other students fill that empty chair now. Stories about that mischievous girl, who made everyone call her "Tha Boss" are told. Sometimes there are laughs and sometimes the words trail off. Questions of why are still asked.

I try not to ask why. I only imagine that now, instead of sitting in that old orange chair in my classroom, she is sitting next to a throne and her angelic eyes are now seeing Him. It is God.


In memory of Brittney "Tha Boss" Bonner.
4/24/1996 - 12/8/2012


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Come on in

When I was a young girl, my grandmother had a living room in which no one was actually allowed to live.

My brother's and I felt if we breathed near the room, the plastic on the chair might disintegrate.

Our very lives might also disintegrate if we stepped into it.

So, we risked our lives and held our breath when we walked by the room.

The only time I recall spending any amount of time in that room was a rare visit with my dad in which he played a Mad magazine record of Alfred E. Neuman's "It's a Gas".

It was a dream come true for my older brother and our dad, who shared a moment of pure 12-year-old laughter while listening to the record.

I didn't pay much attention to the symphony of flatulence. For, on that day, I was stunned that we survived. It's a precious memory of my dad and brother that I dearly hold.

I'm not sure if anyone outside of our family ever sat in that living room. Maybe they didn't live to tell about it. My grandmother was a Mississippi Southern Belle, but her stare could stop Medusa in her tracks.

When family visited, they usually sat in the informal living room. As a young girl, I knew style. The informal living room, with it's brown panel walls, plush carpet and orange and brown striped cushions, was my Panel Pad. It was the room with the color TV, where my grandmother rolled my hair, where we napped on recliners, and where we lived in pure bliss.

Time and families have changed. Children are no longer scared of anything. There are no formal living rooms, no paneled walls, no plush carpet, no orange and brown stripes.  No Mad magazine paper records.

Our homes are cozy and cluttered. We are too busy for company. Too advanced for our own good.

The last time I let a friend in my house, she told me that I needed to clean my sink in the "powder room" because there was dried toothpaste in it.

I think she even cleaned it.

I'm only assuming this because when I remembered the toothpaste a few days later. It was gone.

Truth be told, I should probably invite her over more. She could do wonders on my stove.

Until then, I may get nostalgic and wrap some plastic around a chair.




Friday, June 07, 2013

A non blog about not blogging

It's been so long since I've posted anything on this blog and I'm really not sure where to begin. I don't even consider it a blog. Everything I have on here is just re-posts of articles I've written because I can't make up my mind if I should even have a blog. My reasons to not blog include:

  1. I'm too boring to blog. 
  2. My family doesn't want me to write about them. Which makes a boring blog.
  3. I spend too much time reading other blogs and wishing I could blog like them. 
  4. I spend too much time on things that are not blog worthy. Like, staring at my pantry and wishing I had the energy to alphabetize my canned food items like I used to do. I wonder what kind of fool puts her canned food items in ABC order? Then, I wonder if I should write a blog about people who put their canned food items in ABC order  
  5. I get distracted easy. In thinking of blogs, I remember I was supposed to do something but I can't remember what. I know I will remember when I don't need to remember it any longer. There's nothing worse than asking yourself, "Did I pay the power bill" when the power goes out. Then, I think that might make a good blog post. "Things you remember when it's dark and cold and it doesn't matter anymore."
  6. I look at colorful and witty blogs, written by beautiful women with long hair and no wrinkles or pimples, and I have blog envy, which causes me to have a low blog-esteem. I thought about changing the theme of whatever this is and so I browsed through a few templates. I couldn't make up my mind if I were "Elegant" or "Minimal" or if I wanted two, three, four or a gazillion columns. In the end, I just opened another tab and looked at a photo album of a friend on Facebook and tried to find at least one wrinkle or pimple on her face. I wished that my hair was long. I knew I needed to get off Facebook before I opened another tab to order a wig and Googled a blog about wrinkles. Who needs a themey theme on a blog that isn't really a blog anyway? I'll just stick with the books in the background to make me appear intellectual.
  7. I tell myself that blogs are only read by people who want to start blogs. The world will one day be filled with all of humanity each having their own blogs and no one is really reading the blogs except to make sure no one else has a better blog. 
  8. I don't watch reality TV so this only adds to my credibility as a complete bore. 
  9. I've already forgotten what I was writing. That's another reason why I probably shouldn't blog.