The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:56 am Thursday, June 30, 2022

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The Teacher

By Linda H. Barnette

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my dad fixed up on of my great-grandfather’s chicken houses into a playhouse. There was not even a feather left after Daddy painted it and built a bar to divide it into 2 sections! The structure was 12’by 8,’more than enough for a playhouse.  He brought my childhood desk chair, and several other things from the basement and really fixed it up beautifully.  There was also a little metal stove and some tea sets.  My friends all loved it, and it became our neighborhood hangout when we played inside.

When we did play in it, one of our favorite games was school. Often, I pretended to be the teacher and gave my friends work to do. Several of our Church Street neighbors were teachers whom I admired.  When my mother’s sister became a teacher, I knew that I definitely wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Eventually I studied at “Fair Catawba” where I majored in English and history and took just enough education courses to get my teacher certification. I’m here to tell you that student teaching at Cannon Junior High School in Kannapolis almost changed my mind about teaching, but it was among the factors that led me to grad school at the University of Tennessee, where I was a graduate assistant—a free ride.  In the spring of 1965, I received both my MA degree and my MRS.

We moved to Charlotte where I was an English instructor for 8 years first at Winthrop and then Queens Colleges back when all of the students were girls.  After we moved to Fayetteville, I took a position as a teacher at Pine Forest Senior High School.  You can only imagine what a shock it was!  However, once I learned the ropes, I realized that public school was my true passion and my opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students. I truly loved those kids and believe they loved me. As things happen, I only had 2 years with them because my son was born in 1975, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with him until he started school.

By then we were back at home in Mocksville, where I did some substitute teaching and because there was not a vacancy in the English department at the high school, took a job as an elementary 4-5 Academically Gifted teacher. As things turned out, I loved that work and kept that same job for 21 years, retiring in 2003 at the age of 62.

Teaching was a wonderful, rewarding career in every way except financially!! If ever I felt discouraged, I would remember what Henry Adams said about teachers: “A teacher affects eternity.  He never knows where his influence stops.”

Berry Picking

By  E. Bishop

Several years ago, I purchased this iconic summer berry picking scene to hang in my dining room.  Many of you probably have seen it.  The peasant dressed women are holding hands, and children are all merrily strolling along a dirt path with buckets in hand, some picking flowers along the way and a boy carrying a fishing pole. The scene evokes many childhood memories; I hate the thought of replacing it.  In reality, though, there was not much glamour in berry picking.

In late June or early July, blackberries are ready to be picked; you pray it has rained enough to make them big and plump because these will fill the buckets up much quicker.  Our mother would make us girls get up early, powder us down with baby powder from head to toe, make sure we wore long sleeved shirts and long pants, with shoes or boots on, of course, and a straw hat. She would carry the hoe and off we would go to the berry patches around the pastures on our farm. Think about it, we had free food in the wild if we could beat the deer and birds to it.

The berry patches always seemed to have mysterious paths tunneling through the bushes and  holes in the ground, and those June bugs flying all around. The best berries always seemed just a little out of reach, but I would try anyway and usually ended up dropping those. We were always on the lookout for snakes; they like berries too. When we had our buckets full, or Mother had all she could take, we headed home with purple fingers and scratches all over from the briars. Next, a body search for ticks and hopes that those chiggers didn’t cling to your unmentionable parts.

Many summers, might I add that during the hottest part of the year, a lot of berries were picked to be put up for the winter in our household. No air conditioning anywhere either for the canning process. Was it worth it? You bet. Winters were richer with a little cobbler or jam or just a piece of our Mother’s homemade light bread sopped in blackberry juice. Today, I still go out and pick wild berries around our house and have even planted some thornless ones. It is good for my southern soul; but believe me, I would not pick them for just anybody.   I’m willing to share two favorite recipes though.

Blackberry lemonade—3/4 c white sugar, 4 1/2 c water(divided), 1 c berries, 2 Tablespoons white sugar, 1 c lemon juice.  Heat 3/4 c sugar & 1/2 c water over medium heat.  Cook & stir until sugar dissolved; let cool.  Place berries & 2 tablespoons sugar in blender until smooth; combine simple syrup, blended berries, 4 c water & lemon juice.  Place fine-mesh sieve over a pitcher and pour lemonade into pitcher; discard solids.  Serve over ice.

Love You Momma Gail for sharing your blackberry cobbler recipe.  I will pick them for you anytime!  1 cup sugar, 1 cup Self-rising flour, 1 cup milk.  Mix flour & sugar, add milk.  Add sugar to blackberries according to sweetness desired & stir.  Put 1 stick butter in deep casserole dish & put in oven at 350 degrees.  When butter is melted, pour in dough mixture, then pour on Blackberries; don’t stir.  Bake 1 hour. Enjoy.

When Hope Dims

By Stephanie Williams Dean

News of country music singer Naomi Judd’s death shocked the world – it certainly rocked mine. As breaking news reports reverberated across the country, our mouths dropped open – our gasps were audible. Tears ran down my face. I took the news hard. We all thought the same thing; How could Naomi Judd kill herself? Naomi’s death hit way too close to home. The Judds were a favorite country music duo of mine. Being from Nashville, I felt a special kindred to Naomi and Wynonna – they were household names.

The mourning of Naomi Judd wasn’t surprising – the iconic star shared so much of herself in an attempt to help others. Naomi opened up about her music, life, and passions as if she were a best friend to each of us. She shared her most difficult struggles. Naomi took us on a journey to the darkest corners of her mind, voicing her deepest, most intimate, secret thoughts. She shared the voices in her head that spoke to her daily – the words that would ultimately break her. I’m not good enough. I’m not loved.

Naomi’s struggle with mental illness was real. Another in a string of high-profile suicides. Again, we ask ourselves the same questions – how could someone who seemingly had everything end it all? Why would someone so successful want to kill themselves? How could someone so beautiful do that? Naomi Judd was kind. She had beauty, talent, and success – and was bright. She appeared to be living the dream. Then Naomi opened up and shared with the world that her glamorous life wasn’t really how it appeared.

Deep down – we know life’s never the way some folks like to make their lives out to be. Everyone has a stronghold in life– some holds are tighter than others. That stronghold strangles the life out of many. And one day, their voices are quietened – forever. Each one of us is broken in our own way. Like Naomi, our little inner voice whispers, “no one really loves me,” or “I am all alone,” and “I’m not good enough.” We hear the same voices. The common thread begs us to look at ourselves more closely. Could that actually happen to me one day?

I have a friend from high school – and both her father and sister committed suicide. One day, she confided, “Sometimes I wonder if a switch will flip, and I’ll end up doing the same thing.” What a scary thought to confront. We might never fully understand what trips the trigger – what brings good people to the brink of taking their life. Often, it comes without warning.

We’re all fighting a battle – I don’t know yours, and you don’t know mine. We don’t share our conflicts as intimately as Naomi Judd shared hers. But I know that when we have struggles, one of the best places to go is to your Bible. You will find words of God’s grace and wisdom in the scriptures. And pray – there’s true power in prayer. And when you don’t know where to turn, seek the counsel of mature believers.

Mental illness is a fierce opponent. The power of the mind is strong enough to trick us into believing things that are not true. The truth is – in God’s eyes, each one of us is worthy. And God is omnipotent – the only all-powerful One whose opinion matters. And you have been redeemed. When you tell yourself that no one loves you– know, without a doubt, you are not alone, and God loves you. And if that voice says you’re not good enough – know that God created you just as you are – and you are worthy in His eyes. Every person is worthy in the eyes of God.

Sometimes, our thoughts can be overpowering. If you are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, 988 is the new three-digit dialing code that will route you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. The code will be available in the United States starting July 16, 2022. The current phone number is 1-800-273-8255 and will still be available after 988 has been launched. Trained counselors are available to listen, provide support, and connect you with helpful resources.