Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 168- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and Foot High Pie

I have had a crush on Johnny Rzeznik for over 10 years.  We've been through a lot together.  It turns out that he is of Polish decent, so we have that in common.  He's cute in a bad boy in a band kind of way, and that definitely helps.  The biggest reason for my undying love, however, is that I am obsessed with the Goo Goo Dolls and their music.  I wrote about them last year after popping Dizzy Up the Girl in my cd player last year and singing along to every word of every song.

I did a little research on my longtime love to try to find a good organization for today.  I discovered that Johnny's dad had a problem with alcohol that really affected the Rzeznik family deeply, especially after his alcohol-related death.  Johnny's mother died just a few years later, and he was an orphan at a young age.  This just makes me want to hug him more.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse works to help people with all kinds of addictions and problems like the one Johnny's dad had.  They encourage people to take responsibility, and they give people the tools that they will need to conquer their addictions.  They aim to "replace shame and despair with hope."  They also do a lot of work centered on raising awareness and encouraging kids to stay drug free.  A worthy cause indeed!

http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/Home.aspx?articleid=287&zoneid=32

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We made the long drive back to Michigan again today.  It's been a while since we've been back, but the drive proved reliable, and not much has changed on the eight hour path from STL to Parma.  In fact, part of what makes the drive easier to manage is spotting all of the familiar landmarks along the way.  There's the jail that we thought was a school at first, CrossUSA.org, the Nestle bunny, a beautiful house that we always remark is such a shame to have built along the highway, Indy, Fisher, Markle, Pochantas, Brazil, the Paul Simon Freeway sign with the bowtie, Chateau Thomas winery, Effingham, Welcome to Illinois, Welcome to Indiana, Welcome to Michigan, and so much more.

There's also Blue Springs Cafe, home of the foot high pie.

http://www.foothipies.com/

Every time we drive by, we marvel at the thought of a foot high pie.  We wonder if it's possible that they could actually be so high, and we wonder what they might taste like.  We even pulled off this year on our way home for Thanksgiving to check out the goods, but we were sorely disappointed to discover that we had arrived an hour before they opened.

We don't have to wonder any longer... today we purchased our first foot high pie!!  Although all of the outrageously tall cream pies looked amazing, we settled on peach for the day to take home to my parents.  It was as lovely as we imagined, and I'm sure it won't be our last. :)


Thank you, foot high pie (finally!), you made my day.

Day 167- Pitch in for Baseball and First Pool Day

What a difference a year makes!  Armando Galarraga technically (but not officially) pitched a perfect game for the Tigers last year.  He's currently playing for the Diamondbacks now and not even a Tiger anymore, but I'd still like to make a donation in honor of his (almost?) accomplishment last year.

Pitch in for Baseball is a charity that focuses on kids.  The program lists four crucial goals on its website:

• To support the growth of baseball in the U.S. and internationally.
• To give kids equipment so they can get out, have fun and stay healthy.
• To teach kids important lessons through baseball, like teamwork and sportsmanship.
• To make friends across the world through America's pastime.

These are all really excellent lessons for kids, and I think Galarraga would be proud.

http://www.pitchinforbaseball.org/html/index.html

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After our teacher breakfast and a short stint at school, I am officially DONE for this school year.  I think that means I am no longer a first year teacher.  Woo hoo!

In order to celebrate, a few of my friends and I went to the pool... the first pool day of the summer (for me, at least)!!  We chatted and tanned and dipped in the pool and giggle and just plain celebrated the fact that this is the first of many pool days to come over the next few months.  I could get used to this!



Thank you, first pool day, you made my day.

Day 166- Humanities Washington and School's Out for Summer!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Art of Dancing in the Rain by Garth Stein last year.  The book made me laugh and cry and think, and reading the blog from last year made me want to read it all over again.  I just might.

I looked up Stein's website, and it turns out that he is involved in some really great organizations.  By stalking his calendar of upcoming events, I found one that I'd like to donate to today.  Stein grew up in Seattle, moved away for a while, and now resides there again.  Many of the groups he works with are scattered around that area, including Humanities Washington.  Their mission is to honor "stories, ideas, and perspectives from across our state that connect Washingtonians from all backgrounds and communities, allowing us to understand our past and present as we work to shape our future." 

Through reading, writing, storytelling, conversation, presentations, and other avenues, Humanities Washington reaches out to all to create a deeper understanding of who we are and the remarkable, challenging, and inspiring experiences that connect us–advancing thoughtful and engaged communities across our state.

Even though I don't live in Washington anymore, I really dig what these people stand for and what they're trying to do.  Plus, if it's good enough for Garth Stein, I think it's good enough for me.

http://www.humanities.org/

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Schoollllllllllllllllllllllllll's out for summer!  Need I say more?

Okay, maybe I'll say a little bit more.  I'm ecstatic to have a little time to myself.  I'm also really going to miss the kiddos.  However, I was explaining the whole thing to Tom in an analogy (while he half listened and tried to make the appropriate noises to let me know that he was at least half listening).  Here goes...

I'm like a pitcher.  Not the kind that stands on a mound and hopes for a no-hitter.  More like the kind you put lemonade in.  Or margaritas.  Anyway...  I pour my whole self into my job and my kids.  It's constant.  Tip and pour.  Tip and pour.  I think these next two months are just a chance for me to refill.  This will help me to do the whole thing over again starting in August.  Tip and pour.

I will be keeping busy too.  I'm going to be taking a couple of classes this summer so that I can finish the Master's and graduate in December.  One of the classes is a crazy research class that meets Mon.-Thurs., and the other is a class that meets for FIVE hours at a time twice a week.  I have no concept of what you can do in a class for five hours at a time, but I'm about to find out.

Time to go fill the pitcher! :)

Thank you, schoollllllllllllll's out for summer, you made my day.

Day 165- Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust and "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!"

Speaking of Memorial Day... it was on this date last year.  Here's an excellent charity that helps out our veterans.

http://cst.dav.org/

Not only is this one of the highest ratings I've ever seen for a charity on charitynavigator.org, it is also on their list of "10 Consistently Excellent Charities".  The program helps veterans in a variety of ways:

•Helping to maintain a volunteer-operated transportation network providing rides to sick and disabled veterans needing transportation to and from VA medical centers for treatment;

•Providing food and shelter and connecting homeless and needy veterans to essential medical care, VA benefits counseling and job training;

•Meeting the special needs of veterans faced with specific disabilities such as blindness and amputation;

•Supporting significant therapeutic initiatives;

•Supporting physical and psychological rehabilitation projects aimed at some of America’s most profoundly disabled veterans; and

•Bringing hope to the forgotten and suffering families of disabled veterans.

God Bless America and our veterans!

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I think my facebook status sums this one up best (oooh... a new format!).

Although this sounds totally lame, I rule! I baked all morning yesterday and shoveled gravel all afternoon. I herded 8th graders today in my flouncy dress, then surprised even myself with my strength and endurance as I soaked through my camo hauling patio blocks. I may have to be wheeled in for the last day of school tomorrow and probably won't be so pleased with myself, but... for now... I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!

Man, I worked hard. 

Thank you, "I am woman, hear me roar!", you made my day.

Day 164- Sheltering Arms Senior Services and Memorial Day BBQ

I was thankful last year for Carol, a woman who was not too proud to accept some help from me.  I Tetrised (a new word?) a patio set into her car for her at good ol' HD and helped build and lift stuff.  I got as much out of the deal as she did.  It made me feel good.

In honor of this, I found an organization that helps out senior citizens.  It's called Sheltering Arms Senior Services, and they seem to do wonderful work.  I really like their motto, which is "Preserving Dignity and Independence".  Their mission is:

Sheltering Arms Senior Services is a nonprofit organization committed to the health and well-being of older adults and their family caregivers. Our mission is to promote the dignity and independence of older adults through service, advocacy, and support for caregivers.

http://www.shelteringarms.org/

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When we left Seattle a few years ago, I was happy to be starting the next phase of our lives, to go back to school, and to start teaching.  I was also ready to not be so far away from my family and the time zone that many of my friends lived in.  The one thing I was really sad to leave behind was the group of amazing friends we made while we were there.

Tom and I spent a lot of time as just the two of us when we first moved here.  Well, it was actually just the three of us because we got General shortly after moving into our house.  We were settling in and getting to know the area, and we liked hanging out with the dog as he adjusted to life in our family.  We were also both working at jobs with a lot of people who were way older than we were, so we didn't have the kinds of friends we were both used to from all the other aspects of our lives.

Little by little, we started to pick up some wonderful friends along the way.  Once I started my first teaching job this year, the good people came in abundance.  I am surrounded by fabulous people, and I feel so blessed to have much such great friends.  I thought this all day today as Tom and I hung out with a bunch of these friends at a Memorial Day BBQ this afternoon.  It feels as if we have known these people for a long time (even though it's been less than a year), and I know that we'll know them for a long time to come.

It also didn't hurt that they grilled some outstanding pork steaks and praised my cooking. :)

Thank you, Memorial Day BBQ, you made my day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 163- National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Stand-up Guys

It's Puppy's choice time again!  I so enjoyed a walk with him on this day last year, which means he gets to choose another charity.  Believe me, he's totally excited.

General chose the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation for today's donation.  He likes dog things and helping people.  He figured this would be a good way to combine a few of his interests.  In all seriousness, though, this is a wonderful organization. 

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) was founded in 1996. Our mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. We offer the professionally trained canines and an ongoing training program at no cost to fire departments. And we ensure lifetime care for every dog in our program: once rescued, these dogs never need to be rescued again.

This is also a timely donation, as teams of these dogs are currently deployed in Joplin, MO, to help out.

http://www.searchdogfoundation.org/98/html/index.html

*If you go to the website, you can meet all of the search dogs.  It's really cute, and General and I have decided that we'd really like to be friends with them.  Maybe we can be penpals once they receive our donation.
**Ok, it gets even cuter once you donate.  A little video comes up of a dog, and he barks.  This is translated to "Thanks for being a part of the search!"  Love it.

******

What started out as a fun little group date to see The Hangover 2 tonight ended in a police report.  I'll spare you the details because it wasn't pretty or positive.  There was some positivity to come out of the situation, though.  I was extremely proud of the way my husband and our friends handled themselves.  They were truly gentlemen, even in the most difficult of situations.  They stood up for their friends.  They chose the high road.  They really are stand-up guys.

I am blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people with such gigantic hearts.

Thank you, stand-up guys, you made my day.

Day 162- TZONE and Stress-free Saturday

Believe it or not, I was thankful for Tyra Banks last year.  (Believe it!  It happened.)

Tyra actually does a lot of great stuff and does use her celebrity for good.  One of the wonderful projects Ms. Banks lends her time, money, and fame to is the TZONE Foundation.  She's talked about this a lot on America's Next Top Model and on her talk show, and I thought it was time for me to check it out.

http://www.tzonefoundation.org/

TZONE was born in 1999 when Tyra, passionate about inspiring girls to believe in themselves and take control of their lives, launched the TZONE camps. The camps provided a "Tyra style" leadership and empowerment program which gave teen girls a unique, week-long overnight camp experience held outside of LA, where Tyra personally lived among and bonded with the campers. TZONE's mission was to reinforce positive values and encourage girls to resist social pressures through a fierce, self-esteem building adventure.

Building self-esteem?  Sign me up! :)

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I didn't grade today.  Not one bit.  Not even a little.  Not at all.
I didn't lesson plan today.  Nada.  Nothing.  Nope.

I completely and totally relaxed.  It was everything I thought I could be.

Thank you, stress-free Saturday, you made my day.

Day 161- Yearbook and Husband to the Rescue

As a Comm. Arts teacher, I had job of handing out yearbooks to all of my students.  I had been telling the kids all year as they got little reminders to order that if any of them needed a little help, they should approach me privately, and we'd work something out.  Our yearbook is not your typical middle school book (or at least it's not the floppy kind I got in middle school).  It is a full color, hard cover, nice looking, yet expensive type deal. 

A kid looked all sad in my class today as the other kids got their yearbooks, laughed at all the pictures, and started signing.

By the end of the day, the student brought me his yearbook to sign.  He was beaming.  The thanks in his eyes warmed my heart.

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I DID IT!  I finally finished my grading for the year.  It is hard to believe that I will not have another paper to grade until August.  WOO HOO!  I'll miss my kids, but I won't miss the grading.

My husband really helped to make this moment possible today.  I decided to stay at school tonight for as long as it took until it was done.  I didn't want to bring a bunch of stuff home, and I was ready to have this thrilling moment of realizing my work for the year was just about done.  Tom brought takeout food and tallied project votes and was every bit the perfect teacher's husband.  One year in, and he's already a pro!

Thank you, husband to the rescue, you made my day.   

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 160- St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Day of Celebrations

Last year= Domino's pizza fun and deliciousness
This year= A donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a Domino's favorite

"Find cures.  Saving children.

St. Jude is unlike any other pediatric treatment and research facility. Discoveries made here have completely changed how the world treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. With research and patient care under one roof, St. Jude is where some of today's most gifted researchers are able to do science more quickly.

St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family’s inability to pay."

http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f87d4c2a71fca210VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD

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I got to do a lot of things that made me very happy today. 

I started a tradition last year.  I created PowerPoints for my classes at the end of my student teaching to share a few last thoughts with my students.  I pitched it as "Mrs. Ferri's Farewell Tour 2010."  Each student had his or her own slide with a collage of Google images and a little speech from me about a favorite memory I had or something I admired about each one of them.  I also shared a few {hopefully} inspirational stories and poems and a few {definitely} embarrassing pictures from when I was their age to let them know I totally understand the idea of a loooooong awkward phase.  I wanted to let them know just how much I enjoyed them and how much they meant to me.

It turns out that last year's farewell tour went so well that I decided to do "Mrs. Ferri's Farewell Tour 2011."  I had more classes and way more students this year than I did in student teaching, but I still thought the idea behind the farewell and the meaning of it all was equally as important.  I think there's something to be said for sitting down and thinking about what is special about each kid, even those who caused me some trouble... especially those who were difficult.  It's even more important to share these things with the kids.  I want to leave my students with the impression that I know exactly who they are, and I like them because of (or in spite of) it.  What's the point in caring so darn much if I don't tell them how special they are?

This year's tour was another success.  I allowed the kids to invade my personal bubble for just this one day, and many of them took advantage of it.  I was touched to see a few of them even get a little choked up.  I may or may not have gotten a bit choked up at times myself.  I hope and think that each of them, regardless of how much they did or didn't enjoy being in my class, left my room today feeling significant.  I know that my subject area is not for everyone, and I am not so naive as to believe that I am for everyone.  However, what could be more important than making a bunch of teenagers feel good about themselves?  I want the feelings from today to be long lasting.  I want them to remember what it was like to feel noticed and accepted and loved.

This whole year felt, at times, like a race against the clock.  My goal is to turn the 120-130some kids I get each year into thinkers and doers who will make a difference in this world.  I only get a short time to try to make a huge impact, and the clock starts ticking down the second they enter my room in August. 

The time has almost run out, and I hope I made a difference today. 

I also got to enjoy other celebrations.  We had our eighth grade awards and dance tonight.  We got to recognize the achievements and improvements of many students.  We got to trade smiles and kind words with parents.  We got to show our students that we like them and spend time with them where we didn't have to worry about curriculum.

I don't know of any other job where I could work a fourteen hour day on about four hours of sleep and come home feeling so full and happy.  Have I mentioned how much I love what I do?

Thank you, day of celebrations, you made my day.

Day 159- A BroaderWay Foundation and Shut Eye

Idina Menzel rocked my world a year ago, and she's still doing it today.  I'm happy to support a charity that Idina created with her equally wonderful husband, Taye Diggs.

http://www.abroaderway.org/

A BroaderWay Foundation was established in 2010 by Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs as a means of supporting young people in the arts. A BroaderWay sponsors camp programs, theater workshops, innovative educational programming and offers scholarships and opportunities to experience professional performances.

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After hours and hours of perfecting some slideshows for my classes tomorrow, I am happy to get a few hours of shut eye.  This sleep will help me to be warm, nurturing, and perky tomorrow as I attempt to share one last time with my students how special they are.  I really am excited.

Thank you, shut eye, you made my day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 158- Honor Flight Supplies and Pranksters

Our school district raised quite a bit of money this year to send an entire group of WWII veterans on an honor flight.  Never heard of honor flights before?  I hadn't before this year either.  Basically, the goal of the honor flight program is to send veterans to their memorials in Washington, D.C. in order to honor the service they gave to our country and the sacrifices they made along the way.  It's good stuff.

Our social studies department and librarian held a fundraiser this year for staff and students to donate to this great cause.  It was a great success!  They raised enough money to send a whole bunch of vets on their honor flight, and our librarian and one of the teachers get to go with them tomorrow.  They sent out an e-mail asking for all kinds of supplies they would need to take with them, and I happily obliged with today's donation.

For more information on how to support these flights for our heroes, check this out.

http://www.honorflight.org/index.cfm

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The reading teacher pranked a couple of us on April Fool's Day (well, it was the Monday after, but the signs said "Happy April Fool's Day!").  She and our students put confetti all over our floors and signs in our rooms, and it cracked me up.  I love that stuff.  I think it's great for morale.  I turned the prank into a Whodunit warm-up, and the kids cracked and told me who did it.  I wasn't at all mad.  In fact, I was pleased to see members of our staff engage in such activities.  From the moment I saw it, however, the wheels in my mind started turning.  When we realized that it was a few of us 8th grade teachers in the downstairs who were hit, we began our group planning.

One of my students loves to draw pictures of this weird, ambiguous guy-lady with big lips and a mustache.  It's... interesting.  She suggested that we somehow incorporate this picture as we plotted our revenge.  I commissioned a special larger version of her artwork, and a few of us put up a couple hundred copies around the prankster's room.  She'll find them tomorrow morning when she comes in, and she will hopefully be as amused as we are.

She'll laugh, and I'm sure her students will love the whole thing.  It will be a fun day of running up and down the stairs to check on the aftermath of our 'staches.  Just when the prankster thinks her day is over, she'll walk out to her car and find a gigantic mustache on it, which was made by another teacher's Ac. Lab. 

It turns out that we don't get mad; we just grow mustaches.  In fact, there's a sign that says that very thing (next to the creepy picture, of course) to welcome her on the door.

I know this may all seem silly and ridiculous, but that's exactly why it amuses me so.  We've decided in my wing that we will be on offense in the prank wars next year.  We're learning.  Who doesn't love a little friendly back and forth in the workplace?  I think I can probably count this in the name of the climate committee I'm on. :) 

Thank you, pranksters, you made my day.

P.S. I'm kicking myself that I didn't get a picture of it all today.  I'll try tomorrow and will post if I remember.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 157- SOME and Worthwhile File Note

I was thankful for something quite simple on this day last year, a lukewarm shower.  After hours working hard in the hot sun, I just wanted a cool place to hang out and a shower to wash it all away.  I couldn't possibly imagine what it would be like to not have a place to go home to.

I decided to donate to SOME today.  Here's what they do:

SOME (So Others Might Eat) was founded by Father Horace McKenna, S.J. and an interfaith group of priests, ministers, and lay persons in 1970 to help feed the city's destitute citizens. Today, SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of our nation's capital. We meet the immediate daily needs of the people we serve with food, clothing, and health care. We help break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness. Each day, SOME is restoring hope and dignity one person at a time. We invite you to join us.

I'm happy to have found such a wonderful place to donate to today.

http://www.some.org/

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One of my education professors encouraged all of us, future teachers at the time, to create a "worthwhile file".  This is a place where we can put any sunshine we get at work to pull out on those days when nothing is going right.  Quite simply, every now and then we need these files to remind us of why we do what we do.

I asked my kids to fill out some evaluations today.  I designed these for the kids to give me feedback on all the main texts and activities from the year.  I purposely had them rank activities numerically to make it all more about the "stuff" and less about me.  I also wanted to get some usable data.  I didn't want a whole bunch of comments where kids were either disinterested, passively rude, or kissing up.  From the numbers, I can safely conclude that kids love Mad Libs, projects, anything that can be perceived as a game, and anything where they get to work with each other.  They liked activities that required more work much less.  No real shockers there.

I was really surprised by the evaluations though.  I thought that kids would do the absolutely minimum on these things (simply ranking numerically without any/many comments), and a good number of them did just that.  I feared that some of them may say things that would hurt my feelings, and I was ready to put on my big girls pants about it and to continue to thicken my skin.  However, I actually had a number of kids go out of their way to write nice things.  I was especially surprised by the notes a few of them wrote on the back of their evals.  I'd love to share them all, but that seems as if it would be excessive to anyone but me.  Instead, I'll just share one that will make it into the file for sure.  It may not seem like a whole lot, but it means the world to me.  If you knew who the kid was, you may begin to get it.  If you understood how hard I have worked to find the balance between disciplining and nurturing this one, you might get it even more.  I almost got a little teary eyed.

"You are one of the best teachers I have ever had.  You find a way to make everything fun."

When writing this, the student had shielded the paper and not wanted anyone else to see.  I wondered what in the world would be written on that paper when I read it.  I told students they could hand these in anonymously in order to encourage honesty (which is funny because after hunting down "no names" all year, I can guess just about any handwriting as well as an FBI agent), and this one was anonymous.  I won't embarrass this one by acknowledging what was written in an obvious way.  I will just nurture the best way I know how for our last few days together and hold this close to my heart.

Chalk another one up to the worthwhile file!

Thank you, worthwhile file note, you made my day.

Day 156- Goodwill and Clean Floor

I laughed out loud when I read last year's entry.  Before you go thinking I have a big ego, it was someone else's words that cracked me up, not my own.  Do you remember the Nordstrom Guide to Men's Style?  The sport coat compared to MacGeyver?  It still cracks me up.

It only makes sense to donate clothes in honor of this, right? 

I cleaned out the ol' closet, and everything is being donated.  By everything, I mean a LOT of stuff.  This definitely tops the $5 marker for the day :).

******

Lately, I don't have much time,
and my floor has gotten out of line.

It's hard to keep the cleanest space
when I am moving at such a pace.

Since my closet's way too small,
I just can't seem to fit it all. 

But today I took just a few minutes,
and I'm no longer living in it.

Where all those clothes were strewn before,
all I see now is a nice, clean floor. :)

Thank you, clean floor, you made my day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 155- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Tim McGraw

http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/

I enjoyed a wonderful date night with my even more wonderful husband last year.  We thoroughly enjoyed seeing a play, and that gave me an idea for where to donate to today.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) serves three primary roles: presenter of superb artistic programming, international leader in arts and education, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus. As a presenter of over 400 events annually, LCPA complements the offerings of the 11 other Lincoln Center resident organizations through a variety of popular series. Live From Lincoln Center extends the reach of Lincoln Center's stages to millions of Americans across the country. As an international leader in arts and education, LCPA takes a wide range of activities beyond its halls through its educational cornerstone, Lincoln Center Institute, as well as offering arts-related symposia; family programming; accessibility; and other community initiatives.


Support the arts!  I do :).

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I mean, do I really need to say anything else?

Tim was wearing a gray t-shirt last night, but the look was the same.  I think it's completely acceptable that I have a crush on him because I'm pretty sure Tom does too.  Shhh... don't tell.  He just seems like a good guy, and I adore him (Tim and Tom). 

We got to hear a whole assortment of the greatest hits last night.  I can't believe I hadn't seen Mr. McGraw in concert before!  I can certainly say that I will see him in concert again.  Woo hoo!

Thank you, Tim McGraw, you made my day.

Day 154- Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund and Bridesmaids

I was oh so pleasantly surprised with a little blue box from my husband on this day last year.  It's been a year, and I am still just as proud to have my apple pendant dangle from my neck. 

When I was poking around for ideas about where to donate in connection with Tiffany and Co., I had a thought.  Shocking, I know.  I have always adored Breakfast at Tiffanys, and I know that Audrey Hepburn was a great humanitarian.  She spent many years of her life working for UNICEF, and her sons created a charity in her honor.  On the website for the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, her longtime partner is quoted as saying,


“Audrey never, it seems to me, strove or hoped to leave a lasting legacy with her films. Certainly she was tickled by the fact that so many of them had become as popular as they did.

What I feel she would have wanted, had she been given more time, would have been to continue her efforts on behalf of children - because she knew it is a never-ending task with much still to be accomplished. If there is anything she would have wished for it is that her work be continued.


Audrey's innate sense of modesty kept her from ever becoming fully aware of the impact she had - through her work with UNICEF - in raising awareness of the plight of children. Given the immense love and tenderness she felt for her own children - the knowledge of having inspired them to continue her work would have been her greatest reward.”

Audrey's charity supports organizations the support kids around the world.  I supported this fund today.

http://www.audreyhepburn.com/menu/index.php?idMenu=42&pg=0

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Funny movie, funny friends.  Fun Friday night. :)


Thank you, bridesmaids, you made my day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 153- Canine Partners for Life and Hometown Visits

Puppy and his dreams made my day last year.  That little guy sure cracks me up.

Here's where he chose to donate to today:

http://www.k94life.org/

Founded in 1989, Canine Partners For Life (CPL) is dedicated to training service dogs, home companion dogs, and residential companion dogs to assist individuals who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities. CPL works to improve the quality of life of persons with physical disabilities. Each CPL dog receives a comprehensive and customized training program to meet the specific needs of their human partner. Depending on the assigned program, the dog will receive up to two years of training before being trained to work with its person. CPL has one of the strongest follow-up programs in the industry to ensure the success of each team throughout the lifetime of the partnership.





******

Yes, I still watch American Idol.  It happens.  I just can't help myself.

The hometown visits are one of my favorite parts of the show.  I usually fast forward through most of the results show to get to the good stuff at the end where someone gets kicked off.  However, I watched every second of the visits tonight.  There's just something so raw and honest about that moment when each contestant realizes the full scope and reach of the Idol experience.  I love to see them humbled, overwhelmed, and grateful. 

This bunch of hometown visits was especially poignant because of Lauren.  I picked her to win from her first audition, and I'm happy to see her in the finale.  Lauren was shown going back to a community that was recently devastated by storms, and it seemed even more real.  When she met the little boy who helped to save his family, I thought it was just the sweetest little thing.  It was also beautiful to hear the Martina version of "Anyway" accompanying the story, which was then followed by Lauren's pretty version of the same song. 

Loved it.

Thank you, hometown visits, you made my day.

Day 152- Food on Foot and Special Note

Last year-- 3 letters-- N... P... H!!!! 

He was brilliant on Glee, wasn't he?  I still smile just thinking about it.

In an effort to make NPH smile back (you know, because we're good friends and surely he reads my blog), I donated to a charity he supports today.  It's called Food on Foot, and they do fabulous things.

Food on Foot operates a weekly meal program every Sunday in Hollywood. Food on Foot began in March 1996 as one man's response to the hunger he witnessed among the poor and homeless of Hollywood. What initially began as the distribution of meals from the trunk of a car has grown through the dedication of its volunteers and now serves more than 250 meals each week to homeless, disabled, elderly and low-income adults and children.

http://www.foodonfoot.org/ 

******
One of my students gave me a really nice note today.  She told me that she has truly enjoyed being in my class, among other things.  This was especially meaningful because it came from a completely unexpected source.  Those are the best!  This is definitely one for my "worthwhile file".

Thank you, special note, you made my day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 151- Children's Miracle Networks and Deep Discussions

I was listening to "What I Cannot Change" by Leann Rimes on repeat last year, and I thanked her for making my day.  Man, I love that song!  I still listen to it on repeat every now and then.  It's in my inspirational/motivational/sensational/all kind of other -ational rotation.  Upon examination of Leann's website, I found that she is a supporter of the Children's Miracle Networks.

Here's what they do:

Children's Miracle Network's mission is to generate funds and awareness programs in partnership with and for the benefit of member hospitals/foundations and the children they are privileged to serve. We raise funds for more than 170 children's hospitals. Countless individuals, organizations and media partners unite with Children's Miracle Network hospitals to help sick and injured kids in local communities. Donations to Children's Miracle Network create miracles by funding medical care, research and education that saves and improves the lives of 17 million children each year.

http://childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org/

There's another $5 that have been well spent! :)

******

The kids bought in!  The kids bought in!

After we completed all of the activities that I had planned for the day, I had the kids circle up for a discussion.  I was a little nervous that they would think the whole circle business was lame.  It's possible that they did, but they didn't show it.  I was also nervous about them actually discussing.  While the kids looooooove to talk, they sometimes tend to clam up when asked to speak about the things I want them to focus on.  That was not a problem today.

We read the end of the Anne Frank play today.  I really wanted them to think and process and feel something.  I didn't want them to think of this as just another story that we read this year.  We simulated the annex, were "liberated" outside for some writing and reflection, and then got down to business with our deep discussion.

To say this went well would be an understatement.  I just kept thinking as the kids were sharing thoughts and feelings and debating each other respectfully this is so cool.  This was not a group of kids chit chatting.  My students were having a more thoughtful and interesting conversation than many adults I know.  They were discussing their reflections on the quote "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart."  They were also debating whether or not they agreed with that idea.

I'm so proud.  These kids have been driving many of my peers nuts (and admittedly me at times as well).  They have eighthgradeitis for sure.  However, they showed me a level of maturity that is rare and gave me insightful discussions full of layers today.  We were all so into it that we're going to continue our discussions in most of my classes tomorrow.  Not only did they buy in, but they want more.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  Nurturing these types of dialogues and getting my kids to question and think on the deepest level is exactly the kind of teaching I want to do.

Thank you, deep discussions, you made my day. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 150- Mailbox Surprises and Bright Pink Scarf

Last year I appreciated the simple pleasure of getting things in the mail.

Today my "donations" went into mailboxes at school.  I have learned from personal experience that a nice little unexpected note can go a long way in brightening a person's day.  It always seems as if these kinds of things pop up in my life just at the right time when I need some words of encouragement.

I tried to spread my sunshine today in the form of brightly colored cards with kind words on the inside.  I hope it worked. :)

******

The bright pink scarf
is a good disguise.

Food baby...
what food baby?

Pimple...
what pimple?

All I can see is the bright pink scarf. 

So my shirt didn't fit quite right,
and I lost a button on my pants.

I didn't fret.
I mesmerized with the bright pink scarf...
or distracted at least.


Thank you, bright pink scarf, you made my day.

Day 149- Children's Museum of Houston and Lesson Plans

I was thankful for Texas last year.  That created a somewhat daunting task for today's donation.  The state of Texas is huge, and the pool of charities is even larger.  I hopped on over to charitynavigator.org (see "yesterday's" post) to see what I might do, and I found a goodie.

The Children's Museum of Houston caught my attention with their tagline "a playground for your mind".  I love museums, and I love playgrounds (the monkey bars kind and the mind kind). 

The Children's Museum of Houston is the highest-attended youth museum in the country for its size and is dedicated to its mission of transforming communities through innovative, child-centered learning. Housed in a whimsical building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Robert Venturi, the Children's Museum of Houston offers a multitude of exhibits bursting with action-packed fun that engage kids in the ultimate learning experience. The Museum was founded in 1980 by a group of Houston parents who hoped to elevate early childhood development to a community-wide priority. Since then, the Museum has grown to serve more than 750,000 people annually, focusing on bilingual (Spanish/English) learning programs for kids ages birth to 12 years and workshops in literacy, science, math, health, engineering, civic engagement, culture and social studies.


Doesn't that just sound like a fabulous place?  I'm happy to donate, and I hope to visit there one day.

http://www.cmhouston.org/

******

After catching up on the past number of days, I'm pooped.  I need to get to bed!  I'm going to keep this one short and sweet. 

I was inspired with some great lesson plan ideas today.  I had out a couple of different books and was reading multiple things at the same time.  I've been developing some of these lessons in my head for the past few weeks, and it all came together today.  I'm looking forward to trying everything out with my kids this week, and I just hope that they will buy into everything I'm putting out there. 

Thank you, lesson plans, you made my day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 148- Charity Navigator and Movie Date

Ok, I'm not to blame for this bit of cheesiness.  Blame Tom!

I was thankful for a Jeep Compass last year because it got us to Medina when our airplane couldn't.  It only makes sense to donate to charitynavigator.org today.  Compass... navigator... get it? 

We're blaming Tom for that one, remember?

In all seriousness, charitynavigator.org is a great website that I use almost every day.  It's like a Better Business Bureau of charities.  Organizations on the site are analyzed and given rankings on a 4-star system in order to help people like you and me more easily navigate which charities are legit and which should be avoided.  The site also makes it easy to find charities and to search by keyword for exactly the types of places you want.  In order to keep the site running, they need their own donations, and I'm happy to provide one today.

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

******

Tom and I had not seen a movie in a long, long time.  We kept planning to go to one... and then we'd put it off again.  Then, at long last, we did it.  We went to a movie last night...

FINALLY!!

The movie itself was forgettable.  The popcorn was buttery and delicious.  The company was superb.  The time together holding buttery hand in buttery hand in the movie theater was much needed.

Thank you, movie date, you made my day.

Day 147- Puppies Behind Bars and Sub Compliment

Last year I wrote about the fabulous people at Country Lane (General's "camp") and their kind treatment of our little guy.  I asked Puppy where he'd like to donate to this year in honor of last year's post, and we decided on Puppies Behind Bars (Tom helped me all of this too).

Puppies Behind Bars trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement.

"As our puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it."
http://www.puppiesbehindbars.com/


******

I received a really nice compliment today, and I know I'm going to carry it around for a long time.  My CWC teacher was out, so the sub was in my room for part of my CWC class.  I saw her again when she approached me at lunch.  She told me that she really enjoyed being in my classroom.  I was delighted at this remark, but that wasn't all.  She went on to tell me that she loved the song I incorporated, the activity we did, and everything else that she saw.  She also mentioned more than once that my classroom just seemed really warm and safe and nurturing. 

I cannot explain how much all of that meant to me.  That's exactly what I have tried to create in my room all year.  I know that my subject area (and maybe even my personality) are not everyone's cup of tea.  However, I want all kids to feel safe and welcome and liked when they enter my room.  To hear someone else say that I may be successful in that area was wonderful.  Absolutely, positively wonderful.

Thank you, sub compliment, you made my day.

Day 146- Anderson House and Choir Concert

http://www.andersonhouse.org/

Jay Mohr made my day last year.  Oh, he's a funny guy!  He is a big time supporter of the Anderson House charity and does a lot of work for them.  If it's good enough for Jay, it's good enough for me.  Here's what they do:

Dedicated to providing quality treatment, Anderson House supports women as they develop the necessary goals and life skills to return to the community as responsible, sober and productive individuals.

With a success rate of 78-84%, Anderson House is a well-respected halfway house program serving women from all New Jersey counties.

Anderson House is committed to serving all women regardless of their ability to pay. Everyone at Anderson House is dedicated to making it the premier program in the state. We take great pride in the work we do helping women build new lives for themselves and their children.

******
At the request of some of my kiddos, I attended their last choir concert tonight.  Boy, I'm glad I did.  I can honestly say I had a really good time. :)

It's always nice to see my students outside of class because every little thing creates an even more complete picture of who each of them are.  It also gives me a way to show that I'm interested in what they like and what they do.  I must admit I was blown away by how good some of them are!  In a little note to the choir teacher, I told her that I think before anyone considers making cuts to the arts or to public education, they should see her kids perform "We Are the World" first.  Surely it would change some minds.  Those kids were great.

One of the Barbras, who I was looking forward to seeing after witnessing her talent show audition, had a solo that gave me goosebumps.  Literally.  Even Tom was impressed!  It was an all-around fun experience.

Thank you, choir concert, you made my day.

Day 145- "Key Club" and Contract

I'm thrilled to say that a coworker and I are creating a new club at my school next year.  I am even more excited to say that it will be a volunteer and service club for students.  It will somewhat like clubs at other schools that are called Key Clubs.  There's my tie in to last year's Key Lime cake. 

The two of us are both on our building climate committee together, and we discussed our mutual interest in this idea at a meeting a few weeks ago.  We've both noticed that there are often opportunities for our kids and staff to donate money and stuff to good causes.  I always support these things and encourage my kids to as well, especially my can-drive-winning Ac Lab.  I love to see my kids learning the value of charity and giving back. 

However, many of our kids at school are in need of help themselves.  They don't have the means to participate in these contests because they don't really have means at all.  That's why we want to give these kids and the rest of our students the opportunities to get involved.  We want them to volunteer and to find ways to get others to donate.  We want them to research local businesses to see what they might contribute to our school and to our community.  We want them to understand the value and beauty of getting involved.

My donation today was not monetary, but it was important.  I have begun to donate my time to this club that I hope will be important as well.  Stay tuned for updates!

******

I got my contract today for next year.  This may not seem like a huge deal, but it kind of was.  After the weeks I spent fretting about whether or not I would be back on the job market this spring, a market that is even worse than last year, it was such a blessing to find out that I would have the privilege of returning to my job next year.

I signed and returned my contract today to make it official.  Woo hoo!  Watch out kids... I'll be back. :)

Thank you, contract, you made my day.

Day 144- C Gift and Breakaway Date

I have a coworker who does all kinds of things for all kinds of people. She stays late to help out, is always good for a casual conversation, and takes good care of the people around her. She's just plain awesome.

Our department decided to put some money together to get something nice for our wonderful coworker. It was the perfect cause for my $5 today.

Is there someone in your life that you might recognized today? Who doesn't love to feel appreciated?

******

Breakaway Cafe is

a. a place near the UMSL campus where Tom and I used to meet for dinner before I headed off to a night of classes
b. a restaurant with an amazing house Italian dressing, turkey melt, and seasoned french fries.
c. the location of our date last night after I was back at it on campus.
d. a place where one can get a Dr. Pepper in a cute little glass bottle.

E. ALL of the ABOVE!!! :)

Thank you, Breakaway date, you made my day.

Day 143- My Kids and Swirly Dress

This day last year was Mother's Day, and I wrote about my own lovely mother. When I asked my mom before where I might make a donation in honor of her, she told me to use the money for my kids. That's just what I did! :)




******

When I was little, I loved to wear dresses. I could get dirty and make mud pies with the best of them, but I still loved my dresses. I'd twirl around in them to watch the skirt flow out until I got dizzy. My mom even used to call me Vanna White because I used to watch Wheel of Fortune just long enough to see what she was wearing. It makes me laugh now to think that she was my fashion icon, but I think she was something back in the day.

It turns out that I still like dresses, and I still like that swirly dress trick. I had fun flouncing around all day.
Thank you, swirly dress, you made my day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Be Right Back!

I'll be back tomorrow to catch up on this crazy, busy, fabulous week! :)

Until then...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 142- Morris Animal Foundation and Sock Monkeys

I was on the Betty White bandwagon before it was the cool place to be.  I've loved her since "Golden Girls".  Heck, I've loved her since I used to watch old Mary Tyler Moore reruns.  She's magical.  When she hosted SNL last year, I had no choice.  I had to write about her.

Betty just so happens be on a bandwagon of her own.  She's a huge animal lover (c'mon, I'm not a stalker... this is a matter of public record).  One of her main charities of choice is the Morris Animal Foundation.

Founded in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) improves the health and well-being of companion animals and wildlife by funding humane health studies and disseminating information about those studies. MAF has been at the forefront of funding health breakthroughs that have helped animals on all seven continents. Our funded research helps a wide variety of animals, including companion animals such as dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas, as well as wildlife including mountain gorillas, elephants, rhinoceros, wolves, sea otters, and many varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. More than 50 of the world's most respected research institutions, colleges of veterinary medicine, and zoos are conducting nearly 200 MAF-sponsored studies and veterinary student projects.


If it's good enough for Betty, it's most certainly good enough for me.

http://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/

******

I love sock monkeys.  They make me happy inside.  I was looking at them all morning instead of doing something productive.  Do I need more of a reason than that for something to make my day?

Just look at this little guy.  Doesn't he make you feel happy about what's to come?

Thank you, sock monkeys, you made my day.

Day 141- United Through Reading and Heather's Birthday Party

I was a "bad girl" last year in Barnes and Noble.  What can I say?  I love flipping through brand new pages of a brand new book.  That's about as bad as I get.

Part of the reason I love books so much is because I grew up surrounded by reading and books.  I see firsthand in my classroom the differences between kids who have also had these kinds of experiences and those who have not.  I just wish everyone got that chance at home.

United Through Reading is a program that helps.  Their mission is to "unite families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together."  I belive wholeheartedly in this idea and its importance.  I'm happy to support this program today.

http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/

******

Perfect weather.  Perfect company.  Lovely day (I won't say perfect day because there may have been a little too much fun for a couple of people...haha... and it wasn't me this time).

Thank you, Heather's Birthday Party, you made my day. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 140- V-Day and "Flowers"

I adore Law and Order: SVU.  I know it's kind of strange to really enjoy a show about violence against special victims, but it is a fascinating glimpse into a world that is completely foreign to me.  I wrote about my love for the show last year (and for my love of the show's Detective Staebler, which still exists).  It's fun to watch because it's not at all real to me.

The scary thing is that many of the episodes seem as if they are ripped from real headlines.  I often recognize the stories as being at least partially real, and this kind of violence does exist in the real world, even if it has not invaded my own little world.  That's why I donated to V-Day today.

http://www.vday.org/home

Founded in 1998, V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery. Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of 'The Vagina Monologues' to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. In addition V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women.


******

I don't mean to beat a dead horse here (but I might), and I should probably warn that it is about to get corny up in here.

I had some "rain" this week.  The awesome thing about having "rain" in my life is that it always seems to be followed by all kinds of "flowers".  Some of the first flowers to turn this week around were... well, the actual flowers I blogged about yesterday.  Since I reached my breaking point a few days ago, I have been overwhelmed by all sorts of nice little blooms in my life.

I don't mean to take the easy way out here, but I'd kind of like to keep these things close to my heart.  I asked God to help me find my way back to my positive, happy self, and the results were almost instantaneous.  I've been finding bits of wonderful in every single place I look.  I look forward to continuing to share all of the beauty that exists in the world.

I will share just one little tidbit from today.  I had a friend tell me today that she thinks I'm the nicest person she knows.  I completely disagree with her, so let's make that clear.  I suppose it's possible that she just doesn't know many nice people.  That's the only thing I can come up with.  Anyway... even though I disagree, I think that is still one of best compliments I could receive.  I want to be nice and genuine and thoughtful.  I'm oh so pleased that someone else sees me in that way.  I'll take it!

Thank you, "flowers", you made my day.  

Day 139- Michigan Environmental Council and Puppy Flowers

I was thankful for my clean bathrooms last year.  I wish I could say that this year, but they may have to wait another week or two until the end of the school year.  Days like "clean bathroom" present a bit of a challenge when trying to connect donations, but I did the best I could.

I searched for "bathroom" on charitynavigator.com, and I was shocked to find 0 results.  By shocked, I mean I wasn't surprised at all.  "Clean" produced a bunch of results, among them the Michigan Environmental Council.  This sounded like a more than suitable organization, and my donation was completed.  Here's what they do:

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) provides a collective voice for the environment at the local, state and federal levels. Working with our 70 member groups and their collective membership of nearly 200,000 residents, MEC is addressing the primary assaults on Michigan's environment; promoting alternatives to urban blight and suburban sprawl; advocating for a sustainable environment and economy; protecting Michigan's water legacy; promoting cleaner energy; and working to diminish environmental impacts on children's health. Since our inception in 1980, MEC has been responsible for countless victories for our environment.


Who doesn't like clean energy?  What are you willing to do to get it?  If I can't clean my bathrooms as regularly as I'd like, at least I can make my own small contribution to clean energy. 

http://www.environmentalcouncil.org/

******

Puppy flowers?  What in the world are those?

Hmm... they're just about the cutest little thing I've ever seen (perhaps only passed by real puppies). 


This teacher got an appreciation gift from her parents.  Woo hoo!  It was so cute that other people wanted to show it around too.  I'm not sure if you can tell or not, but the puppy is made entirely of flowers, and the bag is reusable.  It was a wonderful suprise and came with a note that meant a lot to me.  My parents rule!

Thank you, puppy flowers, you made my day. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 138- Drinks and Mom Who Gets It

I'm in the Secret Society at school.  Don't worry, I'm not spilling any big secrets here.  We're called over the intercom to remind us of our meetings, and we claim all of our good deeds.  The word secret is used quite loosely here.

The Secret Society is a club at school that does nice things for the staff.  We bring treats to faculty meetings, organize fun holiday things like Secret Santas and door decorating, and try to make things in the building fun.  One of our best recent contributions was a chocolate fountain with all the dipping lovelies at a staff meeting after school.  It was delicious and well-received.  Plus, it made the meeting more entertaining because everyone had gotten a little something chocolate somewhere in the dipping madness.  Good times.

Today we organized a lunch situation for our half day before professional development.  We had pulled pork sandwiches, chips, fruit, desserts, and... the drinks I donated. :)

******

I didn't realize how much I needed to talk to my mom today until I got the busy signal. 

Luckily, I got ahold of her a few minutes later.  I had a rough day today, and I knew that she would be one of the only people who would really get it.  I knew she wouldn't feel the need to fix things or offer suggestions that didn't fit.  I knew she would be able to listen, to empathize, and to say just the right things.

And she did.

I know I've said this before, but it's really nice to share a profession with my mom.  We can have conversations about our kids and our peers and our lessons.  It turns out that eighth graders are eighth graders no matter which "M" state they live in, parents are parents, and schools share the same sets of challenges and rewards.  I'm really not sure how to explain it any other way than this.  My mom gets it.  She understands what it is like to live my daily life better than anyone else because we not only share the same job, we have the same work ethic, values, and beliefs too.  That just makes sense.

I don't think I'm making a negative-comment-on-a-positivity-only-blog kind of error when I say that I have some difficult days from time to time.  If anything, that proves that I'm real and human, right?  Rainbows and sunshine dominate most the time, but even I have my breaking point, and I reached it today.  I am the first to admit that I'm far from perfect.  I'm constantly trying to gossip less and love more.  I want to be patient more and annoyed less.  I want to know what the right thing is to do, and I want to make sure that I actually do it. 

I let things get to me today.  I got worked up and frustrated.  I allowed others to affect the way I judge and define myself.  I'm not upset by any of that anymore, though.  In fact, I'm surprised I don't feel that way more often.  In a career like teaching, I think it's perfectly natural to feel underappreciated and overlooked.  If you're going to be a lifer as a teacher, you have to be intrinsically driven.  You have to motivated by your love of the kids and the profession because those are the only guarantees you get.

The good thing is that I have that kind of motivation in spades.  I love what I do, and I truly care for my kids.  The bad thing is I have inherited a crazy work ethic from my parents.  I work harder and love deeper than anyone around me.  I don't mean to sound egotistical, but that's just part of who I am.  If I thought someone was working harder or caring more, then I'd have to spend even more time and energy at my job to keep up.  It's what will make me successful at my job, but it is also what will cause days like today.  With the constant need to be the best, it is easy to feel inadequate.

That's where my mom comes in.  I hold her teaching in the highest regard.  She has been teaching for years, but she is not complacent.  She still devotes hours upon hours of time and energy to her profession and to her students.  She is and has always been incredibly well-liked and respected by her students, and they actually learn in her class too!  That can be a rare combination.  Today was one of those days when my own positive energy was just not quite enough to overcome the deficit created at school.  I needed reassurance, and reassurance from my mom means that much more.  She gets it, after all.  If she tells me that I'm okay, then I'll believe it.

Thanks so much for being there today, Mom.  Thanks for listening and for understanding and for teaching me to be the kind of person who can't leave at 3:30 every day.  Thanks for knowing exactly what I mean.  I really needed that today.

Thank you, Mom Who Gets It, you made my day.
 

Day 137- Food Allergy Initiative and Dynamic Duo

http://www.foodallergyinitiative.org/

Benadryl saved the day for me last year.  I don't even really remember the situation, to be honest, but I think it had to do with a month long cold I seemed to have that may have had something to do with allergies.  We've got an extremely high pollen count in these parts, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little more of that now. 

I know that this type of allergy and food allergies are not the same, but they're all allergies.  Right?  Sounds good to me.  Therefore, my donation today was made to the Food Allergy Initiative.

The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) was founded in 1998 by concerned parents and grandparents. Our goal is to fund research that seeks a cure; to improve diagnosis and treatment; and to keep patients safe through education and advocacy. FAI-sponsored research seeks to find a cure and improve clinical treatment, including anaphylaxis and chronic diseases of the skin and gastrointestinal tract caused by food allergy. FAI seeks to improve the identification and treatment of people at risk for food allergies. FAI works to develop and implement public policies that improve the quality of life for people with food allergies, playing an integral role in establishing national, state, and local guidelines for anaphylaxis and food safety.


******

It was Day 2 of the talent show auditions, and I felt as if the actual talent was a bit shaky.  We had seen some good acts yesterday and some good acts this afternoon, but we'd seen a whole lot of "so-so" and a few "downright embarrassings".  I was ready to be wowed.

I totally was.

The dynamic duo entered the room, and I really wanted them to be good.  I have one of them in class, and I really like her.  She's an emo kid with a rough exterior but the gentlest of hearts.  She has some real issues with missing and late work, but a whole bunch of our kids do.  I'm still trying to work through all of that stuff with her in our last few weeks together.  We'll see what we can do.  Anyway... she talks about her music in class all the time and about how she's in different bands and things.  We bond over our music and our distaste for anything released by Miley or Justin.  I think she's got great taste.

From the first few notes of their performance to the last cord, the dynamic duo completely blew me away.  They did an acoustic number of a song I had never heard before, but it's most definitely one I would like to hear again.  The lyrics were meaningful, the melody was flawless, and the two girls really knocked my socks off.  I think the comments I wrote said something like, "LOVED it!  Great music, great guitar, amazing message.  Wow."  There were also a bunch of smiley faces involved, a few stars, and maybe some other superlatives as well.  I absolutely cannot wait for these ladies to have their moment at the talent show. 

Thank you, dynamic duo, you made my day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

136- Talent Show Judging and Hallway Supermodel

Hahaha... I made myself a fine challenge today.  I wrote about "I Just Want to be Your Everything" by Andy Gibb for last year's blog.  What in the world could I find to donate to that might connect to that?  It's a good thing that I have experienced years of suspect transitions used by my dad in conversations.  This has given me an inflated sense of confidence about my own connecting abilities.  That will work nicely in this situation.

Andy Gibb is a talented singer.  Stop laughing.  It's true.  I volunteered my help for Monday and Tuesday of this week to listen to what I hoped would be other singers and talents.  Barnwell hosted their annual talent auditions, and the choir director asked for staff volunteers to come judge and help pick who would make the show this year.  You better believe I jumped on this opportunity!

I'm always looking for ways to get more involved in my school, and this was a fun one.  I got to spend an hour pretending I was Simon Cowell (although I fear I'm actually probably more Paula or J Lo).  On my score card, I wrote honest comments and gave honest scores for how I thought the kids did.  I felt as if it was my responsibility to save kids from ridicule if I thought their acts would have other kids making fun of them instead of applauding their talents.  I wrote glowing comments about the little stars who came in too.  Regardless of the level of talent and performance, I tried my best to be outwardly warm and friendly.  Just about every kid that came in was visibly nervous.  Some of them were even nervous to the point of flubbing, crying, and running out of the room.  I focused on thinking nice thoughts no matter what so that these things would show up on my face.  I wanted our auditioners to be comfortable and do their best.

All in all, this was one of the most delightful donations I've made yet.

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I have a student who uses the hallway as a runway on a daily basis.  Don't get me wrong here... she doesn't do this in a "Mean Girls" kind of way, and it's not always about the fashion either.  Some days she's decked out and as cute as can be.  Other days she's just in basketball shorts or sweatpants (and still as cute as can be).  I don't think she's ever even worn heels.  Yet, no matter what she's wearing and who's around, she's always a supermodel.

My little supermodel simply likes to strut.  She is pure joy, and I always feel her smile reflecting on my own face.  If I miss her first sassy walk down the runway, she finds a reason to go away for a minute to create the saunter back opportunity.  When the walk is over, she always makes time to stop for a chat with her fans.  These conversations are always a bright spot in my day, and I may just be the president of her fan club.

Thank you, hallway supermodel, you made my day. 
  

Day 135- St. Charles Parks and Recreation Foundation and Pirate Party

I rejoiced in my first lazy Saturday in months around this time last year.  I had just finished my student teaching, and this meant my six-day-a-week work schedule had finally come to a conclusion.  In the spirit of nice, lazy Saturdays, I made today's donation to our local park foundation.  After all, parks are excellent facilitators of lazy Saturdays.  I hope to spend many more visiting all of our local parks with my boys, even though General will feel the need to "mark his territory" on at least seven trees per park (no joke).

http://www.stcharlesparksfoundation.org/index.php

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What's cuter than a bunch of little munchkins whacking a pinata at a 4-year-old's pirate birthday party?  Hmm... not much. 

Hot dogs and all kinds of other fixings, an adorable treasure chest cake, and great company rounded out a wonderful Sunday afternoon spent at little AM's birthday party.

Thank you, pirate party, you made my day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 134- Early Morning and The Barbras

It's interesting how things work out sometimes.  On this day last year, I was thankful for my sleep.  I gave up my sleep this year to donate my time.  Good timing!

I chaperoned my first field trip today.  We went to Springfield, Illinois to see all of the Lincoln historical sites.  We toured his office, his home, and his museum.  It was pretty cool to walk around and see everything!  It was almost equally as cool that a bunch of eighth graders cared enough to give up their Saturday to pay to go on a field trip that was not required.  I was willing to donate my one day of sleeping in and me time to help out on the trip.  Again, I suppose this must mean that I love my job.

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I knew that all of the historical things I saw today would be cool.  I love museums, and I definitely get wrapped up in the whole oooh-I'm-standing-where-so-and-so-stood business.  It was a fun time for a dork like me. 

What I was not expecting today was for the kids to be so good.  I suppose that I should have realized that they'd be good since they were the kinds of kids who would give up their Saturdays for something like this, but still.  Sure, a few of them may have gotten on our nerves a bit, but there were no incidents.  It was smooth sailing!

The Barbras made my day even better.  This is kind of a long story, but I'll try to abbreviate it to important details only.  I like to play music while my students are working, and my song of the day on Friday had been "Barbra Streisand".



The kids loved it, especially because some of them had just gotten to know the song on Glee.  Because they liked the song so much, my group decided that they would be named "The Barbras" and asked me to call them this the whole day.  So I did.  It cracked me up each and every time I said it because they totally responded to it.  The Barbras stayed today through the entire Lincoln Museum.  The Barbras pumped their fists together while we waited for other groups outside the Lincoln home.  The Barbras were the first group back on the bus because they stayed so organized.  The Barbras were well-behaved and adorable, making me one lucky chaperone!

Thank you, Barbras, you made my day.    

Day 133- Dress for Success and The Royal Wedding

I recounted the somewhat humorous story last year of my first teaching job offer and the events leading up to it.  As ecstatic as I was, I had no idea how much that day changed my life.  This has been an incredibly rewarding (and tiring) year.  I am thankful to have gotten a job in the tough teacher market, and I am thankful that I will still have my job for at least another year.  All I need is the opportunity to teach, and I am happy to supply everything else.

I thought Dress for Success would be a nice place to donate to in connection with this idea.  I have heard countless times about the importance of making a positive first impression at a job interview.  I know firsthand how much a good interview can change a person's life.  Dress for Success can help with an important part of this process.

"The clothing that Dress for Success provides to our clients symbolizes our faith in every woman's ability to succeed.

Dress for Success solves the catch-22 that confronts disadvantaged women trying to enter the workforce: without a job, how can you afford a suit? But without a suit, how can you get a job?

Shortly after Dress for Success was founded, we became well-known for providing suits to disadvantaged women returning to or entering the workforce. Although our mission has expanded, the suiting program remains a crucial part of our work and a vital first-step in a woman's journey toward self-sufficiency."

One of my favorite quotes from the website says, "Our concern is where our clients are going, not where they've been."  I'm all for helping those with a desire to help themselves.

http://www.dressforsuccess.org/home.aspx

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There's nothing I can say about the Royal Wedding that has not already been said at least one thousand times.  I love weddings and drama and glamour and pagentry, so of course I loved every minute of this wedding that was rich with all of those things.  I was delighted that Kate wore a dress reminiscent of Grace Kelly and that the couple seemed to grin their way through the day.  I love saying Pippa.  I like pretty cars and classy ladies and crazy hats.

I know I'm supposed to roll my eyes while saying "Who cares?" and pretend that the whole thing is ridiculous, but I really enjoyed watching all the coverage, and I'm not sorry.  So there.

ROYAL DEBUT   photo | Royal Wedding, Kate Middleton, Prince William

Thank you, Royal Wedding, you made my day. 

Day 132- Friendship Bridge and Howl Night

Last year a student offered me her friendship in the form of a bracelet.  I donate my friendship today in the form of Friendship Bridge.  What is it?

Friendship Bridge provides microcredit and education to help women and their families create their own solutions to poverty.


We believe that:

- Microcredit helps impoverished women reach economic independence.
- Education for women and children is an important tool for development.
- Health education enhances personal, family and community well being.
- Respect for the spiritual and cultural roots of communities is fundamental.
- Participatory techniques incorporate each client’s voice.
- Women are leaders for change in their families and communities.
- Effective programs are created through listening

http://www.friendshipbridge.org/

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I got to wear my cowboy boots today.  A sundress, a denim jacket, and some cowboy boots.  It was Barnwell's annual "Howl Night", and the theme this year was something about the Old West.  Since I had homework help after school and didn't have time to go home in between, I wore my getup allllll day long.

Speaking of a long day (isn't that what I was talking about?), today was most certainly long.  I was at school from 7:15 am to 8:15 pm and running around in my boots the whole time.  The excellent thing is that I was still happy when I got home.  It was a tired happy, but happy just the same.  I think that means I love my job.

Sooo... what's Howl Night?  Well, it's kind of hard to explain.  It's an event where teachers can display student work, families can come have fun, the school can raise money, and everyone can dance and get their faces painted.  There were performers and booths and slide shows and charicatures and hot dogs and smiling faces everywhere.  I didn't have an official job, just a little relief for others here and there, so I got to take it all in and socialize with families and teachers and everyone else.  My boots and I sure did have a good time!

Thank you, Howl Night, you made my day.

Day 131- Ronald McDonald House and Plays

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...

Well, actually, last year my boy brought the milkshake and not the other way around.  It's a special trick when I am sick.  Yes, that totally just rhymed.  Anyway... milkshakes made me think of McDonald's and made me think of being a sick little kid.  The Ronald McDonald House charities combine both of these things.  Bingo!

http://rmhc.org/

Our Ronald McDonald House program provides a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost. Our Houses are built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on healing their child – not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest.

Allow Families to Face the Weight of Illness Together


Families are stronger when they are together, which helps in the healing process. By staying at a Ronald McDonald House, parents also can better communicate with their child’s medical team and keep up with complicated treatment plans when needed. They can also focus on the health of their child, rather than grocery shopping, cleaning or cooking meals.

Allow Children to Get the Best Care

When your child is sick, you want the best care possible - even if it is hundreds or thousands of miles away. The Ronald McDonald House allows families to access specialized medical treatment by providing a place to stay at little or sometimes no cost.

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We read a scene from "Life is Beautiful" in our lit. book yesterday.  I wanted to get my students into play mode before we begin Anne Frank, and the scene we have in our book is really beautifully written.  The whole thing really made me want to watch the movie! 

In order to give the kids a chance to practice all of this play "stuff" they're learning (our curriculum standards include things like stage directions and dialogue), I gave them a chance today to write their own short plays.  They wrote skits a while back and seemed to really enjoy the process, so I thought this might be a chance for them to have a little fun and not realize that they're learning in the meantime. 

I love being right.

I think some of my favorite days of teaching come when I am simply a facilitator.  Sure, there are days when I need to provide direct instruction, and those are valuable.  However, I love when I have a solid activity created.  It's nice to present my students with directions and then spend the rest of the day circulating and listening to the wheels turning in their heads.  Kids really do say the darndest things!  I had such a good time just dropping by and listening to all of the little groups scattered around the room.  Even though they may not admit it, those kids had a good time today too!

Their requirements were somewhat simple.  They had to have the required number of lines of dialogue, to write stage directions, and to refrain from killing or injuring any of their characters (that's a whole other story there).  It is fascinating to see the different ideas that stem from the same set of directions.  I love seeing where their minds go... well, most of the time. :)  It's also nice to create those kinds of days where I think to myself the kids will remember this.

Thank you, plays, you made my day.

Day 130- Central Institute for the Deaf and "Born This Way"

I had the somewhat frightening task of teaching with hand signals only at this time last year.  My voice had left me, and I was trying to complete my last few days of student teaching.  Slowing down was not an option.  Luckily, my kids responded well to the hand signals, and it taught me some new teaching skills.  My voice returned for my last two days.  I was thankful to have the opportunity to say all of the things I wanted to say to my kids before I left.

My donation today was made to help people who need to successfully navigate the world with their hands much of the time.  Their hand signals form the majority of their communication system, and I'm sure I could learn a lot from that.  The Central Institue for the Deaf helps this population in a number of important ways.

Since its founding in 1914, Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) has demonstrated that regardless of how severe their hearing impairment, children can learn to speak and to understand the speech of others when early and appropriate education is provided. Today, cochlear implants and powerful digital hearing aids, combined with educational techniques developed at CID, are enabling more children to learn to listen, talk, read and succeed academically. CID teachers and audiologists are experts at helping deaf and hearing-impaired children gain the best possible benefit from today's rapidly changing technologies. We offer a language-rich, assessment-based educational program individualized to help every child achieve success.

http://www.cid.edu/home.aspx

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They did it again on "Glee" with a fabulous version of a fabulous song.  I have been excited lately that the show seems to have gotten back to being more plot driven.  I greatly appreciated the fact that this song was not just thrown in there because it is popular.  Rather, it was a perfect addition to what was happening with the characters throughout the episode.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the t-shirts each character wore and the whole idea behind them.  Brittany's "I'm with stoopid" was genius!

Thank you, "Born This Way", you made my day.

Day 129- Raffle Basket and O'Ekaki

Thursday night is Barnwell's annual Howl Night, and all of the teams at school are asked to put together a basket for a raffle.  My team decided to do a movie theme for ours.  Since my movie favorite (popcorn) was taken right from the start, I contributed all kinds of different boxes of movie candy.  Sour Patch Kids, Snowcaps, and Milk Duds... oh my! 

Our basket turned out really well, and I hope we raise some money! :)

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I can't remember how I discovered O'Ekaki, but I'm sure glad that I did.  It is one part logic puzzle, one part paint-by-number, and 100% awesome.



In my puzzle books, I have created pictures of everything from Marilyn Monroe to the Mona Lisa to Jesus.  I'm hoping that this constant exercising of my brain has its benefits.  Even if it doesn't, I could do these puzzles all day.  In fact, I just may have done that once or twice.

Thank you, O'Ekaki, you made my day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Promise

I promise I will catch up soon.  It has been a long couple of days!!

In the meantime, I have a request.  If you are the praying type, will you please pray for my students?  A few of them are going through things that are far too heavy for eighth graders to be dealing with... or for anyone to be dealing with, for that matter.  It's been a rough few days, and I want more than anything for them to come out of all this strong and shiny.

I probably care about these kids more than I should, but I can't help it.  The day I stop thinking about these kids day and night is the day I should find myself a new profession.  I just hope they know how much I want for them to be happy, well-adjusted people.  If these people report back to me in the future about their successes, I will be over the moon.  My students will impact this world in one way or another, so I fight every day for them to make the right choices and to overcome everything that is thrown at them.  It seems to be a lot these days.  Yet, I never have any doubt about whether or not this battle is worth fighting. 

I think it was time for bed a few hours ago, so my soapbox will have to be put away for another one of these rainy days we've been having. 

God bless, and thanks for thinking of my kids.  It really does take a village.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Days 127 and 128- United Way Tornado Relief and Easter Weekend

United Way Tornado Relief Fund

What started out as some thunderstorms in the area over the past few days turned into something much worse.  The greater St. Louis area was ravaged by a series of tornadoes that brought golf ball sized hail with them and left behind a trail of destruction.  Our airport was shut down because of shattered windows and massive damage to terminals and runways alike.  Tom and I were shocked to see the footage on the news of the devastation surrounding us. 

We had some bad storms at our house.  However, it was not nearly as serious as what we were seeing.  In fact, we had joked around about it all.  I laughed at Tom and said, "The weatherman told us to stay inside and seek cover.  What you heard was, 'Go outside to see how awesome the storm is.'"  We were lucky. 

People here got hit, and they got hit hard.  A lot of this happened just miles away from us.  Again, we absolutely could not believe the images we were seeing.  Other than a big swamp in our backyard and the constant rain (seriously, it has been happening for a week straight), we have been unaffected.  We're in the middle of all of it, but we have been so blessed.

It's crazy to see storms like these happen at all.  It really makes you believe that there is something bigger, doesn't it?  What is even more incredible is that not a single person... not one person... was killed.  It's an Easter miracle!  This does not mean, however, that everyone is fine.  That's why I made my donation for this weekend to the United Way of STL Tornado Relief Fund.  I hope that others will follow suit to help my community recover and pick up the pieces.

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Speaking of the rain...

Our activities this weekend were somewhat limited.  Because there was constantly some kind of warning crawling along the bottom of the tv screen (no joke), we didn't leave the house a whole lot.  We did have a lovely, relaxing weekend, however. 

A few highlights...

Our church was PACKED this morning.  I feel about Easter/Christmas church the way Tom feels about January gym attendance.  Where did all of these people come from?  I only wish that we would continue to pack in like sardines year round.  There's something so incredibly powerful about a full church singing a hymn.  It was really nice.  I hope that everyone comes back next week.

Easter


    We made my family's traditional Easter punch.  Unfortunately, no one spiked it.  There's always next year...

I'm not a big fan of deviled eggs anymore, but they make my Poopi happy.  I like to make him his happy.


We made baked brie for the first time, and it was delicious!  When an attempt at a bow failed, we tried for a heart on top.  Yeah...


Please disregard my cooking side ponytail and the sink full of dishes.  Instead, definitely direct your attention to the glazed ham, the green onion cheddar muffins, the spinach salad with berries and candied walnuts, the sun-dried tomato whipped mashed potatoes, and the country carrots with bacon.  These are much fancier than everything I've got going on.


Check out my ham and his ham.  What a fabulous combination! 

Happy Easter!

Thank you, Easter weekend, you made my day.