Sunday, January 30, 2011

Called it a night a little early...

Tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled program.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 42- Refugees International and 80's Day

When I looked up "Thai" on charitynavigator.com (as in "Pad Thai" from last year), only one result popped up.  Luckily, it was a good one.  After visiting the website for Refugees International and poking around, I decided that it would be a great choice for the charity du jour.

Refugees International works to help refugees and displaced people in a number of ways.  The organization focuses on six main issues:

1. Neglected Crises
2. Return and Reintegration
3. Peacekeeping
4. Internal Displacement
5. Statelessness
6. Climate Displacement

...and here's some important info from the site.

Challenge



Refugee crises left unattended threaten stability around the world. There are 41.2 million refugees and internally displaced people and 12 million stateless people living in limbo without citizenship rights. People forced from their homes by conflict are among the world’s most vulnerable and they all have individual stories of loss, heartache and survival.

Impact


Timely responses to refugee crises can increase stability in a region before the conflict spreads across borders. Due to our efforts, abandoned refugees receive food, medicine and education; displaced families return home; peacekeepers are sent to protect displaced people from harm; and stateless people obtain legal status.

http://www.refugeesinternational.org/

******
I have been excited about 80's Day for quite some time.  Sometimes I think maybe I was supposed to be a teenager during the 80's.  I love the music, the movies, and, obviously, the fashions.  I can do big hair.  I dig denim.  The whole decade is workin' for me.

I proved all of this by going all out today.  I'm pleased and lucky to work at a place where lots of other people are as gung ho for dress up days as I am, and the hallways at our school were a good time today!  I think the kids were lovin' the whole thing... just maybe not quite as much as we did ;).

My favorite quotes from the day...

"Today you look like every girl I used to stare at in high school." JA (only you could say this to me without sounding creepy... haha)

Me- "What's with the looks, guys?"
My students- "You're fun to look at today, Mrs. Ferri!"
Me- "Hmm... I think that's probably a really nice thing to say."

I'm rallying for a 90's Day now.  Oh, the possibilities...

Thank you, 80's Day, you made my day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 41- Youth in Need and Rivalry Victory

I used to drive by the Youth in Need headquarters all the time on my way to and from graduate school.  Every time I saw it, I would wonder what exactly they did there, and one day I finally came home and looked it up.  Here's the answer:

Youth In Need is a nonprofit child and family services agency, headquartered in St. Charles, Mo. Through a variety of crisis prevention and intervention programs, Youth In Need is dedicated to building positive futures for the community’s most vulnerable children, teens and families.

Each year, Youth In Need serves more than 10,000 children, teens and families with residential homes, foster care case management, homeless outreach, counseling and support groups, education and infant, child and family development at more than 25 sites, spanning 100-miles, in six counties in eastern Missouri.

Youth In Need was founded by community volunteers, who opened the organization’s Emergency Shelter in 1974. It is through the generous support of community volunteers, business leaders and donors that Youth In Need has been able to continue its mission of believing in the power of potential.

I've been wanting to get involved with this organization ever since I poked around their website that first time.  For today, I think making a donation to YIN is an excellent way to honor my "original teens" from last year.  Next step?  Volunteering! 
 
http://www.youthinneed.org/HOME/tabid/36/Default.aspx
 
******
 
Great game.
Great threes.
Great "D"
Great clock management.
Great lead for almost the entire game.
 
Great WIN.  Ohhhhhhhh yeah!
 
Need I say more?  It was absolutely fabulous to cheer my Wolverines on to a rivalry victory tonight.  It's about time, boys.  Nicely done.
 
Thank you, rivalry victory, you made my day. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 40- New York City Center and Ethan*

This was another one of those days where it was a bit more challenging to make a connection to what I wrote about last year.  I appreciated the simple pleasure of painted toenails a year ago today, so I figured some sort of foot connection would be the way to go. 

I made the connection through the New York City Center.  I figured in order to make other people take joy in their feet, it might be nice to donate to some kind of dance program.  I donated specifically to their education programs.  Here's what they do:

Each season, artists who perform on City Center's stage help bring dance and musical theater education into the classroom for more than 5,000 public school students throughout all five boroughs of New York City.


http://www.nycitycenter.org/

I hope this makes for some happy feet :).

******
I gave a reading quiz yesterday that was challenging.  I asked students to answer high depth of knowledge questions by analyzing a quote from the book (their pick from three possible choices) and explaning its importance to one of the major themes.  As I expected, the results on this were mixed.  I knew that this would not be easy for all of them, but I still wanted to give it a try.  It wasn't worth a whole lot of points, and they have a major project due next week, so it was pretty low stakes as far as the actual grade went.  I really just wanted to push my students to think and connect and practice the kinds of skills that will make them successful next year in high school.

Although many kids did a nice job, I had less than a handful of perfect or near perfect scores.  One of these was Ethan.  He is an extremely bright underachiever who is easily bored unless presented with something as challenging as yesterday's quiz.  Even then, his amount of effort sometimes seems to depend on the day.  With his response on the quiz, he totally knocked my socks off.  Not only was his answer well-reasoned, complete, and insightful, he also included his own experiences and made a text to self connection without even being asked.  It was such a refreshing departure from some of the other papers I sighed through when I was grading his class tonight.

He even got a smiley face next to his score.  That's hard to earn from me on an assignment like this, especially when his was near paper #75 tonight.  I hope this makes his face smiley too!

Thank you, Ethan, you made my day.




 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 39- PAWS and School!

I know I've already donated to PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) once this year, but today was General's turn to chose, and that's what he wanted.  He told me that he will forever be thankful to them for saving his life, and he couldn't possibly think of a better place to send money to in order to save more puppies like him.  I really can't argue with him on this one. 

I am thankful every day to PAWS for rescuing General and for letting us adopt him.  He brings a great deal of joy to both of our lives and a great sense of safety to mine as well.  I can't wait to see him at the end of the day, and he never fails to show me that this feeling is mutual. 

We'll be adding more to the PAWS fund today in honor of our dear General Ferri.  Woof woof!

http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/pawspaws.html

I can't wait to adopt from them again to bring home a buddy for our General.  I was thinking this would be nice sooner rather than later (with this pretty little lady http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/18072790), but Tom told me no... all one thousand times I have begged him... as soon as we get a fence (which may be at this house or not until the next one), I'm sure he will say yes. 

******
After five days off, I was ready to go back to school today.  Two of those days were the weekend, two of those days were probably necessary, and yesterday I really just wanted to have a job and something to do.  I know that may sound whiny/dorky, and I was truly thankful for those relaxing days off.  However,

1. My students are in the middle of reading a novel.  I warned them ahead of time that even if we had a snow day, they would still be responsible for the scheduled reading each day.  This was fine for the one snow day we had earlier in the semester.  However, I had no idea what kind of situation I would be walking into with this many days off in a row.

2. I may or may not have gotten a little stir crazy, and I may or may not have watched more Lifetime movies than any one person should ever watch in... well, a lifetime.  I was pretty sure that someone was stalking me in order to steal my identity and take over my life while someone else was plotting to steal my unborn children while blackmailing my husband because of some kind of past scandal.  Someone involved in this whole thing was also probably a secret call girl or had a brother involved in some type of illegal behavior that would come back to haunt the whole family.  Are you convinced yet?

It was actually nice to wake up this morning to no no school announcement.  School!  I had a productive day with my kids, and-- shockingly!-- many of them even did the required reading over impromptu winter break.  It's so nice to be back again... even if I change my mind about this whole glad to be back business tomorrow ;).

Thanks, school!, you made my day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 38- Giving Children Hope and Lady Ballads

Last year we stocked up on supplies at Costco.  This year I wanted to find a way to get those same kinds of supplies to people who might really need them.  Today's donation was made to a charity called Giving Children Hope.  It is a four-star charity from charitynavigator.com that works to give disadvantaged children the things they need.

The website for this one is quite compelling.  It makes a lot of good points about the choices we make and the things we deem important to spend money on.  I mean, who doesn't throw around $5 for something silly every now and then?  The website compares these luxuries to the important services and supplies they could provide with your money instead ($5 latte vs. week's worth of food for a starving child, $25 night at the movie theater vs. malaria supplies for 78 orphans). 

When you look at it that way...

http://www.gchope.org/home.html

******
I like having company in the kitchen when I cook.  Sometimes when Tom asks what he can do to help, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself, I simply ask him to hang out with me while I prepare our food.  It's a nice time for us to chit chat and bond and dance and laugh and enjoy one another's company. 

At least once a week, this time also involves Tom serving as dj by taking and playing my musical requests.  He occasionally adds in his own (his current obsession is "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, and his forever obsession is "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" or anything by Journey).  Usually, though, he doesn't want to make any decisions, so I drop all the quarters into the laptop juke box and make my selections.

Tonight's playlist was like my own little Lilith Fair, featuring some of the most powerful lady ballads I could think of.  We're talkin' top of your lungs sing along kind of songs.  This included one of the best lady ballads (and songs, for that matter) of all time.  Thrice.  Perhaps more.  We were serenaded on repeat by Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window."  It's too bad that she was kind of a dog to her wife in real life, but girlfriend sure does know how to belt out a good love song.  I hate to say it, but if you disagree, you're just plain wrong.

Enjoy some Melissa on me, won't you? :)



Thank you, lady ballads, you made my day.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 37- Compassion International and The Opposite of Procrastination

Today required some creativity once again.  I was beyond delighted last year to experience crushed ice from our new refrigerator because I had never had that before.  I had only ever lived in places where I had to fill up the little trays and delicately balance them while waiting for them to freeze.  I was able to appreciate the crushed stuff that much more when I had my very own for the first time as a twenty-something.

I am fully aware that there are other kids that grow up wanting a whole lot more than some crushed ice.  (Is this transition working for you?)  I decided to donate to an organization that would help kids to experience so much more, Compassion International.

http://www.compassion.com/

While we don't have the means to sponsor a child for the year on top of our other donations, we are happy to add our $5 to the cause today. 

******

It seems as if everyone always talks about how much they looooove lazy Sundays.  It seemed that way even more last year when I was working six days a week (student teaching Monday-Friday, HD on Sundays).  As everyone else was having a lazy day, I was beginning another week of work, work, work.

Although I have my weekends off these days, it's sort of silly to say that an English teacher every truly has a weekend off.  Just because I'm not at school does not mean that I am not working.  I know all of you other teachers of all different kinds of subjects are shaking your heads along with that one.

Since I had those snow days last week, I was able to get a lot done and unable to collect anything new that would take up time over the weekend.  I also practiced a little something I'd like to call "the opposite of procrastination."  I know that there is a much better way to say this (like productivity, for example), but I think it is important to reference procrastination because it is a habit I have practiced on and off for far too long.  However, yesterday I got the last bits of work done that absolutely had to be done. 

Today... at long last... I enjoyed a lazy Sunday.  Tom and I went to church.  We followed that with Gingham's, our favorite local breakfast place.  We watched movies.  We loved our dog.  We did laundry.  We got groceries.  We had a scrumptious dinner (I cooked, patting myself on the back).  Basically, we had ourselves a nice little Sunday, thanks to my "opposite of productivity" days leading up to it.

Thank you, opposite of procrastination, you made my day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 36- Community SeniorServ and Spring Break Booking

I found one of my favorite movies of all time on this day last year.  I think no matter how many movies I see in my lifetime (which is actually not all that many lately, but I'm sure will increase once again), Up will forever remain one of the best.  I'm not sure I can think of many other movies with the same high laugh/cry ratio.

In the movie, the relationship between the elderly man and the young boy is vital in both of their lives.  The boy teaches the man how to feel young again and how to live his life with independence and dignity.  I wanted to find a charity that would honor this idea today, and by golly, I found one :).

"Community SeniorServ's mission is to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families by creating a safety net of health, nutrition and supportive services designed to enhance their independence, well being and dignity."

http://www.communityseniorserv.com/

I think one telling sign of a society is the way in which it treats all of its citizens, especially sometimes those of the senior nature.  I am honored to try to provide a (small yet hopefully significant) means toward a positive end for the elderly today.

******

Today has been all kinds of wonderful for me.  I got to spend a full and relaxing day with my husband... I have missed him dearly.  I'm on my way out the door in a few to spend time with some great friends.  Before you go thinking I am a bad wife for deserting Tom so soon after he is finally home, I'd like to assure you that he is pleased as can be at the prospect of a night full of video games.  When I come home, he will hold up his gaming claw of a hand and smile, I'm sure.  There's something that has made me-- us!-- even happier than all of these things, though.

Technically it is cheating a bit to say that we booked our spring break today because we booked it late last night.  However, the thrill of it all has not subsided one bit.  We haven't been on a real vacation since our honeymoon over three years ago, but we have been craving one ever since then.  We finally pulled the trigger last night, and we couldn't be more thrilled about it.

We'll be spending a week this spring in Mexico sipping things that make us silly at the pool or on the beach.  We'll spend our evenings at one of many gourmet restaurants at the resort.  Then, we'll take walks and hang out at one of the little Bachelor-worthy nooks set up all over the hotel.  We will laugh and relax and spend uninterrupted time together without the distractions of our daily lives.  We'll even have the added bonus of coming back as better looking golden brown versions of ourselves.  Ahhhh...

Is it March yet?

Thank you, spring break booking, you made my day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 35- Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and My Clear Driveway

Well, there just wasn't anything that fit in with what I wrote about last year ("scented goodbyes"), so I'm running free today with my choice of charity.  Wahooooo.

The good news is that I think I found an excellent place to highlight and contribute to today.  While looking through a list of reputable organizations, I found one that really intrigued me, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (formerly American Humanics).  Once I read the description of what they do and cruised around their website a bit, I was sold.

http://www.humanics.org/site/c.omL2KiN4LvH/b.1098773/k.BE7C/Home.htm

Here's a little snippet from their "Who We Are" section.

American Humanics is the only workforce development organization that certifies diverse, work-ready talent for the nonprofit sector. Our alliance of educational programs and nonprofit partners produces the leaders whose work strengthens communities worldwide.


And from charitynavigator.com...
 
American Humanics is a national alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations dedicated to educating, preparing and certifying professionals to strengthen and lead nonprofit organizations. The American Humanics program is an innovative course of study that equips college and university students to become skilled professionals and leaders in America's nonprofit organizations. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, American Humanics is the only national nonprofit organization meeting this need. To ensure students' success, American Humanics provides leadership opportunities, internships, and scholarships as well as education curriculum.
 
******
 
I was hoping the title of the blog today would be "Anonymous Kind Stranger Who Shoveled Our Driveway" or "Warm Sun Who Melted All of the Snow off the Drive."  Unfortunately, as you can see, neither of these can be found up above. 
 
After a few hours of working up to the task, I finally decided to head out and take care of the FOOT of snow on the driveway.  It was time.  The temperature outside was almost in the single digits, so I made sure to bundle up.  I had on two pairs of sweatpants, many layers of shirts, my puffy winter coat, a Michigan headband (one of those thingys that covers your ears), a scarf, and plaid rain boots.  I can only imagine what this must have looked like.  Today was not a prance down the driveway fashion day.  I meant business.
 
I quickly got to work, just wanting the whole thing to be over with.  I felt pretty good at first... until I looked up from under my hood and realized that I had only completed about 1/10 of the total project.  The snow was literally almost a foot deep.  The driveway seemed so long!  I pushed on.  I don't quit.
 
I definitely thought about quitting, though.  When I was about halfway done, I started to talk myself out of finishing.  I knew Tom would be home tonight, and I thought maybe I could just finish shoveling his half.  I wouldn't reallllllllllly need to drive anywhere on my own until Monday, which meant as long as we could get his car in and out, he could always finish the other half when he got home. 
 
While I was contemplating this, my neighbor came outside with her kids.  She took one look at me, and instead of laughing, she shouted across the street, "You go girl!!"  She and her daughter gave me big grins as they got into their car, and that was just what I needed.  Heck yeah! I thought.  I do go.  Go me.  Is it weird to say that I felt kind of empowered?  That I felt girl power?  I did. 
 
I'm not going to lie, I struggled through the last quarter of the project, but I had a renewed sense of resolve.  I am a strong and capable woman.  I can work and vote and be successful.  I can shovel my own dang driveway.  I was going to finish that thing if it killed me.

By the time I was done, I could barely grip the handle on the shovel.  I was sweating like a beast, my hair was flopping out of my hood and headband, and my muscles were about to give out.  Boy, I sure was proud, though.  I spent a good five minutes leaning against my car in the garage and admiring my work.  In fact, I'm still talking about it... just ask Tom... haha.  He can't complain, though, clearly.  I honestly think he was impressed with my work.  When he started to tell me that I did the job better than he does, I started to get a little nervous...

My muscles will surely be sore tomorrow and my back will most likely ache, but I am woman, hear me roar!  I am a snow slayer, unstoppable with a shovel!  Okay, I should probably be done now.  This is getting a little out of hand.  Plus, writing about all this kind of makes me want to go look at the driveway again...

Thank you, my clear driveway, you made my day.           

Day 34- Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Leftovers

At this time last year, I was enjoying Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with my students.  Well, I was enjoying it, and a good number of them were as well.  I'm not sure I can speak for everyone there.  However, like it or not, there is a reason that Shakespeare is still in the curriculum of high schools and universities and grad schools all over the world.  It is classic literature that is still relevant after all these years, and it is meant to be experienced. 

Shakespeare festivals have popped up all over the country and all over the world, and today I supported the one we have here locally.  Their mission is "to produce professional Shakespeare theatre, outdoors in a city park, free and for a diverse audience, and to provide education through schools and community outreach."  What I want my $5 to say today is that I believe in literature and the arts and their importance in the education of us as human beings.  If we fail to support these things, and we lose them in our curriculums and in our communities, we will be losing a large piece of ourselves.  Do you agree?

http://www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org/

******

I was snowed in today.

On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful problem to have.  It kind of was.  However, Tom was out of town, and I did not look forward to clearing off the driveway and patio and being by myself for a long period of time.  I was also a little worried about the groceries I had put off for the meal I now could not make for myself.  Oops.

The nice thing about just having two people in the house right now (and just the one of me the past few days) is that there always seems to be enough food to have a little left over.  Tom was kind enough to make some beef stew in the crockpot for me on the morning he left because I was running a little late.  I was absolutely delighted to discover the aftermath of the stew that I had left behind in the fridge after dinner that night.  I added a little cheesy garlic bread to the mix from our freezer collection and had myself another delicious dinner!  Now that I am snowed in once more, I may just have to enjoy that stew one last time. 

Mr. Ferri, if you're reading this, let's go out to dinner when you get home :).

Thank you, leftovers, you made my day.

 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 33- Alex's Lemonade Stand and Modern Family

There's really not a direct charitable tie in to last year's post about a kitchen timer, but I think I have found a way to make this one work.  If not, at least I'm making a contribution to a charity about it :).

I searched for "time" on charitynavigator.com, and one of the highest rated charities that came up was Alex's Lemonade Stand.  This is an organization that raises money for research to fight childhood cancer.  Perfect, I thought, there's my connection.  This charity is, simply put, trying to give the kids more time.  Here's what they do (this is a long description, but it's worth reading... I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes):

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) shares the vision of our founder and creator, Alexandra “Alex” Scott—a cure for all children with cancer.

When Alex, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer just before her first birthday, was four, she told her parents she wanted to set up a front-yard lemonade stand. Her plan: to give the money to doctors to help them find a cure. Her first “Alex’s Lemonade Stand” raised an astonishing $2,000 in one day. While bravely fighting her own cancer, Alex continued to set up lemonade stands every year. As news spread of the remarkable girl so dedicated to helping other sick children, people everywhere were inspired to start their own lemonade stands—donating the proceeds to her cause.

In 2004 when Alex passed away at the age of eight—her stand and inspiration had raised over $1 million towards finding a cure for the disease that took her life. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was started by her parents in 2005 to continue the work that Alex began. Our mission is simple: to raise money for and awareness of childhood cancer causes—especially research into new treatments and cures—and to encourage and educate others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.

Since Alex set up her first lemonade stand in 2000—truly exemplifying the saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”—we have raised more than $35 million, with more than $12 million of those dollars coming from lemonade stands. That money has helped to:

• Fund more than 150 cutting-edge research projects

• Create a travel program to help support families of children receiving treatment

• Develop resources to help people everywhere affected by childhood cancer

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is the living embodiment of Alex’s spirit of determination and hope. Like Alex, we believe that every person can make a difference. Together, we can bring about a cure. Please join us in “making lemonade” today!

This charity not only does incredible work, it also goes to show you that one person can truly make a difference.  If you haven't donated yet, today would be a great opportunity to be one of those people making a difference.
 
https://www.alexslemonade.org/

******

Modern Family is easily one of the funniest television show of all time.  The characters, the dialogue, the family relationships.  It is a situation comedy full of absolutely positively hilarious situations.  There are also a few characters that... ahem... remind me of my own husband and me a little bit.  I was literally laughing out loud through the entire episode tonight.  General was a bit confused and alarmed, seeing as we were home by ourselves.  I could quote the entire show, but here are a few of my favorites from tonight.

"It's our parents' anniversary, so we're surprising them with breakfast in bed."
"They're impossible to buy for... we think.  We've never really tried."

The kids walk into Phil and Claire's room with their little breakfast tray.  They realize that they have caught their parents in the act, scream, throw the tray up, and run away.

Phil: Yeah, our kids walked in on us.  We were... as they say, having sex."
Claire: That's not a euphemism, Phil, that's exactly what we were doing.  Having sex.  In front of our children.
Phil: Well, they weren't there when we started.  In fact, you weren't even there when we started.

"What were they doing?  Whatever it was, it looked like Dad was winning."

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Mitchell and Cameron

Mitchell: Oooh!  This is so exciting.  I've never had an "in" at a restaurant before.  They'll probably greet us at the door by our name, show us to our favorite table--
Cameron: --let us play fast and loose with the menu and order lunch things for dinner and dinner things for lunch!!

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Back to Claire and Phil

Phil: Honey, this is only a big deal if we make it a big deal.  We set the tone here, so let's just play it cool.  Act like it was a big funny mix up, crack a few jokes, lighten the mood.
Claire: Jokes?
Phil: Yeah!
Claire: What kind of jokes?
Phil: Well, this is... I'm just spitballin' here, but, what if I was all "Knock, knock," and they were like, "Who's there," and I was all, "Someone who doesn't wanna see their parents doin' it, that's why they knocked."  Again, this is very rough. 

Thank you, Modern Family, you made my day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 32- American Skin Association and New Computer

http://www.americanskin.org/

Last year's wacky dermatologist translates well into this year's American Skin Association contribution.  Here are the ways they explain themselves and brag about themselves on their website:

In the two decades since its founding, the organization's Mission has remained to...


•Advance research
•Champion skin health — particularly among children
•Raise public awareness about skin disease


Led by patients, families and advocates working with eminent physicians and scientists, the organization's Achievements include:

•Committed $7.4 million for dermatological research — historically one of the most underfunded areas of medicine.
•Sponsored scientific studies by over 120 gifted young investigators with the energy, drive and creativity to find new innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat skin cancer and disease.
•Provided 8+ million children in all 50 states with free school-based instruction in skin health and cancer prevention through such award-winning programs as The Skin You're In and The Wonders of Skin: Looking Good, Being Healthy.
•Established a model laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College, which today remains one of the finest research facilities of its kind.
•Distributed easy-to-understand information on improving skin health at no charge to countless Americans through the organization's publications, hotline, and website developed in collaboration with The Rockefeller University.
•Urged government leaders to support increased federal funding for skin research, which is today among the National Institutes of Health's lowest priorities.

Beyond all of these oustanding initiatives and accomplishments, this organization has received praise for the efficiency with which they run and the percentage of donations that actually go to the cause (and not to overhead costs).  I'm pleased to support their work today!

******

When Tom and I got back from all of our Christmas travels a few weeks ago, I was met with an unfortunate surprise.  My computer had mysteriously broken somehow and refused to turn on at all.  As addicted as I am to all things involving my laptop, this was an unpleasant discovery to say the least. 

The two of us have been sharing a computer for the past few weeks.  Anyone who knows my dear husband knows that he spends a great deal of time cruising mgoblog and vacation sites and web pages where he can build cars and other sites with funny pictures/videos of kittens and...  needless to say, my broken computer combined with his internet addiction have cured me of my own internet addiction over the past month.  I just hate to tear him away from looking at pictures of lunge exercises on the Self Magazine page to write my blog.  Haha... sorry, Shipoopi.

Now that I have finally gotten over my withdrawl symptoms, I am hopping right back off the wagon.  Why?  I got a new computer tonight... yayyyyy.  I'll be able to spend hours looking at the best and worst dressed from the Golden Globes and catching up on my correspondence and stalking people on facebook (c'mon, don't act like you don't do these things too).  I'll hopefully also be able to spend a little extra time on more quality blog posts and on my writing in general.  It's time to make time for that book I've been thinking about writing for the past three years... hopefully this is a to be continued situation.

I'm thankful to have the means to replace my computer (and a husband who would just assume support me getting a new laptop to fuel my addiction so that I will stop bugging him about his). 

Thank you, new computer, you made my day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 31- C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michigan basketball made my day last year with an exciting win.  It is only fitting that I honor Michigan athletics today with a donation to a place where all Michigan athletes spend a great deal of time with their own philanthropy.

C.S. Mott Children's hospital is affiliated with the university and is one of the top pediatric hospitals in the nation.  Here's a description from the "Who We Are" section.

When a child you love is sick, your top priority is finding the best care available. Mott isn't just a hospital: it's a place where patients and families always come first; where 170,000 patients annually from Michigan, the United States and the world seek general and specialized inpatient and outpatient treatment; where top medical students compete for some of the most highly sought-after pediatric residencies and fellowships; and where children with the most complex medical problems are guaranteed access to the most advanced care. Our rich history, collaborative health care teams and philosophy of family-centered care combine to ensure that every single Mott patient receives the best, most comprehensive and compassionate care available.


Athletes and students from U of M regularly give thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to this hospital to help support the wonderful work they do.  I'm happy to be joining the ranks today.  On the website, there are a number of different suggestions for how to support this hospital, from being a volunteer to being an advocate to being a donor.  I do hope you'll find one that works for you.

http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/help/1help.html

******
No, MLK Day is not just important to me because I had the day off from work today (although that was an added bonus).  In fact, I felt guilty about sitting at home on this day off.  I decided that since I wasn't out volunteering or advocating for anything, I should at least spend some time with Martin Luther King, Jr, this afternoon.  This was the best decision I made all day.

I feel inspired.  I could explain the million reasons why, but none of my words could even come close to the power and inspiration packed into each and every one of his.  Instead, let me share with you a few of my favorite new gems.  It is incredible how relevant Dr. King still is and will always be.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Peace, love, and harmony. 

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., you made my day.

Day 30- Sundance Institute and Nancy the Neighbor

There aren't very many things that can match the fabulousness of movie theater popcorn.  I blogged about popcorn in all its buttery glory last year, so this year I found a charity that helps to support work to entertain me while I'm in my seat at the theater.

Their thank you note for my contribution was nice.  It also gave me a great little synopsis of exactly what they do, and this is much more concise than I could be.

Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization committed to discovering and nurturing independent artists in film, theatre, film music and creative producing. Your generous support is crucial to helping us advance the creative voices of our time. The artists we support are defining and pushing the limits of our cultural landscape and society. Thank you for believing in our work.

Advancing the creative voices of our time?  Yes, please!  Since I know you're going to rush to donate, make sure you have $10 for this one.  That's their minimum contribution for online contributions.

https://www.sundance.org/


******
I can't be honest about who I'd like to thank today without sounding like a bit of a terrible mother.  Deep breath.  Dive in.
 
General ran away today.  It is not the first time he's done this.  I feel just awful each and every time, and I always lecture him when we have him safely back at home.  Honestly, where would he possibly have it better than he does here, and who could possibly love him more?  The only thing more frustrating than General running away is trying to reason with him about why he shouldn't do that anymore.
 
As soon as Tom realized that General had gotten off of his chain, we both threw on some shoes and sprinted off into the neighborhood yelling his name.  Unfortunately, the dog's natural tendencies usually lead him to run toward the main road.  This causes great panic for me.  Tom and I split up to look for him, with Tom running the route toward the road and me heading into the depths of the neighborhood.
 
The further I made it around the block, the faster my heart and my mind raced.  I tried to squash the memories flooding back involving Buster, my childhood dog, and his tragic end-by-car.  I just kept shouting General's name and clunking along in my rain boots and pajamas.  It must have been quite a sight.  When I circled back around by our house, I saw Manda and Jason also looking.  Poor Amanda, fresh out of the shower, had wet hair that was literally freezing in the cold.  Tom was long gone across the road with no results, and I was really starting to panic.
 
Our neighbor Nancy had seen the commotion and begun to search in her car.  She came flying back into the neighborhood and yelled for me from the window.  She informed me that she had seen General down the road, but he bolted when she tried to grab him to pull him into the car.  I quickly jumped into the passenger seat, and we took off back down the road.  I learned in the car that she had seen him in the road almost a mile away, and this almost pushed me over the edge.  I can't even begin to imagine what the parents of milk carton  and Amber Alert kids must go through because I know it must be exponentially worse than this, but that's just not something I can even conceptualize. 
 
Finally, more than a mile down the road, still IN the road, I spotted my boy.  I jumped out of Nancy's car before she could even come to a stop, and I ran toward my little General.  There was a car stopped going in the other direction waiting for us.  Again, I can only imagine what I must have looked like at this point.  Not pretty.  I scooped up my sixty pound dog and ran him all the way back to Nancy's car.  Within a minute, we were safely home, and everything was right in our world again.  General got his lecture and took a nap about it.  I shook for the next fifteen minutes.
 
I felt so silly thanking Nancy over and over again in the car, as if that could ever be enough to really thank her or to express my gratitude.  The fact that she was willing to drop everything, run out of her house, and drive around in her car to find our dog without anyone even mentioning anything to her shows what a wonderful woman she is.  It turns out that people like her really do still exist.  I'm lucky enough to have her living next door. 
 
Thank you, Nancy the Neighbor, you made my day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 30- Coming Soon...

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 29- NOW Foundation and St. Chuck Shopping

http://www.nowfoundation.org/

How in the world might I connect some sort of donation to "SUV at a Four-Way Stop" from last year?  This one is going to be tied as loosely as a 4-year-old's shoe. Not funny?  Eh... I tried.

I went to www.charitynavigator.com for help.  This website lists all kinds of reputable charities and gives ratings based on a number of different categories.  Basically, it gives a lot of information to help a sistah decide whether or not charities are legit and worthwhile.  I put the key words "stop" and "right" into the search bar today, and I came up with a list.  Looking through this list, I found a real gem.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is one of the largest groups in the country to fight for women's rights.  They have one initiative that I feel especially warm and fuzzy about, the "Love Your Body" campaign.  It focuses on body image, addiction, eating disorders, and a number of other issues that affect millions and millions of women on a daily basis.  Many of these issues are near and dear to my own heart, and I am excited to have the opportunity to support an organization that supports and empowers women.

******
Since the Matzwas are here, we planned out some fun touristy things to do around town today.  However, since we got a late start (which I will admit was partly due to the fact that it takes me forever to work up to a shower sometimes on Saturdays), we had to revise and improvise a bit.

We went into the old downtown area to show Manda and Jason around and to have some of the best pizza around (according to the menu at Talayna's, they are THE best in the area... people voted, ya know).  When we realized how late it had gotten after lunch, we decided to stay downtown and wander through all of the cute little shops for the afternoon.  I've been wanting to do that ever since we moved here, but it seems as if there's always something else to do or the weather is bad or everything is closed.

We had a good time grazing through shops with all of the best food and snacks this area has to offer.  I was excited beyond belief to discover store after store with shelves full of chachkies.  I friggin' love chachkies.  Seriously.  Each of us came away from the afternoon with a little treasure or three, and it was a lovely afternoon.

Thank you, St. Chuck Shopping, you made my day.     

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 28- Missouri Botanical Gardens and Three Day Weekend

                                                                 Botanical Gardens, 2009

If you ever need to take a little time to stop and smell the roses, the Missouri Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to do it!  Since I wrote about the show "Parks and Recreation" on this day last year, I thought it might make sense to donate to one of my favorite parks in the area.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens are truly spectacular.  There are a wide variety of different types of gardens and colors and areas and plants and a million other things to catch your eye and hold your attention.  There is no way I can do justice to the beauty of this place with words alone.  We even enjoyed strolling around one summer in 100-degree heat.  Gorgeous.

I hope everyone gets a chance every now and then to take a deep breath of fresh air scented with sweet perfume from thousands of roses.  The whole thing just kind of makes a dozen seem silly.

For information that will convince you to visit this magical place (and for information about donating, of course), visit the website!

http://www.mobot.org/

******
I know we just got back from break, but this is a tough part of the year.  In many ways, we teachers start all over again with students-- we set goals, we establish our expectations, we have to do what we can to motivate students once again (or for the first time) and so much more.  In other ways, we have finally gotten to the sweet spot of the year where we can hit our strides with students at full strength.  They get a chance for a fresh start with a new quarter, but we restart the year with a knowledge and comfort level with the students that wasn't there on our first day back in August.

In any case, it is fantastic to get a little mini break in the middle of it all.  We can just add it to the list of all of the amazing things Martin Luther King, Jr., gave us.  Because it is a three day weekend, I'm not even mad.

I'm not even mad that the day started out a little rough healthwise because I know I have all weekend to recover.
I'm not even mad that I stayed late after school to show my classroom to the Matzwas after their flight got in.
I'm not even mad that I cooked on a Friday night instead of our traditional dinner out because I was cooking for my sister and her husband.
I'm not even mad that I have things to do and papers to grade because I'll have fun all weekend and take care of everything else on Monday.

I'm certainly not mad that my sister and brother-in-law will be here all weekend hanging out and my husband has Monday off with me.  This should be a fabulous three days we have ahead of us!

Thank you, three day weekend, you made my day. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 27- Idol Aid and Aaron*

https://www.idolaid.com/donate.asp

In one of many guilty pleasure television posts last year, I wrote about an inspirational American Idol contestant.  If you've ever watched the show (c'mon, you might as well admit it... there are millions of us), you know that Idol started a big push for charities around the country and the world a few years ago.  There's an episode each season now called "Idol Gives Back."  Carrie Underwood sings touching songs while video montages are played of the judges volunteering for different organizations, and fans are encouraged to call in their contributions for good cause after good cause.  It's a full-fledged extravaganza!

Okay, Idol, along with my Jan./Feb./March each year, I'll send in $5 too.  Make it count :).

******
 Aaron approached me in the hallway on his way to another class.
"Hey... uh... Mrs. Ferri?"  He flipped his little skateboarder boy hair to the side.
"Yes, Aaron?"
"I'm sorry.  I have to tell you that I read ahead in the book last night.  It's just that I finished the reading homework, and it was getting so interesting, and I had to know what happened next."
"Don't spoil it for anyone!  Make sure you don't tell."
"I won't, I won't.  It's just getting so good!  I couldn't help it."
"I know.  Even though it makes it a little harder to talk about foreshadowing and making predictions when you read ahead, can I just tell you something?  It's exciting for me that all you guys are enjoying this book enough that you want to read ahead."
"It's really a good book.  Thanks for making us read it."
"Aaron, that just warms your English teacher's heart." 

To make a long story short, I had to put in a lot of leg work in order to be able to teach this novel.  I was really excited to share it with my kids, and I hoped that they would respond positively.  I also hoped that they would surpass my expectations and actually do the reading on their own that I asked them to.

I am ecstatic to see students carrying their little books around all the time.  It is thrilling to have other teachers tell me that my students come to their classes talking about the book and acting excited about the reading.  I am loving the discussions we're having in class and the quality thinking my students are doing.  The conversation with Aaron and others with students like him today make me feel validated and inspired to keep pushing and trying new things.  It is a fact of life that every experiment will not go as well as this one.  I've already had lessons that I've had to change mid-day (or sometimes even mid-hour) in order to try to salvage the learning for the day when things aren't working.  However, I am learning every day, and that's a great thing for my kids.  When things work out as beautifully as they have with this book, it makes all the rest of it worth it.  My work is paying off in a big way; what a series of good days this has been!

Thank you, Aaron, you made my day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 26- Girl Scouts and Stirrings

Oh man.  "Girl Scouts and Stirrings."  I hope that title doesn't get me put onto some sort of watch list.  I promise this will be completely innocent :).

Since I wrote about brownie sundaes last year, making a donation to the Girl Scouts this year was the most clever thing I could come up with.  Brownies are a type of Girl Scout, in case you didn't know.  That makes sense, right?

Besides making INCREDIBLE cookies, the Girl Scouts Organization is a wonderful thing for young girls to be a part of.   They use all of the right girl power words in their descriptions to win me over- empowering, courage, confidence, character. 

In Girl Scouts, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Through a myriad of enriching experiences, such as extraordinary field trips, sports skill-building clinics, community service projects, cultural exchanges, and environmental stewardships, girls grow courageous and strong. Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.

Although I was a total failure as a Girl Scout (that's a story for another day), I still wholeheartedly believe in the organization, what they stand for, and what they do.  Time to donate!  Is it time to buy my peanut butter patties yet?

http://www.girlscouts.org/

******
In yesterday's reading of The Giver that my students did at home, they got to the section about "stirrings."  When I originally decided to teach this book, I debated back and forth about how I wanted to handle this part.  On the one hand, the thought of discussing stirrings with a bunch of eighth graders was both terrifying and mind boggling.  On the other hand, delving into this issue and how they deal with it in the community in the novel is important.  It really gets into the heart of some of the main ideas of the book.  I decided that I just couldn't ignore it, and I'd have to figure out a way to deal with it. 

Today was the big day.  I had my little "family units" (term from the book) work in their groups to answer discussions questions, one per group.  After a few minutes, I brought the class back together to jigsaw and talk about the questions.  When I got to the group with the questions, "Why does Jonas start to take the pills?  What are the pills supposed to do?  Explain," I took a deep breath.  Here we go!  The kids gave the correct answer while tiptoeing around the delicate subject area as much as possible.  While giggling like... well, an eighth grader... on the inside, I kept my composure on the outside.  I discussed the idea of the "romantic feelings" Jonas had and the fact that there were physical feelings that accompanied these.  We talked about how uncomfortable it would be in our society for some of the kids to have to sit down and share these things with their parents at the breakfast table every morning.  We talked about how the idea of attraction really wasn't even a factor in the selection of spouses in the book.  We talked about all of the things I was hoping we'd get to and more.

The best part of all of this was the level of maturity with which we were all able to participate in the discussion.  Yes, I included myself in that.  My sense of humor can often be a little immature.  Shocking, I know.  My students surprised me and floored me all day with how insightful, thoughtful, and mature they were in our discussions.  Sure, there were some giggles and some red faces, but if that was the worst of it, I'll take it!  My confidence in my classroom management and my ability to broach some more difficult subjects is rising by the day.

Thank you, stirrings, you made my day. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 25- YMCA and David Brandon

Q: What's a four-letter word for something that helps people's bodies, minds, and spirits and is also the topic of the 1/11 blog?  Hint: It starts with a "y."

A: yoga (last year)
A: YMCA (this year)

Today's donation was made to our local YMCA Strong Community Campaign.  That just sounds good, doesn't it?  I mean, who doesn't want a strong community?

Besides being a catchy song with an enjoyable cheesy wedding dance attached to it, the YMCA is a fabulous organization.  Their whole purpose is to strengthen communities, and they have many different means to this end.  There are programs to help teens.  There are programs for military families.  There are programs for older people and neighbors and education and neighbors and family connectedness and all kinds of other things.  They build foundations for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  There's just so much good to be done, and I'm pleased to make my little contribution, however small, to all of these causes.

If you go to their website, you can enter in your zip code to find a location near you.

http://www.ymca.net/  

******

Dear Mr. Brandon,

First of all, let me just tell you how much I have been enjoying your new pizza recipe.  We almost always order from Domino's now when we get pizza because we love watching the little tracker thing, and your new crust recipe is absolutely delicious.  Kudos for that.

I'm really writing to talk to you about other stuff, but I thought it might be refreshing for you to hear about something other than our coaching situation today first.  Um... speaking of that coaching situation, though... thanks for making a decision!  It will be nice to talk about other things with my husband/dog/parents/friends/family/acquaintances who know I'm a Michigan fan.  It seems as if people are a little gun-shy about everything after all that we have been through as fans the past few years.  It might just take them some time to get on board with you, but that doesn't mean you're not doing the best job you possibly can.

After you fired Rich Rodriguez, I must admit that I was nervous and even contemplated going back to Papa John's.  However, if the way you have turned Domino's around is any indication, you are a guy who knows what he is doing.  I know that this may not be a very popular opinion based on everything I've heard and been reading online from the fans (those I know and those I don't know), but I trust you.  You stuck to your guns with what felt right from the beginning, and you seem to have a clear vision of where our program should and will go.

I consider myself to be a real fan.  You told me who my coach will be, so I will stand behind him... and our team, our program, and you.  I am all in.  I can't wait for this fall.  I look forward to it with what some might consider blind optimism and excitement.  I prefer to think that my optimism comes from the fact that I am a fan of the winningest program in college football history.  I personally like the idea of a coach on the upswing.  Those with big names and big records also come with big egos, big salaries, and big expectations that are not always possible to match.  I love my school, and I adore the Saturday traditions I grew up with.  I think you've been around long enough to fully understand all of these things and to take great care to preserve them.

Thanks for all of your hard work and for standing firm as the media creates a frenzy around you.  Just remember that age old quote, "What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right."  The fans will come around.  It is and always will be great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Go Blue,

JRF  

Thank you, David Brandon, you made my day.

Day 24- Victory Junction Gang and Oregon's Socks

I'm donating to the Victory Junction Gang today because Taylor Swift said so, and I wrote about her last year.  Here's what they're all about.

Founded in 2000 by Kyle and Pattie Petty, Victory Junction Gang enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment. Victory Junction is a year-round camp that serves children, ages 6-16, with a variety of health issues. During the summer, the Camp offers week-long, disease-specific sessions with up to 128 kids per session. During the fall, winter and spring, family weekends are offered with 32 families per weekend. Victory Junction serves children from all areas of the country.

From their "thank you for donating" letter: 

We are grateful for the support received for the children and families we serve.  To date, more than 12,800 campers and families have experienced the magic of Victory Junction completely free of cost.  Children living with illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, sickle cell and spina bifida, along with burn survivors and kids with craniofacial anomalies face a tough race everyday.  These children richly deserve the chance to escape the daily challenges and benefit from the simple joys of childhood.  Because of your generosity, they accomplish this and so much more.  


Victory Junction is extremely proud and humbled by the generosity and hard work of all the individuals and organizations who believed in and supported Adam's dream.  For 2010, we are excited to be offering more than seven family weekends and eight week-long summer sessions. Memories will be made, friendships forged, and dreams will come true at camp.  Please know that your generous contribution is a vital part of keeping Adam's dream alive!

Here's how you donate: http://www.victoryjunction.org/donate/index.php

Do it! :)

******
Did you see Oregon's socks tonight in the BCS National Championship Game?  How awesome were they?!







 

The socks were a hot topic, and Tom and I simply did not agree on their merits.  So, I decided to take this one to the facebook because I thought surely I was not alone in my admiration.

J: Debate at the Ferri household-- I love the Oregon highlighter socks. Tom? Not so much. Thoughts?




  • CK likes this.
    SSG I'm watching The Bachelor, Jess, so I can't help you. I'll check later and let you know!
    AP Mark thinks they are stupid, but I kind of agree with you. They're kind of cool looking when they run.
    JLG I like'em :)
    NN ‎+2 on the yellow socks from the Ns.
    Tom Every time an Oregon player runs, it looks like a techno glowstick rave.
    NN which is why the socks are AWESOME
    SSG The fashion designer in our house likes them. I'll have to check back after The Bach is over. It looks like it's a great game so far!!!
    KP What is wrong with techno glowstick raves?
    CB I can't find what game you speak of....
    AS Derek wants Oregon to win!!! So because I know nothing about it.... I do too! lol! Go Oregon! He says he likes the offense they run...
    AS Oregon's cheerleaders have cuter outfits!
    SSG Lauren says the socks color coordinate nicely with the lettering on the field!
    SM I ♥ the socks!!!
    CB Oh. I found the game and well...I would like the socks if their colors included fuzzy, tennis ball yellow. Do their colors include this interesting choice?
    LBS Love um, I want a pair. Wouldn't they look good on me in the summer in Garden with my shorts. HOT I say HOT
    SYG same breakdown with my husband and I. I think they're fun, my husband doesn't think football players need fun socks :)
    AR Tom is WRONG. In any event, Nike got what they wanted: people talking about it.
    DB socks were awesome...2 minute defense, not so much
    This all proved four very important things.
    1. The socks truly were amazing.
    2. I win.  Tom loses.  Sorry, bud.
    3. I have hilarious friends.
    4. The National Championship game was kind of boring.


      Thank you, Oregon's socks, you made my day.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Day 23- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and 9:30

    My day was made last year by a fortunate sequence of green lights.  I often find myself hitting that same set of green lights, and it makes me smile every time.  What makes me smile even more is the fact that I have zero... ZERO... zero traffic lights on the route I take to work.  The timing is predictable.  I like that.

    Anyway, what made the most sense to me for today's donation was to find some sort of organization that helps other people's rides to work or home or wherever else they're going to be just that much better.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety fits the bill nicely.

    "The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on the roads. Since 1947, the Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. We have used this research to develop dozens of focused, high-impact educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Government agencies and legislators--as well as automobile clubs, driving schools, and school districts--turn to the Foundation's research to guide them in creating policies that can save lives on our roads and highways, teach adults how to drive more responsibly, and teach children about vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian safety."

    http://www.aaafoundation.org/home/

    ******
    9:30.

    Why 9:30?

    That's the time that Tom returned home this evening.  Puppy was really excited.  Me too.  We're glad he got to be there with his family to celebrate his grandma's birthday this weekend.  We're also really glad to have him home.

    Thank you, 9:30, you made my day.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Day 22- Rachel's Challenge and Harpo's

    The connection between last year's entry and today's donation may be a bit suspect.  The charity, however, is not.  Since I wrote about one of my favorite episodes of Friends, I thought about finding some sort of charity that had the word friends in it or had something to do with friends.  I remembered back to last year.  In the homecoming parade at SCWHS, there was one float that confused me.  It was for the "Friends of Rachel" group.  I wondered who exactly this Rachel chick was and how she managed to get her own float and why everyone wanted to be her friend.

    It turns out that the Rachel in this situation is Rachel Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting.  After her death, many of her journals and writings were found and shared, and they proved to be quite inspirational for those around her.  An organization was created in her honor named Rachel's Challenge, and clubs have sprung up in schools all over the country in connection with this.  It is truly a beautiful thing.

    Their Mission 

    We exist to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.


    Rachel’s Challenge Objectives for Schools:

    • Create a safe learning environment for all students by re-establishing civility and delivering proactive antidotes to school violence and bullying.
    • Improve academic achievement by engaging students’ hearts, heads and hands in the learning process.
    • Provide students with social/emotional education that is both colorblind and culturally relevant.
    • Train adults to inspire, equip and empower students to affect permanent positive change.
    I am ready and willing to start a chain reaction, as Rachel suggested.  Will my $5 donation inspire yours today?  Why not?  What do you have to lose (except the $5, of course)?

    http://www.rachelschallenge.org/

    P.S. There is a character in Friends named Rachel.  I'm just saying...

    ******
    Last night was a date night in with myself, and that turned out to be kind of nice.  Tonight was Girl's Night Out with some oh so lovely ladies, and that was even better.  Why?  Thanks for asking.
    • We had tacos and salad and animated conversation for dinner. 
    • We headed out to Harpo's, a karaoke bar, for more fun.
    • There was excellent people watching.  Sequins and fishnets and pink lace... and that was just one person's outfit!
    • Good karaoke and bad karaoke.
    • Smoking is no longer allowed inside in St. Louis County.  Wahoo!
    • More people watching.
    • More animated conversations, laughter, and good girl time :).
    I'm sure there are a thousand more things I could say, but I'm just plain tuckered now.  Plus, I want to get to bed because it's just one more sleep (right now) until I get to see my boy again!  Double wahoo.

    Thank you, Harpo's, you made my day.   

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Day 21- Help the Children and Date Night for One

    The Matzwas delighted me last year with "Fleecedo," and this year they delighted me with their choice of a charity.  They have selected the Help the Children organization for today's donation.  The mission of this charity is simple, clear, and of great importance.

    Help the Children (HTC) is a nonprofit Christian humanitarian relief organization dedicated to help alleviate the suffering of children and their families throughout the United States and around the world. Help the Children’s mission is to increase self sufficiency by providing food, clothing, personal care items and medical supplies without regard to political affiliation, religious belief, or ethnic identity. Internationally, Help the Children is committed to serving people with diverse cultural and economic strata. We strive to meet their emotional, spiritual and physical needs with Christ based principles.

    This organization is near the top of most lists of the best charities in America, and their website is filled with information and pictures of the incredible work they do.  I am, as I said, delighted to make a small contribution today in honor of Amanda and Jason (and Maize and Blue... and the Fleecedo).

    http://www.helpthechildren.org/

    ******
    I don't really like being by myself.  This should be pretty clear, seeing as I am a chatterbox and I chose a career in which I surround myself with at least twenty people at a time.  However, I also pride myself on my ability to try to make the best of any situation.  So... when I knew I would be by my lonesome last night, I decided not to make any other plans.  I was going to have a nice little party for one.

    Technically, I cheated a little bit.  I did hang out with Puppy all night, and he is quite a wonderful companion.  However, no other humans were allowed (well... after I got home from the school dance).  I ordered a pizza.  I watched my stories on Dateline and spent more time than I would care to admit gushing over the Kleinfeld bridal store in a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon.  I did puzzle books and read my People magazine and poked around on the computer.  It was a much more pleasant evening than I could have imagined. 

    The only thing I neglected to do was--oops!-- the blog.  I fell peacefully asleep on the couch at who knows what time and didn't wake up to go to bed until 3 am.  I usually don't sleep so soundly by myself these days, but it must have been a pizza-wedding-gown-puzzle-computer-first-Friday-back-to-school-date-night-for-one-induced slumber.


    Thank you, date night for one, you made my day.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Day 20 AmeriCares and The Giver

    At this time last year, I was listening obsessively to Michael Buble.  Right around the same time, Haiti was also being rocked to its core by a terrible earthquake.  In response, Michael and a number of other artists lent their beautiful voices to a single to raise money for the relief efforts. 

    It only makes sense, then, that my donation today will go to AmeriCares.  This organization delivers medical and disaster relief to people in crisis all over the world.  Here's just a small section of information from the website that gives and idea of what they do.

    "In times of epic disaster, daily struggle or civil conflict, AmeriCares restores health and saves lives by delivering donated medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to people in need around the world and here at home.

    The World Health Organization estimates one-third of the world’s population - nearly 2 billion people - lack access to essential medicines. In addition to a shortage of medicines, health care professionals in poor countries struggle daily with a lack of supplies such as gloves, syringes, gauze and bandages. That’s where AmeriCares comes in. Since our founding in 1982, AmeriCares has provided more than $10 billion of aid to 147 countries. To accomplish these results, AmeriCares assembles product donations from the private sector, determines the most urgent needs and solicits the funding to send the aid via airlift or ocean cargo to health and welfare professionals in the indigent locations. The model is time tested, cost effective and experience driven. Historically, for each $100 donated, AmeriCares delivers more than $3,500 in emergency relief and humanitarian aid, including medicines, medical supplies, clothing, blankets and nutritional supplements."

    This one's for the people of Haiti who are still struggling to rebuild and regain their lives.  This one's also for you, Buble!

    You can easily make donations through the website http://www.americares.org/
    Donations can be designated specifically to the efforts in Haiti for this one year anniversary, or contributions can be made to the general fund, which helps people around the world and in our own country.

    ******
    I decided that while my kids are reading The Giver, we will compile a list of the rules in the novel that citizens have to follow.  Then, we will implement any of the rules that we can into our classroom community for the duration of the book.  Today was our first go at this.  We were able to use phrases directly from the book to try to create an accurate idea of what living in this society might be like.  Much to my delight, this has been a hit so far.  Here's why.  Anytime anyone was late today, talked out of turn, or committed any other type of transgression, the class followed this process.

    Offender: I apologize for inconveniencing my learning community. I apologize to my classmates.


    Whole Class (in unison): We accept your apology, .


    Me: I accept your apology, .


    Everyone: giggles, chuckles, snickers, laughter


    Sure, there are a few kids who will probably try to get into trouble for this kind of attention.  I'm okay with that.  We went over the fact that all of the real classroom rules and consequences are still in effect.  Part of the system also parallels the novel in that three transgressions will get you "released."  In our case, that means the student will be moved over to an island of desks where he or she will have to sit alone for the rest of the day.  I hope that it continues to be this much fun and that the kids continue to enjoy the book and the experience as much as they have the past few days.  I'm having a really good time at work :).

    Thank you, The Giver, you made my day.
     

    Day 19- Shepherd's Table and Dress Made Out of Sweater

    Clearly blogger and I were not seeing eye to eye last night.  Let's try yesterday's post again.

    Last year= Shepherd's Pie (mashed potatoes, meat, carrots, peas, corn, etc.)
    This year= Shepherd's Table (mashed potatoes, meat, carrots, peas, corn, etc. for the homeless)

    Shepherd's Table and I have one extremely important thing in common: neither one of us ever miss a meal.  This organization offers a dinner for people in need seven days a week, and they also provide other services like their Clothes Closet and Resource Center for the homeless.  Basically, they do great work.  They are located in Silver Spring, MD, which just so happens to be the place where my sister and brother-in-law live (and my dog niece and nephew).

    I'm pleased to make a small donation to them today, and I hope you will be too :).

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

    ******
    I experienced all kinds of wonderful today.  My students are starting to read The Giver, and I had them working in groups on a pre-reading activity where they had to construct their own little utopias.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much they got into this assignment.  This was especially nice to see because they will use many of the same concepts when it comes time to do their final projects.  Their conversations were insightful and deep, and I just got to walk around from group to group enjoying what was taking place.

    I also wanted to pinch myself in Ac Lab today.  Since my desks are now in groups, I had to carefully make a new seating chart for my Ac Lab kids to make sure that they had a fighting chance at productivity.  To my surprise and delight, they worked quietly and diligently for the entire hour.  I thought I was dreaming.  I was busting at the seams wanting to tell them how well they were doing, but I didn't want to ruin the moment.  Instead, I put on some mellow music and basked in the moment.

    If I have to pick just one thing that made my day, though, I might just have to go with the new sweater dress I was wearing.  I got it as a Christmas gift from my parents, and a gift it was indeed!  A quick badly written poetry tribute...

    I'm not sure what could be better
    than a dress made out of sweater. 
    It stretches out to give me space
    but hugs in another more flattering place.
    With great comfort and lots of compliments,
    I'd say the money was well spent. (Thanks, Mom!)

    Thank you, Dress Made Out of Sweater, you made my day.

    Oh What a Night!

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Day 18- Cell Phones for Soldiers and "Men Love This Steak"

    I thought I had lost my Zack Morris phone forever on this day last year.  Luckily, I found it.  Little did I know that less than a year later I would have to surrender it forever...  I also didn't know that I would end up with a fancy schmancy new iPhone... and that I would kind of... really... like it.

    I got to thinking about today's donation and how to tie into the idea of cell phones.  Tom came up with an excellent idea, which I will be using (much like he has just informed me that he will use a joke I just told him to earn himself some laughs and some points on mgoblog tomorrow).  We will be donating to Cell Phones for Soldiers today.  Their mission is quite simple: help soldiers call home.

    Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., with $21 of their own money. Since then, the registered 501c3 non-profit organization has raised almost $2 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas. 

    The website, http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/index.html, gives a lot more information about how you can contribute (donations of old phones, money, and more).  It also includes a few videos that are definitely worth watching, but make sure you have some tissues nearby.  In addition to our donation for the day, we'll be rounding up our ancient phones to take in... including my old Zack Morris.  Do you have any old phones you might donate?

    ******  


    A year or two ago, I found a recipe that intrigued me on one of my favorite cooking websites, allrecipes.com.  It was called "Men Love This Steak," and it sounded positively delicious.  We tried it a few times, and I made my own modifications to substitute in ingredients that Tom likes and would eat (instead of picking them out and pushing them into the pile of shame on the opposite side of his plate).  For tonight's dinner, we paired our steaks with fried potatoes and sweet potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce.  It looked quite fancy on our... ahem... t.v. trays.  I promise it was way prettier in person than it is in the cell phone picture, and it was much tastier than it looks too.  It turns out that men AND women love this steak.



    I just might share the recipe if you're interested.  I'd like to see who else might looooove this steak too.

    Thank you, "Men Love This Steak," you made my day.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Day 17- KaBOOM! and The Bachelor: Redemption

    I had a whole bunch of wonderful coworkers at Home Depot, and Dina was no exception.  She was one of the store managers who really made it a point to get to know the people who worked around her.  She was funny and fair and kind and personable and knew just how to make me laugh at the end of a loooong shift last year (see Day 17- 2010 style). 

    I'd like to make a donation in her honor to one of the important charities that Home Depot supports.  Dina is not only an exceptional manager; I also witnessed her being a fabulous mother, so this organization is really a twofer for her. 

    Today's donation was made to KaBOOM!  This is an organization whose mission is "to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities."  Their ultimate goal is to build a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.  How awesome is that?  What KaBOOM aims to do is to create solutions to all kinds of existing problems.  By "saving play," they hope to develop healthier (happier!) children, greener cities, stronger neighborhoods, and better schools.  Those are all things that I feel pretty dang good about supporting.

    Beyond monetary donations, there are all kinds of other ways in which you can support this organization.  Check it out!
    http://kaboom.org/

    ******

    One of my favorite guilty pleasures is baaaaaaaaaack!  Tonight I had the pleasure of combining my sporty and girly sides in a fun game of flip-back-and-forth-during-commercials between the Orange Bowl and The Bachelor: Redemption.  Yes, we have DVR, but we were able to effectively work out a system in which we could keep up with both programs at an almost live kind of pace.  Yes, we are still watching the Orange Bowl, and YES, we are hoping that there is some sort of resolution to our football coaching situation to follow not too long after today so that we can stop speculating and talking about the madness.

    I have other important things to speculate on now that The Bachelor: Redemption has begun.  That redemption part is not offically in the title, but I added it, and I like it.  It's certainly a step up from The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love.  This season promises to be... wait for it... the most dramatic and controversial season EVER!  Brad Womack is back to hot tub kiss his way through another set of ladies in the hopes of finding a wife.  The difference this time is that he better find himself a wife (or at least pretend to) for a long enough time that fans forget about him and he doesn't get scalped by a raging mob.

    I thought this choice to bring Brad back was kind of annoying at first (and I do realize that I should pretend to be ashamed that I have an opinion on this subject at all).  At the time, I was still gushing over poor Chris from Boston who had lost his mother and had his heart ripped out by Allie and hoping that he'd get a little more screen time.  However, I now think that Brad may be a genius move.  People are always questioning the track record of the show because it has failed to produce a whole lot of the true love it promises each and every season.  The producers know that this Brad guy owes them a tick mark on the positive side of the statistics, and they're ready to cash in. 

    It's hard to pick just a few highlights from tonight's episode because clearly if I am enough of a loser to watch in the first place, then the whole episode was probably a highlight, right?  Even though the show and these women go against every feminist instinct I have, I just can't help myself.  It's way too entertaining.  How can you blame me?  A woman showed up with fangs tonight.  FANGS.  And Brad kept her!  There was the classic "I'm not here to make friends" girl who will inevitably prove just that by becoming the villain of the season.  She will probably end up in third place.  I'm pretty sure I picked out Love at First Sight Girl already too (the one who will be sobbing in the limo next week about losing the great love of her life after having spent a total of 30 seconds with him).  Another woman waxed Brad's arm.  He kept her too!  There were also, obviously, the TMI girls.  There's just no way around loving them and the laugh out loud value they bring to the show.  I'm sorry, Hillary, Condoleezza, and Gloria, you're just going to have to allow me this one simple guilty pleasure.  I'll have to put on my pantsuit and exercise my right to vote on some other days that aren't Mondays featuring The Bachelor: Redemption.


    Thank you, The Bachelor: Redemption, you made my day.