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.

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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.