For Your Favorite Teacher

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

As Black Friday shopping is right 'round the corner (and no I will not be going out that day), I thought I'd make a little list of great gifts for the teachers in your life.

1. A watch where the emphasis is on minutes and not hours, preferably one that will sync directly with the clock at one's school. Because, yes, teachers know that the difference between 10:37 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. is the difference between night and day -- one is the end of third period and the other the beginning of fourth. You're late!

2. Hand sanitizer. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you're thinking of buying this:

think again.

I mean this:

Possibly three or four of them.

3. And, while you're in that section, bleach wipes. These?

No. These:

4. A gift card to If you haven't heard of it (and why would you if you're not a teacher) it's this great website where teachers post materials/lessons/PowerPoints, etc. that they've created and other teachers can buy them. That website has saved my life as a first-year teacher. Why reinvent the wheel when you can spend $3.25 on a quality material you know works? Trust me, the teacher in your life will thank you.

5. If you're buying for a first year teacher, consider one of these:

Because, as we walk around the school, every other teacher has one of these or something like it. Sure we've only been teaching 15 weeks, but that extra boost of confidence would be nice. (Or else we might end up doing something like this.)

6. A card telling them you love them, they're doing good work, they're shaping young minds, and, most importantly, they are not irreversibly screwing a child up for life ensuring that kid won't get into college. (We do have bouts of doubt from time to time. :) )

Teacher friends, any other good ideas?

Happy shopping! :)

We Have To Stop.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There is something that I've been thinking about that I think we all need to internalize, no matter our religion, our race, our nationality, our socio-economic status, our political party, or anything else about us. And it's this --

We have to stop shooting each other. That can't be okay.

We have to stop threatening each other with any kind of violence.

We have to stop abusing and forgetting about the elderly members of our families and our communities.

We have to stop killing babies before they have the chance to be born.

We have to stop taking drugs and selling them to members of our communities, especially kids.

We have to stop abusing animals and leaving them abandoned to die.

We have to stop abusing our children. Those innocent faces are solely dependent on love from adults to survive.

We have to stop forgetting that there are hungry members of our communities that need our help.

We have to stop neglecting the homeless. Look at their faces, because they are children of God, just like we are.

We have to stop putting ourselves first, and others later. It's YOU first, then me.

We have to stop ignoring that there are real problems in our communities and instead do everything we can to help.

We have to stop forgetting that everyone has a bad day, and even if someone speaks to us in anger it's our choice to respond in love.

We have to stop being afraid of people who are different from us.

We have to stop putting other people down to make a point or bring ourselves up. Single moms, stay-at-home moms, working moms -- aren't you all moms? Doctors who put down lawyers to make a point about student loans and the ability to bring money in during one's career -- is that necessary?

We have to stop making our children think they are little gods. Children have to have rules and boundaries, and it will serve them better to be brought up with loving instruction and discipline.

We have to stop doing everything on party lines -- Republicans hate poor people and don't care children are starving, just like Democrats want everyone to get a free handout. Is this helping?

Imagine if everyone woke up this morning determined to put others first, respond in love, and do something to help. Put down the guns, put down the fists, put down the hate.

Guys, we HAVE to STOP. We have to stop. WE HAVE TO STOP.

"This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another." - 1 John 3:11

"Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Life is a Banquet

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For my 25th birthday my mom got me a copy of the movie "Auntie Mame." Till that time, my experience with Rosalind Russell was limited to "His Girl Friday," one of my favorite movies of all time. Now, Roz is pretty much my favorite actress of all time.

From the moment I popped "Auntie Mame" into my DVD player, I was smitten. There is not one thing about that movie that I do not love. The best thing about that movie is ... Auntie Mame is pretty much the greatest person who ever lived. Ever. Nothing about Auntie Mame is not awesome.

If you haven't seen the movie it is hard to describe. If you have seen it, then you don't need me to tell you. Auntie Mame loves life. She LOVES. LIFE. Her most quotable quote is, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." She redecorates her apartment every couple of months or so. She had parties thanks to bootleggers during prohibition. She travelled the world. She never got down about anything. Every day was a party.

Mame saw the best in everybody and in everything. Everything she did was fun, fun, fun. She was never more than three feet away from a martini.

You know who this sounds like? Not me. Ugh. I am the most worrier, stressed-out, lame-o of all time compared to Auntie Mame. But man, I wish I was her. I have informed all my siblings that when they have kids I wish to be referred to as Auntie Mame. So far, no dice, but I think that's only because I don't have any nieces or nephews yet. My sole goal in life is pretty much to be Mame Dennis. Because Mame Dennis is legendary. Mame Dennis is fun. Mame Dennis is quirky and zany and a party to be around.

And, God knows, that's not me right now. But I pray it will be. And I will try every day to be that much fun for everyone around me, and for myself.

So, my singular goal in life: to be Auntie Mame. Game on.

For Granted.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How often do we hear about something tragic -- a life lost too soon -- and think to ourselves -- she was too young, every moment is precious, tell those you love that you do? ... and then three days later we're back to our old ways of complaining because it's too cold/our coworkers are annoying/gas prices are high?

Guilty as charged. At least I am.

I am really bad about reminding myself that we can't take any moment for granted ... and then getting annoyed when my mom asks me a question. Or something goes wrong at school. Or my Internet won't work. (Seriously Anna?)

I found out yesterday that someone my friend Sarah knows was in a serious car accident with her boyfriend. He passed away at the scene, and the young woman, her name is Sara, was in critical condition at the hospital. Sadly, she passed away today around 3:15 p.m., right as we were getting out of school. I found out when I went to Sarah's classroom to return a borrowed laptop. Feeling absolutely helpless, Sarah and I prayed together at her desk. (Another post for another time, but praise God that I work at a place where situations like that are common.) We prayed that her family, friends, teachers, and classmates find peace, and that all who hear about this use it as a reminder that life is so precious and we don't know when our last moments will be.

I pray that I will be a person who loves everyone, even those who treat me badly. That I will let little things roll off my shoulders, realizing what is really important in life. As Ebenezer Scrooge says in my family's favorite version of A Christmas Carol, God forgive me for the time I've wasted.

The young woman who passed was a senior in high school. A precious, 17-year-old child of God. Her family is not wealthy by any means, and now they are not only facing the devastating loss of their daughter, but also the mountain of medical bills and funeral expenses that come with. Consider donating? I know there are so many people in need right now, but every $5 gift helps.

I pray that God will bless you and your family and friends as we enter this holy and beautiful holiday season.

The "Neighbor" in "Love Thy Neighbor" is Everyone

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We are entering that time of year where it's so easy to get caught up in THINGS. Things you are buying other people, things on your own Christmas list. Things. Nice things, who bought the best things, is my house decorated with the prettiest things.

We're all guilty of it. I like to get gifts too. Which is why I am so glad my holiday season unofficially kicked off this weekend with an awesome food drive!

I am on the board of this little organization called The Divine Intervention. Our mission is to provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those suffering from illness or addition, going through a tough time, or just in need of a listening ear. We provide these services free of charge. We also help other local organizations that exist to benefit the needy. And it is that last thing we were working on this weekend.

There is an organization in our county called Eastern Cabell County Humanities Organization (ECCHO). They serve the poorest of the poor in the eastern part of the county in which I live. They serve about 420 families a month. FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY in one small part of one county. They provide food, clothing, and other basic essentials at no cost. And they are staffed solely by volunteers. Needless to say, they are always in desperate need of food. So my Divine Intervention friends and I coordinated a food drive. Not only are we a small organization, but we are a new-ish one, so when we began planning this food drive we were afraid we might not get too many donations.

Boy were we wrong.

So, so wrong.

We stood outside from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, accepting donations. Our goal was to "Fill Father Jim's Truck!" Well, Father Jim's truck was too small.

Much, much too small.

We filled FIVE trucks. Five truckloads of food were donated this weekend. Donated by a bunch of regular people who did what they could -- sacrificially gave so that others wouldn't go hungry.

It was an amazing sight to see. I was bowled over by everyone's generosity. It was the PERFECT kickoff to my holiday season. An event that helped show a selfish person like myself the true meaning of how to love others as you love yourself. I read on Amy's blog once that she decided to host an orphan for Christmas when she realized that she didn't want herself sitting alone in an orphanage on Christmas ... and THAT is what the Golden Rule really means.

The shelves at ECCHO were practically bare, and this donation barely made a dent in the need that is out there. There is so, so, so much need. But a few more people will not go hungry tonight. And you can't put a price tag on that.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The other night my friend Cindy invited me and my other friend Sarah to a dinner celebrating our local City Mission. Cindy recently joined the board of this organization, and she invited us to sit at her table for the event. The City Mission is about two blocks away from where I live, so I sort of see them as my neighbors. They do great work, feeding, housing, and clothing many of our area's homeless who are trying to get back on their feet. It was a great event, and I was so glad to be invited.

In the middle of the event it really just hit me -- and this sounds so stupid and obvious I know, but sometimes I just need a reminder -- that our job on earth is to care for each other. That's really it. To care for and love our neighbor -- whether it's someone we like, whether or not they deserve it, whether or not they "did it to themselves." No matter what. Our job on this earth is to care for orphans and widows, drug addicts and prostitutes, the homeless and the mentally ill. Along with our own families and friends. Regardless of our faith, regardless of their faith. Regardless if they look scary or dirty. Regardless if we have money or not.

Love each other. It's honestly that simple.

And this is a really great time of year to remember this. If you can buy $100 worth of food to donate, then do it. If you can buy a single can of green beans and that's even a stretch for you, do it. Either way, that's so awesome. And I need to too.

As I was thinking about this today I saw this really great thing online. Click through and read if you have a chance. I won't lie -- I cried while I read it. I think I was just overwhelmed by all the goodness in the world. We often hear so many bad things. It is so nice to be reminded that there is so much goodness out there. And we can see it every day if we just look. And if we can't see it or don't see it, then we need to be the goodness. And maybe someone else will see us.

Election Day.

Monday, November 3, 2014

I've been letting my mail collect at the bottom of my stairs for the past few days. Partially because I'm a Lorelai, but mostly because I wanted to see just how many campaign mailers I'd get in about five days or so.

Since the election is tomorrow I decided to pick it up this evening when I got home. I got my answer. It's 14. 14 campaign mailers in about 5 days. From both parties. No one is blameless in this endless blame game we call election season.

This morning in 8th grade language arts we were doing vocabulary. Our first word was "apathetic." So I shared an example with the students: Some people are apathetic about voting. (Which drives me nuts, but that's neither here nor there.) But just hearing the word "voting" unleashed an outpouring of thoughts from my students.

These students -- these 13-year-olds, these 8th graders -- said the following things (and I quote):

- Miss Lafferre, none of these candidates ever say what they will do for you. They just say "don't vote for my opponent." 

- It's so annoying! "I'm Alison-Something-Grimes, and I approved this message because Mitch McConnell can't hold a gun right." 

- "I'm Mitch McConnell and COAL!" 

- I can't watch TV for two minutes without seeing one of these commercials. You know how many I saw in a row the other day? Six. SIX! 

- Why can't they just tell you what they'll help with?

- Miss Lafferre, do they think that if they say something bad about their opponent -- like Evan Jenkins hates kittens -- then someone will just be like, "Really? He hates kittens? Well I'm not voting for him then!" 

And these are just the ones I remember. I finally told them that I'd like to film them saying all this and then send it to the candidates. They were like, "Will you do that? Really? That'd be great!"

America -- THIS is what we've done to our children who cannot even vote yet. We have caused children who are not even old enough to register to vote to absolutely hate the democratic process and election season. They are already fed up with political elections and they are THIRTEEN. And BOTH parties are responsible.

Candidates, I ask you -- are you proud?

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