Z is for…

Z is for… Zoinks Scoob! We made it all the way through the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge!

zookeeperNo, really, Z is for Zookeeper. Because when I tell people that I am a middle school teacher, that’s what they see me as.
In a group, kids that age can be a challenge– but individually, they’re just kids. Each one with his or her own likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, gifts and challenges. No matter who is a teacher’s pet and who’s a teacher’s pest, they all deserve a chance to learn and grow and become successful, just the same. They all deserve the best from you.

And with that, I close this challenge. I am honestly stunned that I finished something I started, when it comes to writing anyway. They weren’t all the best posts, but I tried to offer something insightful every day. I didn’t get around to visiting others completing the challenge much, but I am going to find someone new every day to visit. Now that I’ve used “every day” twice in as many sentences, it’s probably time for me to stop.

a-to-z-letters-2013Thanks for reading. On to May and… whatever theme shall lay its veil across the month.

You can catch up on any of the A-to-Z posts by going to this link: http://squirrellywriter.com/tag/a-to-z-blogging-challenge/


Y is for…

ImageY is for You. Yes, You, dear reader. For without You there is no blog. Without You, myself and millions like me would still be scribbling in spiral notebooks no one would ever read, or perhaps a fancier, leather-bound product, or one with some funky artistic design and the word “Journal” in elegant font on the front cover. We could also be typing away in an endless Word document, with only those squiggly red and green underlines to remind us that we do not have immaculate command of written English. Our only writing companion would be that little animated paperclip, and that would be quite the sad existence.

Of course, we can still do all those things, and I am sure all the real writers out there write plenty that way still, and perhaps only have blogging as a side venture, a hobby, or if they’re really REAL writers, a place to discuss and promote their really-written-and-even-published books. I’m not a Real Writer yet (see the R is for… post), though I yearn (bonus “Y” word) to be. So for now, it’s quite rare that I ever write anything that does not go out on the blog at some point. The blog is what makes me write when purely intrinsic motivation just won’t cut it for me.

Because I want You to read it, You to “Like” it, You to comment on it, You to follow it and come and do it all again. It’s terribly narcissistic, without a doubt, but in the dozen-plus years that I have blogged, knowing there is some audience, no matter how small, has been the one thing that has kept me writing at all.

The key is reciprocity. I can’t expect You to come here if I don’t go there to Yours. That’s the part I need to do much better on. But, whoever You are, I thank You for reading this, and I hope You will come again tomorrow.

Charity is Thy Name

freehugJason wrote about “A Day Without Hate” yesterday.  It’s a beautiful sentiment and I would love to continue with that thought.  I want to write about a day with love.  Much of the world hates because of religion and politics.  Even those that share my faith will misquote God to suit their hateful needs.  It drives me insane.  Christ says: All the commandments are summed up into one.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Yet in His name people oppress, kill, and have taken away people’s civil rights throughout history.

I strive daily to live my life with love for everyone, even those I disagree with.  It’s much easier to do if you put yourself in their shoes.  How are you supposed to understand what it’s like being poor if you have always had everything handed to you?  How are you supposed to understand working hard if you have always been in a cubicle with air conditioning and plenty of food?  How are you supposed to understand oppression when you have never been a minority?  You shut up, you listen, you get your hands dirty, and you do all you can to really understand.

I have been very poor, as a child I stayed in homeless shelters, and I’ve  lived in a car off and on for a year.  It was scary.  Since then, I have slowly gained a very pampered lifestyle.  It’s interesting to see the extremes play out.  I can relate to most people in either life circumstance.   I’ve seen people stuck in their poverty or wealth for their lifetime, and never really understand anything outside their bubble; then despising the other side.  This only brings on animosity and hatred.

One of the best ways to stop thinking of yourself and to step into your neighbor’s shoes with love is charity.  I always say, when you’re having a bad day, bake a cake and bring it to someone that’s having a worse one.  There are a few orginizations that are very near and dear to my heart.  You may think there is nothing you can do because you don’t have money or you don’t have time.  There are ways everyone can help, depending on what they have to offer.

Too Much Money, Not Enough Time:  For those of you in this category, Doctors Without Borders (aka Médecins Sans Frontières) is the right charity for you.  They work “in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation.”  They give medical care in places no military will go.  Check them out:  http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

I’m a kid or an adult with little to give: You can always donate to the aforementioned charity or you can give food, animals, seeds, or water wells in third world countries.  Heifer International is wonderful about helping communities get set up in the “teach a man to fish” sort of way.  My 11-year-old daughter asked for donations of food and water to this organization instead of Christmas presents.  She didn’t have the money to donate herself, so she found a way to help without money.  You can read more about them here:  http://www.heifer.org/

I’m Broke:  Worry not. There are always the donations in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts I mentioned above, or you can volunteer your time.  I know community soup kitchens need help. Most people look up the soup kitchens during Thanksgiving or Christmas, but the rest of the year they are hard up for help.  Another community organization, which is also international,  is Habitat for Humanity. They need people to help build houses for families in need.  The family is not given a house for free.  They have to log in so many hours on their own house, and they have a minimal mortgage.  They are allowed to have people donate hours of work in their name, and that helps those with smaller families and children.  If you’re interested in learning more about them please read here: http://www.habitat.org/

These are just a few organizations that are near and dear to my heart.  I would be honored if one of these organizations got a moment of your time or a little of your money from reading this post.  It isn’t just the giving that counts, but the intention behind it. Even if the only thing you have to give is to lend your ear to a hurting friend, it makes a difference. Love your neighbor as yourself, and you will find fulfillment.



Lady or Not… Here I Come!



Thanks for reading my guest post on Jason’s blog.  If you would like to read his guest post on my blog, please check it out buy clicking this link: http://wp.me/p2BLLc-X8  I would be honored to have you visit.


X is for…

X is for Xenophobia. Xenos in ancient Greek meant “stranger,” so this word literally means fear of strangers. It was extended to refer to fear of foreigners, and in its broadest definition can mean fearing anything foreign or strange. As a graduate school dropout who was once sifting through the murkiest depths of literary theory, fear of “the Other” is a dominant theme in contemporary criticism. We fear what we do not understand, and we do not understand those who are different from us. And when we fear what, and whom, we do not understand, well, we know what happens next…

It’s not easy to embrace the unknown, the different, and perhaps that is too much to expect of any normal person. But we can at least resolve not to let fear rule our judgment. 

Friday, April 26, we observed what has become an annual tradition in my school district, which includes Columbine High School. It’s called “A Day Without Hate.” There are t-shirts, posters, a rally and free concert, and an effort on by the staff of every school to promote tolerance and positive values that day. It was begun in 2007 at another high school in the district as a response to the Virginia Tech shootings and quickly spread, becoming not just an official event across our county, but now being observed at schools in 12 states, including seven colleges. 

ImageThe t-shirts are always white, and if they don’t buy a t-shirt (the proceeds go to scholarship funds and various tolerance-building activities), students are all encouraged to wear white, the color of peace, that day. For one day we try to put differences aside and simply be nice to each other: an effort that certainly should happen 365 days a year, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

I am including one more video here, and I hope you will take the time to watch. It was made not at the school where I teach but another middle school only a mile away. It’s especially powerful because one of the teachers speaking in it lost two friends and was shot six times himself as a junior at Columbine. He was in the same class at the school as another friend of mine, who “only” suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear. If you’re short on time or attention span, you can skip to 1:47:

Of course, the emotional and psychological suffering for survivors of such events cannot be fully understood by most of us. The fact that they both wanted to go into teaching (in the same district, no less) speaks volumes to me about what it truly means not only to conquer fear and hate, but to take an active stand against it. Our only hope is to begin with children…

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom

W is for…

W is for Whining that it’s late and I need to go to bed,
for Women Whom I love even if I’ll never understand them,
for Work Which I avoid but can’t really imagine living Without,
for Writing and embracing it as both Work and play,
for Wanting What I have more than having things I Want,
for Willpower, for Which I often find myself Wanting,
for Worrying, Which still hasn’t helped one day be better,
for Wonder, and never losing that quality children conjure so easily,
and for those children, teaching them Well that
Who, What, When, and Where are important indeed,
But none so much as…

V is for…

Sounds so easy…

V is for Voice. Not the reality singing competition on TV, but what we use to make ourselves heard. Our voice is much more than what we speak out loud. It is any means that brings our unique individual self to be heard by the wider world. I’m a natural introvert, and I don’t particularly care for telephone conversations or making small talk in social settings. I wish I could sing (you don’t want to hear me try), but as Elton John put it, my words are my songs.

I’m glad that I can find my voice through writing. “Voice” is one of the seven traits of writing, the one students have the most trouble with. It tends to either shine through in their writing, or it doesn’t. You can teach them to be more descriptive, use imagery, figurative language, “show” instead of “tell,” vary their sentence structure and make their paragraphs flow, be clear and concise, etc. But how do you teach someone to fully present their personality in composition?

Blogging has been the most prominent means of sharing my voice for the past dozen years. This blog is but my newest of many. V is also for Views, and on Tuesday the 23rd, when this site was exactly one month old, it received it’s 1000th view. Thank you for all those who have Visited so far and I hope you’ll all continue to do so!

U is for…

ImageU is for Unity. As in, The United States of America. The union for which it stands. Community.  We are a paradoxical nation, pushing ourselves out on social media, worshiping the cult of the individual, forever arguing at what point the rights of the one interfere with the rights of the many. At the same time, our central ideology rests on the indivisibility of our union, E Pluribus Unum. 

Yet we may never have been so divided as now. Many of us are quite unified within those in our own camp, our side, left or right, liberal or conservative. Unified to the point of dismissing anything the “other side” has to say as meaningless rhetoric. The middle of the road is a vast, uninhabited wasteland, and there are very few of us brave enough to go into it and be the lone voices crying in the wilderness. Most of our political leaders need to go back and study the Constitutional Convention. That document would never have seen the light of day if not for compromises forged among men who vehemently disagreed, yet remembered the greater good. 

…My goodness, I need to make W be for Willy Wonka, or somesuch. Or for Why… so serious? I’ll lighten up before this challenge is over, promise!