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Week 51-Meet me in… Day 3-In the middle

I feel like I’ve been in the middle of a tug-a-war match all day long.  Go do surgery, go to class, go back to the lab, oops you forgot you scheduled a haircut.  I loved being busy but today is one of those days when I wish there were about three more of me.  Being in graduate school is all about keeping it between the lines.  If you go too far outside them your program will suffer, if you stay too close to the middle you will never have any fun.  Plus the Diamond Rio song with the same title is one of my all-time favorites.  It comes on and I immediately turn it up and jam out.  Thanks for making me want to meet you in the middle every time.

One of the hardest places to stay in the middle, ironically, is when you are in middle school.  It’s such a weird time for boys and girls emotionally, physically, and socially.  The After-School All-Stars program works to enrich the minds and bodies and spirits of these young adults.  Middle school is the time to prepare students for high school and even college, but these days that is easier said than done.  ASAS provides enrichment opportunities, academic support, and health and fitness activities for over 81,000 kids each year in 12 different cities.  Oh, did I mention that this daily after-school program from 3pm-6pm is free!  I don’t even have kids but I can imagine the sense of relief that those All-Star parents much feel knowing that their kids are safe each day while they finish up work.  ASAS also provides a model for other middle schools that want to implement an after-school program in their area.  If Lebron and Arnold both support this cause then it must be a pretty big deal.  Being in the middle of a divorce is one place that no child should be.  Kids In The Middle  uses education, counseling, and support to help children, parents, and families work through a divorce.  KITM also promises better, healthier futures for children of divorced families.  My parents have been divorced a long time, and I was one of the lucky kids who wasn’t put in the middle, but unfortunately that is not always the case.  Founded back in 1977, KITM was originally created to counsel groups of children whose parents are divorced or separated.  Over the past 34 years they have expanded to 35 committed professionals who counsel entire families.  KITM also has a great section on their website for just kids.  That way kids have access to things they need to help them cope 24/7.

After-School All-Stars Donation

Kids In The Middle Donation

So here’s to the middle!  You are right there in-between the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and the crazy and boring.  You know who would love you?  Goldilocks!  That was a girl who knew a thing or two about liking things in the middle!  Thanks for giving us a place to meet when we just can’t pick a side.  

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 2-St. Louie

I have to admit, I had never even heard of the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” until seeing the Sex and The City movie.  That doesn’t change the fact that I love saying, “Meet me in St. Louie!” randomly during the week.  Plus, I have actually been there (albeit once) and I loved it. I’ve also bent thinking about the Midwest a lot because Thanksgiving break is upon us and lots of grad students are returning to their corn-fed roots for the next week.  It is true that St. Louis the gateway to the Midwest, but really it’s so much more than that.  I’m thankful that I put aside my automatic disdain for all things west of the Mississippi and learned to love St. Louie.

You can find Nelly is St. Louie

I dunno what you first thing of when you hear St. Louis, but for me, it’s Nelly.  That’s right, the rapper.  Well of course I think of my friend Rachael who is from St. Louis, but then I automatically think of us singing Nelly songs on the drive to Missouri.  While Nelly may come across as a hard-core rapper he really is a softie at heart, which is why he created a scholarship to help disadvantaged students from St. Louis.  This scholarship provides two high school students with 4 years of complete financial coverage to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.  The scholarship is open to any first year student who excels at academics and are financially in need. About 15,000 students attend Lindenwood each year and receive undergraduate or graduate degrees from one of their 120 plus programs on campus.  Founded in 1827, LU has established themselves as a dynamic four-year liberal arts college that is dedicated to providing the best education possible to thousands of students a year.  Whenever I start to think about St. Louis I always think about all the great and unique food I had while I was there.  The St. Louis Area Foodbank was not one of the places we ate, but they are the reason that there are less hungry mouths in the gateway city.  In 2009 alone, SLAF collected and distributed more than 22 million pounds of food, which was a whopping 8 million pounds more than their 2008 total of 14 million pounds.  Those numbers sound great on paper but they sound even better to the 57,100 people who rely on the SLAF each week for food assistance.  SLAF is also out there helping people realize that hunger doesn’t discriminate, and it’s not just problem in some far away land.  Hunger lives here in the United States.  Just this evening I had one of my teacher friends tell me that she is taking a bag full of food to a student tomorrow because otherwise her family won’t have any food to eat for Thanksgiving next week.  I almost cried when she told me that, and it makes me want to cry typing it.  This blog was to remind me, and you guys out there reading this, that we are so lucky.  It’s easy to be thankful each year in November, but don’t forget all those other months where your belly is full and your bed is warm.

Lindenwood University Donation

St. Louis Area Foodbank Donation

So here’s to you St. Louie!  You and I have only met once, but I’m thankful for the great people you’ve brought into my life.  You’ve got the arch, the Cardinals, a pretty nice zoo, and the Rams.  Not too shabby.  What you really have above everything else is heart.  You’re the little city that could, and you prove it over and over again.  I’ll meet you anytime.  Thanks for warming my heart to the heartland of America.

See you soon St. Louis

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 7-Golden Number

Today marks the last day of this golden week so what better to end on than the golden number?  It’s also quite appropriate because I feel like my day has been chocked full of numbers.  We’re doing surgery on a cow for the first time since September tomorrow and we were trying to figure out how many treatments we needed, how many samples we can obtain from one surgery, and how many assays that means I need to run.  The best part is, we are doing a new method which dramatically decreases the number assays I have to do, which is music to my ears.  My Biology students have filled out evaluation forms about me tonight and ranked my performance in numbers.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Yea, that's a nice round golden number

Numbers are one of those things that usually make sense to you or don’t.  There is a very small gray area with math.  The National Math + Science Initiative was created to address the fact that our students are falling behind in the essential courses of math and sciences.  The mission of NMS is to provide the ideas, inspiration, and resources need to close the gap that exists.  You may not think of it this way, but this gap is actually putting our nation’s economy at risk.  Students are less prepared to take college courses in math and science and are then less prepared for their future careers in those fields.  Science and math are the universal languages of the global marketplace.  It’s hard to be dominant force in a field where we can’t even speak the language.  NMS knows that they don’t have all the answers alone.  They look to those who have already reinvented the wheel, and roll with it.  They take the programs nationwide and prove that America has great students.  Obviously I especially think that women are capable of leading our nation in the fields of math and science.  Brain Cake is an online resource for girls ages 11-17 where they can learn that it’s fun to be smart and sweet.  BC is a part of the Carnegie Science Center‘s Girls, Math, & Science Partnership.  BC helps girls learn how to be confident, solve problems, and think independently.  For anyone who has had a teenage daughter or known any teenage girls this task is much easier said than done.  Thankfully, BC seems to be using all the right tools to make this happen.  They link these girls together, help them understand how the science they are learning applies to everyday lives, help them reach their goals and dreams.  BC knows that these girls can change the world, they are just the resource some of them need to get started.  Plus their website is really colorful and pretty like girls like.

National Math + Science Initiative Donation 

Brain Cake Donation

So here’s to you golden number!  You’re the one lucky number that we are all looking for when we play Bingo or the lottery.  Whenever we see you or hear you we can’t help the smile from creeping across our face.  You might not be the same number every time, but you always know how to turn our day around.  Thank you for making my fiftieth week go out in a glitter of glory.

See ya week 50!

Week 49-Knowvember, Day 7-Check out the brain on Brad!

So as you all know at this point, I spend the majority of my day on Tuesdays sculpting the minds of pretty great young people.  I have approached teaching as a break from my million other responsibilities and it has really helped me be extremely thankful for this experience.  I knew before this semester that I liked to teach, but seeing the look on a student’s face when they finally get a difficult concept makes me smile every time.  I love being the person who opens up this whole new scientific world for them.  I know I had several teachers whose enthusiasm for a field of study rubbed off on me.  I’m thankful I’m getting the opportunity to be that person for some other students.

Brad and his brain....great movie

What makes teaching these laboratories so special is the fact that these students are able to learn by doing.  The Living Classroom Foundation has been sharing the benefits of students getting their hands dirty for more than 25 years.  LCF also takes these experiences to the next level.  Did you ever think you wanted to be a mechanic and then realize that you knew nothing about cars?  LCF gives students the chance to get some real world experience in a field of their choice.  LCF is a charity that is based out of Baltimore so they have incorporated a unique Maritime heritage aspect into their program.  The visitors to the program are transformed from passive observers to active learners when they learn about the people who chartered the vessels of our nation and stood in our lighthouses.  LCF also works to focus on students who are living in high-risk areas.  Sometimes just showing a student what doors a great education will open for them is all the motivation they need to succeed.  A little more carrot and a little less stick make a big difference.  Obviously science has a big place in my life and my heart, so organizations like the Center for Excellence in Educationreally resonates with me.  CEE has nurtured excellence and leadership of high school and college students who are pursuing a career in science and technology since 1983.  CEE encourages and motivates students to become the next Nobel Prize winners and leaders who change how the world works.  CEE help to keep students from the United States competitive on an international level, as well as promote understanding and collaborations between nations.  Somebody has to figure out the cure for cancer, build the next super computer, and design the roadmap for our technological future.  Hopefully that the kind of influence I’m having on my students.  At the very least, they’re learning how to write complete sentences.

I couldn't agree more Miss Piggy!

Living Classroom Foundation Donation

Center for Excellence in Education Donation

So here’s to the brain on Brad!  Here is also to it getting bigger and more powerful each year, even when school is out.  Learning is a life-long process, which I obviously enjoy because it feels like I’m never going to finish school.  I’m totally cool with that though, because I know the lessons I’m learning are being passed down.  Brains are a beautiful thing.

Week 48-Costumes and Charities, Day 6-Bob Ross


Happy Halloween everyone!  Even though we had exactly zero trick-or-treaters tonight we still had a great evening, because Scott found out this morning that he was the winner of $150,000 grant!  Whoop whoop!  Today is definitely a happy day which totally reminds me of Bob Ross and his “happy trees”.  I have only seen one couple dress up in costume as Bob and his trees, but I still think it was one of the funniest costumes ever.  It’s one of those costumes that you automatically think, “Why did I think of that?”  Thanks for teaching us the joy of painting, and how to make happy little trees whenever our hearts desire.

Happy trees!

I am most definitely not a painter, but I am a pretty awesome doodler.  Apparently so are Betty White, Jodie Foster, Donald Trump, and John Travolta.  This Thursday Doodle for Hunger will host its twelfth celebrity auction to benefit St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters.  These original works of art, with the signature of the celebrity, will be sold after an evening of good food and fun.  SFFPS was established to help alleviate the physical and emotional hunger that poor families suffer on a daily basis.  SFFPS provides food, clothing, shelter, and other programs to help end the hunger cycle like counseling and job training to thousands of people each year.  With over 22 locations all of New York City, Long Island, and even New Jersey SFFPS it gets the thumbs up from The Donald.  It turns out that you can also Run and Spin for Hunger, and help feed hungry souls.  With Thanksgiving approaching rapidly this need weighs on our hearts more and more everyday.  Mr. Ross also inspired many young people out there to pick a brush and get their paint on.  Young Audiences for Learning Art is working to accomplish the same goal.  Started back in 1952 YALA now has 30 affiliates across the United States that provide schools in in-school, after-school, summer, and family programs that excite young people about art.  YALA brings young artists together with professionals of all types of disciplines so they are able to learn, create, and participate in any and every art they have an interest in.  They reached over 7 million children in almost 7,000 different schools just last year.  YALA believes that the arts should be an essential part of every student’s education.  I’m pretty sure Bob would agree.

Doodle for Hunger Donation

Young Audiences of Learning Art Donation 

So here’s to you Bob Ross!  You had the big fro and the endless smile that everyone loved to tune in to on PBS.  Your birthday was actually just a couple of days before Halloween, so it only seems right to give you a shout-out.  Mr. Rogers and his puppets had nothing on you and your brushes.  Thanks for bringing out the artist that is buried somewhere inside of all of us.

Week 46-I seriously hate, Day 3-Bad drivers!


The traffic here in Morgantown is a nightmare on a daily basis, but today was particularly bad.  There were accidents all over town, and it just reminded me about my despise for bad drivers.  Switching lanes without using a turn signal, cutting me off, not stopping at a stop sign, and going way below the speed limit are all things that I deal with on a daily basis.  I get that everyone is busy and in a rush to get wherever they are gong but this is our lives we’re talking about.  Let’s all just slow down and pay attention.  I guess I should thank you for teaching me some to have the patience of the saint, because I can’t think of anything else to thank you for.  Butt hole.

I think I’ve decided that the reason people around here can’t drive is because they were not A+ students in driver’s ed.  Even though the Youth Automated Training Center teaches at-risk teenagers basic automotive repair skills, I think this is a step in the right direction.  YATC also helps the kids learn academic remediation, job readiness, and life management skills during their nine month tuition-free training program.  Founded in 1984 by the automotive legend Jim Moran, YATC has an 85% job retention rate after students graduated from their school.  This is probably due to the fact that YATC continues to provide their graduates with guidance and support after they have completed the program.  It’s no surprise that they have grown from a one-room training center into a 16,000 square-foot state of the art facility.  Like I said, this wouldn’t fix everyone’s bad driving but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.  One organization after my own heart is the charity, Make Roads Safe.  Apparently the horrible driving here in town is the least of the world’s worries when it comes to road safety.  Every 6 seconds someone is killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads.  This is truly an epidemic that the international community has yet to really respond to.  Roads need to be designed better in order to be safer for not only us, but also for our children, and their children.  Road deaths in developing countries are rising, and MRS is making sure that politicians in these countries are standing up and taking action against this preventable problem.  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of change and a lot of patience to change the world for the better.

Youth Automotive Training Center Donation 

Make Roads Safe Donation 

So here’s to you bad drivers!  You seem to be multiplying like rabbits all across the country, and making it more and more difficult for us good drivers to scoot around town.  Some people might think that you all look the same, but I’ve found this to be false.  You span races, genders, and ages.  I would really like to end this by saying thanks for nothing, but I won’t, because that would defeat the entire purpose of this post.  So, thank you bad drivers for making me look so good.

Week 41-I can’t live without, Day 6-Gum

My personal fav

It’s chewy.  It’s yummy.  It will save you when it smells like a small animal has died in your mouth.  It’s gum!  Personally, I’m a Big Red fan but I like pretty much anything.  I love how I can just pop a piece in when I’m feeling a hungry, bored, or to clean up a dirty mouth.  I was one of those kids who had a pacifier for way too long, and ended up with a life-time oral fixation.  <Insert obvious joke here>  Gum has been a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember.  In fact, the measure of a good friend in high school was if they would give you their very last piece of gum or not.  I know you remember those days.  Thank goodness for good friends and sticks of gum.

The only draw back to gum for me, has always been the trash.  You always find those pesky gum wrappers in your purse, in your car, and even in your dryer.  And don’t even get me started on gum on the ground.  Who knew there was an organization called the Chewing Gum Action Group who have been working since 2003 to figure out a solution to irresponsible gum and wrapper disposal.  CGAG knows that the best way to stop gum litter is to nip it in the bud at the source.  By funding campaigns to help change the behavior or gum smackers, CGAC is actually helping to clean up our communities.  If you’ve ever stepped in gum while you’re just minding your own business than you can truly appreciate why this is so important.  Gum is meant to be in the wrapper, in your mouth, or in the trash can.  Even I have been guilty of throwing my gum or wrapper out on occasion, but no more!  I am a changed woman.  The gum powerhouse Wrigley, is also passionate about giving back more to their community more than an afternoon snack.  The Youth. Empowerment. Success. (Y.E.S) campaign provides kids with education and skills they need in order to successfully transition into adulthood.  Since the Wm. J. Wrigley Jr. Company Foundation provided the support to found Y.E.S. in 2008, they have helped over 10,000 students in India, China, Philippines, Poland, and Spain.  That makes the little stick or chiclet of gum taste even juicier.  As a small portion of the International Youth Foundation, Y.E.S. are grooming the next generation to solve the problems that keep on piling up for our world.

Chewing Gum Action Group Donation

Youth. Empowerment. Success. Donation

So here’s to you gum!  You have saved my behind from embarrassing breath catastrophes more times than I can count.  You are red, blue, green, and even white.  Cinnamon, peppermint, spearmint, and the list of flavors that you come in goes on and on.  There is something for everyone.  You’re such a little piece of happiness that takes my day to the next level.  Thanks for being inexpensive, satisfying, and just plain awesome.

I think I could pass for that girl...

Week 40-All I needed to know, Day 1-I learned from my Grandma

My sweet, smart Grandma

My Grandma always asked me what I learned at school that day when I would visit her after school.  My favorite answer was, “Nothing”, but that was never good enough for her.  “No, you learned something today.  Think about it and answer me again.”, she’d say.  So I would sit there and think of one thing, big or small, that my little brain had taken in the day.  She taught me how important it is to always be a student.  Life is about learning, and sometimes the most important lessons are taught in places that don’t look anything like your classroom at school.

I guess to better understand why my Grandma was such an advocate for learning, it would behoove you to know that she was first a teacher and then a principal.  She was actually my kindergarten principal, which is not something most people can say, and it is something I truly cherish.  Partnerships for Learning in Seattle, WA is focused on creating a stronger public education system that better prepares students for their collegiate careers and beyond.  Nearly 1 million teenagers decide to stop going to school every year.  Our future is literally dropping out before our eyes, and organizations like PFL are pulling out all the stops to decrease that number.  PFL is also extremely successful is taking complex issues and making them accessible to the public.  My Grandma knew that learning isn’t something that starts and stops during the school day, and PFL is carrying on her message in the state of Washington.  It turns out there are some other organizations that care about their “grand kids” education.  Founded by Curtis Granderson in 2007, the Grand Kids Foundation, is on a mission to improve the educational experience across the national and re-establish baseball opportunities for inner-city youth.  Granderson is often called the “nicest guy in baseball” and his track record for community service backs up that nickname.  Money that is given to the GKF is used to fund educational field trips, art and science initiatives, and buy foreign language software that is needed more and more everyday in schools.  My Grandma taught all three of her grandkids well and Curtis is taking her lead.  Go ahead Curtis, do the thing!

Curtis doing his thang with the "grand kids"

Partnership for Learning Donation

Grand Kids Foundation Donation

So here’s to what I learned from my Grandma!  You were way more than what I’ve typed here, but I can’t give away all the good secrets she passed down to me.  Obviously this lesson stuck with me though, because here I am almost 27 years old and still a student.  Every time I learn something new I can feel the warmth of my Grandma’s smile wrap me up in a big hug.  Thanks Grandma.

Week 38-Back to school, Day 6-Tomorrow is only a day away

I know I usually start off writing about something really positive that happened over the course of my day, but today is not that day.  Even though today was the first official day of classes at WVU, my one and only class was moved to Wednesday.  I lost my travel coffee mug.  I waited in line for 30 minutes for two little CDs at the bookstore.  My access card to get into my new laboratory isn’t activated yet.  I think you get the point.  So after I got home, sat down, had some delicious Mexican pizza made by my wonderful-beyond-words husband, I realized I needed to suck it up.  I’m healthy, I’m happy, and tomorrow is a new day. 

Sometimes the best medicine for today is tomorrow.  The Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program has been helping young women reach their full potential through their unique mentoring program since 1997.  WOT pairs extremely successful professional women with at-risk teenagers in public high school for monthly mentoring sessions over a period of three or four years.  The mentors of the WOT program are judges, doctors, lawyers, executives, entrepreneurs, and even airplane pilots that want to make sure these young women know the possibilities that lie ahead of them.  Over 2,000 teenagers are reached in 99 schools across South Florida by WOT’s network of 250 mentors.  Everyone needs someone to look up to so they can visualize how much better their tomorrow will be compared to today.  Something I’m really looking forward to in my tomorrow (like a lot of tomorrows from now) is having kids.  Kids for Tomorrow knows how valuable kids are to our world so they work to bring educational opportunities to developing countries.  Their projects in Kenya and Cambodia focus on primary grades, and brining a holistic approach to solving the problems facing these nations.  KFT wants kids to have a safe and inspiring learning environment but they know that they also need access to clean water, affordable and healthy food options, and the involvement of their local community in order to sustain projects.  I may not be a kid anymore, even though I kind of pouted like one today, but I still see a bright future ahead of me.

Women of Tomorrow Donation

Kids for Tomorrow Donation

So here’s to you tomorrow!  You were the only thing getting me through the rest of this long Monday.  You are never promised so even though your friend, today, might seem crappy, it could very well be our last.  Even though we should live like you’re ever gonna get here, we should give like you’re never gonna end, because without you there is no future.

What's on your agenda?

Week 38-Back to school, Day 5-Pencil me in

Technology has changed the way we take notes, study, and make presentations but there will never be a true replacement for the old-fashioned No. 2 pencil.  Thousands upon thousands of students, including myself, grew up using them for everything from math homework to cursive writing practice.  Do they still teach that?  Pencils were also the go-to writing utensil when any kind of standardized test was at hand.  Those bubble sheets and scantrons were the bane of my existence as a test taker, but I did love a freshly sharpened (or clicked if mechanical) pencil.  As I was gathering up all my pencils for the start of classes tomorrow I was reminded why I’m so thankful for things that never change.

How could you resist that face?

Would you believe me if I told you that all it takes are some pencils to build a school?  Probably not right, but Pencils of Promise are building schools in developing countries and teaching young leaders how they can take action at home and abroad.  Adam Braun was approached by a begging boy in India and he asked him, “What do you want most in the world?”  His answer was simple, “A pencil.”  As Adam reached into his backpack and handed him a pencil the little boy’s face lit up and Adam realized the pencil really is mightier than the sword.  POP started as a local initiative and it has stayed that way even though it has grown tremendously in the three short years since it’s inception.  They work with local communities to plan, build, and maintain a successful school for generations to come.  POP has proven that a generation empowered will empower the world, and I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of that!  The other thing that pencils are great for is writing letters to soldiers fighting for our country.  The mission of Operation Gratitude is to put smiles on the faces of servicemen and women through care packages and hand-written letters from thankful civilians.  Thousands upon thousands of soldiers are deployed to hostile and harsh environments where they are separated from their friends and families for extended periods of time.  Even if they put on a brave face and complete their jobs, I’d still be willing to bet there are a million others places they would rather be on any given day.  It’s those days when a letter from home and some goodies work miracles.  OG also has a program for the little ones that soldiers leave behind when they are deployed.  The kids are given a fluffy stuffed toy called a Battalion Buddy to hug while their mommy or daddy is away.  Now you know two new ways to use those back to school pencils instead of using them as weapons in the classroom this school year.

Pencils of Promise Donation

Operation Gratitude Donation

So here’s to penciling in some giving!  We make time to go to school, do our homework, eat three meals a day, and a million other things so why not do one more?  So take out your pencils, make sure they are sharp, and start that to-do list: buy new outfit for school; get a new computer; give somebody the gift of possibility.