Monday, April 21, 2014

Thoughts on the Death of a Student

Many of you know that I taught in the inner city in a previous life-- or at least, in my life before the Navy. Being away from my students and from the kind of purpose I found there has been a learning experience, and one that I've been learning how to work through this year. And I thought I was doing a great job-- I am getting used to feeling successful in other ways that aren't teaching-specific. It feels good-- I love what I'm doing now, too. I love the change of pace and the ability to tackle new, different challenges. While there will always be a very special part of my heart dedicated to those experiences, my school's neighborhood, my students and my coworkers, I was doing a great job of moving on. 

And then one of my former students was brutally murdered last week. 

Because he grew up in the city and was a young, African American man, he fits a stereotype that we see in the news all the time. I fear that when people hear about his death, they'll wonder about his involvement in the shooting. They'll see his picture or hear a sound bite and wonder if he was at fault. We don't want to believe that something so horrible could be random. We want to believe that he may have been doing something sinister-- dealing drugs or gangbanging-- that led to such violent death. And I hate that.

Because that's not who Mike was. 

This is who he was:  I'm not into wearing rose-colored glasses, but Mike was a great kid. He was goofy and smart. He was a hard worker. He was talented in music and athletics. He belonged to the JROTC. He missed more class than he attended because he was so involved in extra curriculuars, but he always came back after school and worked until he had made up everything he needed to. He said, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am." He smiled a lot. He was always up to try something new-- whether that was reading a character's part from The Crucible or being the teacher during the Do Now. He wore his JROTC uniform to school for functions. He didn't complain; he put his head down and worked harder. He was accepted to two colleges this year-- with scholarships.  He was a kid who was breaking the city's entrenched cycle of poverty and violence that mires so many of our kids.

He was leaving after visiting his grandmother when someone walked up to his car and shot him in the head.

No reason. No warning. 

There is little I can do, but today, as classes pick back up after spring break and students and staff are back for the first time after Mike's death, I ask you to say a prayer for his classmates and teachers. They are resilient people. It's not that the school community or city has not seen violence before-- we've had too many students who have fallen victim to violence and it will happen again-- but the sting  of surprise, shock, and grief doesn't go away.

My former school has set up a fund for Mike's final expenses for his parents. The organizer for the fund is the social worker. Any amount of money is greatly needed and appreciated. If you would like to contribute, please visit the GoFundMe here. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Make a Shabby Chic Easter Basket Charm

Disclosure: I received product from Austiner's for a review. I only review and endorse products that I enjoy and believe that my readers will, too. All opinions (and crafting mistakes) are my own. 

This year is the first time John and I are celebrating Easter as a couple. For the past four years, John hasn't been able to really celebrate-- he's been in Boot Camp, on watch, TAD, and in Afghanistan. I got pretty excited and made him a big basket (which I can't show you because John is a reader). 

I just had to bling it up a little!  So I made a double-sided Easter Basket Charm that I can tie onto the handle. If we had kids (or other people to give baskets to) I'd make a different one for each basket. 

Both of these eggs were from the Mill Hill Spring line from Austiner's . I used the Butterfly Egg and 
Chick Egg, but as long as you have two sides that are symmetrical when placed back-to-back, you can create the Easter Basket Charm. (And if you're a cross stitch nut like me, you'll probably notice that this process is similar to the one for turning cross stitch into ornaments.)

You'll Need: 
  • small scissors (I use embroidery scissors-- they are sharp and precise enough to cut the cardboard canvas.)
  • 2 projects that are symmetrical when placed back-to-back
  • fabric glue (I live and die by Aleene's Fabric Fusion)
  • ribbon or cord to match your project (I used jute cording to give the project a little country flair, but a matched silk ribbon would work well, too!)

1.  Cut out both projects leaving a one-block perimeter around the stitched project. 
2. Cut the ribbon or cord into at least 8-inch lengths (more if you have a bigger basket or a thicker handle). 
3. Spread a thick layer of glue onto the back of one project. Make sure that you spread to the edge of the project. 
4. Press your cording into the glue and spread glue on top of the cording. Carefully press the other project onto the first project and hold for 10 seconds. Wipe excess glue from the edges and let dry for an hour. (For good measure, I placed a book onto the top of the project so that the cording securely bonded with both sides of the project.) 

Once your project is dry, tie it around the handle of a pretty basket and enjoy! 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 Bible Verses and a Prayer for Deployment

If you're a long-time reader of Jo, My Gosh! you've probably picked up that I'm Christian, even though I am not typically vocal about my faith on the blog. If you're an even closer reader, you've might know that I'm Lutheran. Faith has always been an important part of my life-- in fact, at one point in my life, I was seriously considering going to seminary to be a pastor-- but it was especially instrumental last year while I tried to keep it together. I've written  before about how wonderful my home church was in welcoming John and supporting him (and me) through that very long, long year. Bible verses were also very important, and as this is Holy Week, I thought this would be a great time to share what helped me, in the hopes that it will be inspirational for you, too.

Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This one was my all-time favorite while John was deployed. I had it written on a sticky note and taped to my school computer so I saw it at least every hour of the work day.

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
This is a verse my mom has said since my sisters and I were young kids. It just stuck with me.

Psalm 71:14: ...But as for me, I will always have hope.
One of the boxes I sent John had a little book of encouragement that I put together, and I included this particular verse. Short, sweet, and a wonderful reminder.

Genesis 31:49: ...May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.
The verse is about a stone column called Mizpah and has inspired jewelry for long distance relationships. There are many pieces you can get with this verse on it (and many of them have two parts, so two people can wear it). I did a quick search on Etsy to find handmade Mizpah jewelry, and you can see the choices here.

Psalm 91:11: For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
This one has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. The wording is beautiful and so powerful! 

Deployment Prayer
One of John's family's friends posted on his wall before he deployed. I thought it was wonderful, so I printed it out and kept it in my wallet (and taped a copy to my work computer, too). Of course, when I got a new wallet this year, I accidentally threw away the poem. I looked through Facebook for almost an hour to find this prayer again because it is my favorite. I can't tell you how many times I read and prayed it last year. For those of you in the midst of or facing deployment, I hope it brings you the same comfort and strength.

Lord and Holy Protector,
you called Abraham and Sarah to leave their homeland
 and to journey away from their own people.
Yet you kept them safe wherever they went.
Protect your children and our friend and loved one
who must now leave to fight in this war.
Walk by his side and calm any fear.
Be his companion and guide his thoughts.
Encircle him with your light and keep him from harm.
And when his service is ended, lead him safely home again.
For you, O God, are our shelter in every storm
and our refuge in times of danger.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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