Saturday, November 22, 2014

Empire building with GoFundMe

I want to take you with me on a cross country trip.



I have been enamored of rail travel ever since my first Amtrak journey to Baltimore as a child of eight years old. I was a young history buff who knew only of the heyday of passenger rail in books. That summer trip to visit family created in me a desire to take the rails wherever and whenever I could.



When I graduated from college, I finally fulfilled that childhood dream - a celebration trip to New York and I have frequented Amtrak since then.

I have been on short jaunts to nearby Winter Park in my home state of Florida. I have taken a four-day journey to Los Angeles from Jacksonville aboard the Sunset Limited.

What has tied together my various ramblings on the rails, whether it be summering in Maine or conventioneering in Kansas City, I most enjoyed using social media to share my impressions of this vast country.

It gives me a sense of joy to know that I have friends and relatives who tell me that they live vicariously through my postings on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and the like. This means a lot to me as I hope to make my trips as enjoyable for others as they are for me - albeit virtually. This, I suppose, is one of the benefits of being a teacher. My summers are a chance to relax and be an artist of sorts, with my craft being an Amtrak artist (so to speak). With a Klout score that hovers around 70, I am in the top ten percent of Internet 'influencers.' I am hoping to be a positive influence :-)



Having been to three corners of the nation via train, I have wanted to visit the Northwest. My grandmother tells tales of taking the Great Northern railroad as a child. I would like to experience that this upcoming summer. And this is where I bring you with me. I originally applied for an Amtrak residency that was established for writers who wanted to hone their railroad writing. I did not receive such an opportunity, but I wanted to create an opportunity for myself.

My aim is to document every step of my trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Seattle and back via Amtrak's Empire Builder. I might even venture into Vancouver if the time is right. My goal is to raise $3,000 to cover my transportation and lodging along the way.

Please donate to my GoFundMe account here. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Radio Free Spirit --- Pandora finds...

For this session of Radio Free Spirit, I am sharing music that I have found on Pandora. They all three are ambient and mellow tunes that help me to relax. I hope you enjoy them!





Can you help Wendy?



It all started with a vintage suit (Pictured).

I went looking for a unique suit to wear for Easter on a rookie teacher's salary. Being a fan of vintage clothing, I happened across a store in Jacksonville's eclectic and bohemian Five Points neighborhood.

As soon as I entered Time Warp, I fell in love with the store's wares and walked away with a suit that cost no more than $50. Not only were the prices affordable, the owner was very sweet.

We talked about how film and television productions often rely on vintage clothing stores to properly capture a time from the past. Being inspired by how decades like the 1960s were half a century ago but still hold a timeless appeal, I liked the aesthetic that came to vivid life in AMC's 'Mad Men'.

I returned to the store and enjoyed conversing with Wendy about how I wore my Easter suit to my tenth high school reunion. I brought a picture of myself having a rip roaring good time at the Omni with Orange Park's Class of 1992. I bought more clothes from what became a favorite of mine.

Somewhere along the way since then, Time Warp closed.

I heard that she left the business after being attacked. I lamented the loss, but the memory of Time Warp soon faded.

I returning home from visiting family in South Carolina for Memorial Day weekend when I saw the front page of the Times-Union. It caught my attention with a front page article about a woman who suffered facial damage. I forgot about it as I was taking my parents and baby niece back home and trying to beat what looked like an approaching storm. [See article here]

I saw a reference to the Sunday front page story when I was casually looking at the news online. I clicked on the link and entered a time warp. The first few sentences of the article brought me back to the unclear and foggy story that I had previously heard of Wendy, but the entirety of the article opened my eyes to what had happened to Wendy and where she had been since then.

My heart broke.

The cheerful young woman who was a highlight of my day when I came to look for clothes for myself or brought out-of-town visitors to see Five Points. I missed Wendy, her Time Warp, and how Five Points was not the same for me after she left.

Now, I learn that Wendy is on the road to recovery but it is an uphill climb made rockier by her medical bills. Please visit Wendy's web pages and consider donating. Wendy Somerset Recovery Donations

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Can you like my friend's page? It's for a good cause!



As I am raising money to update technology in my classroom, an old classmate of mine has agreed to donate one dollar (US $) for every person who likes his law firm's Facebook page.

All you have to do is visit the below Facebook page and click 'Like' and he will do the rest. Please LIKE McGrath, Gibson, LLC today!

CLICK HERE TO LIKE McGrath, Gibson LLC!

Friday, October 4, 2013

You have the power to help our students succeed!



The key to preparing students for college and career is to provide them with the most updated education technology to help them learn and succeed.

In today's schools, technology makes the difference because we can ill afford to get by with the traditional rote memorization of facts and the same reading and recitation. We are responsible for preparing students to use computers and audio/visual equipment that they likely will be using in higher education and the workplace.

The challenge, however, is that creating a 21st century classroom for our students takes money. As I teach sixth grade world history and want my students to have access to a technology cart to help present lessons and show them how to make the most of today's communications (laptop cart, document camera, projector, etc.), I have signed up with a local fundraising site to help acquire what we need to help our students get to the next level.

My goal is to raise $1,000 to purchase a technology cart for multimedia presentations, a document camera (also known informally as an 'ELMO' projector), and audio/visual for students projects and presentations through this new fundraising website (www.powerupjex.org). It is sponsored by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) to match donors with worthy causes in public education. An added benefit of donating through PowerUpJax is your receiving a detailed report of where the raised funding goes in my classroom.

Check the below link to donate today! I will have the added benefit of matching funds, dollar for dollar, from Community First Credit Union. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

In honor of Labor Day...



"Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top." - Booker T. Washington

I hope that this Labor Day is a reminder that all work has its importance in our society.

We fondly remember the days when we could look forward to graduating from high school and spending a career that ended with a nice gold watch and pension. Today, we seek a more instant reward as evidenced by the so-called celebrities who are famous for no real known reason or for reasons we dare not share with mixed company.

This Labor Day, however, I hope that we can honor those who indeed expend their effort to not only make a life for themselves, but to serve others. Generations ago, the mere idea of working meant risking life and limb to make a buck.

Thanks to the labor movement and social progress, we can afford to take for granted the protections and the regulations that allow us to live and work another day.

Monday may be a holiday, but it this day of leisure is best spent observing the long road that our forbears and our contemporaries have walked for us to benefit from the sweat of our hard work.

While some may deride the labor movement as being radical, we must always remember that men and women who provide goods and services are central to the success any economic system. When we abuse, mistreat or disrespect our laborers, we also cause grievous harm to our community and our long-term prosperity.

Look no further than when Henry Ford raised wages for his workers so they could purchase his automobiles and contribute to a greater society.

Look no further than the popular retailers whose low wages force their employees onto the public dole and place an undue strain on our welfare system.

A little respect and dignity go a long way for our workers and for humanity.

Happy Labor Day 2013.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Radio Free Spirit goes back to the 1960s

I was listening to the Cousin Brucie program on Sirius/XM when I found this little gem. If this has not been incorporated into the Mad Men soundtrack, it should. There is that wall of sound aspect to it that makes me fall in love with this song. Please also keep in mind that the lyrics whisper in ways that today's 'love' songs tend to scream. Give it a chance and let me know what you think. The school year is back in force and I wanted to post some light material for your enjoyment!



After you give this one a listen, also think about Spanky and Our Gang. I enjoyed their music going back to when I was in junior high school listening to the oldies station at night before I went to bed...