Friday, December 9, 2011

A letter for Mrs. Day...

A few months back, I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and listening to some music, when I noticed a fund raiser taking place right around the corner from my house.  I hate to say it, but I was hoping I could walk through the group of people trying to sell me hot dogs and candy for their organization without being noticed, and then I heard, "MS. GRAHAM!!"  When I turned, I realized that it was Mrs. Day.  Her son was in my very first class and her daughter would be in my class when the new school year started.  We hugged and exchanged pleasantries.  In our conversation, she told me about her non-profit organization, Project Darreis, honoring her son who had been killed a few years back.  Mrs. Day told me about all of the wonderful things her organization provided for young people in the community and families in need.  At the end of the chatI found myself agreeing to give a speech at the big holiday fund raiser that would be held toward the end of the year.  Now, I was HOPING that she might forget about this because, although I speak in front of people all day long, I HATE public speaking.  The people I am in front of all day are little people and they don't scare me...but adults are TERRIFYING.

So our school year progressed and nothing was ever mentioned about the event again...all clear riiiight????? WRONG.  Mrs. Day came into the school yesterday and said, "Oh Ms. Graham I am so busy with this event that I forgot to reschedule our conference....blah blah blah....I can't wait to see you on Saturday for the big event!!!" OH SH*T was the first thing I wanted to say.  But, being the polite lady that I am, I explained that I had completely forgotten and didn't even realize that it was happening tomorrow.  I also had already made plans to be Mr. Burbank's date to the Teach For America holiday party.  I did tell her that I would write something for her to read to the group on my behalf.   Below is what I wrote for Mrs. Day to share....I thought you might appreciate. :-)

My most sincere apologies for not being in attendance tonight.  My name is Dana Graham and for those who do not know, I teach Belinda’s daughter Stanya.  I have been a teacher for 6 years at Piedmont Avenue School right here in Oakland.  When I was a child, I grew up in a loving home with more than enough and access to all the resources I needed in order to ensure my success in school and life.  I graduated from high school near the top of my class and went on to attend Michigan State University.  It was at MSU that I made the choice to take on the most challenging and rewarding career; I decided that I would be a teacher.  As I progressed in school, I began to feel frustrated and discouraged by the overwhelming data that showed that the education urban America received was substandard.  It was then, I made the choice to teach in Oakland.  I chose Oakland because there was a need for hardworking, dedicated educators and I fit that mold.  I hoped to help provide for my students what I was provided in school – a high quality teaching and learning.  

The key to success is education.  Unfortunately, our society does not glorify schooling.  Many children today are more concerned about the newest fashion trends and music videos, than they are about reading and math.  It is our job - parents, teachers, community members – to instill the importance of learning in our children.  We must demand our children work hard in school and value their education.  

Sadly, many kids do not have supportive and encouraging families.  Too many children need the support from friends, teachers, and mentors in order to be successful.  I believe that all children have the ability to be something special.  I believe all children can work hard and achieve their goals.  It is our job to help the youth in our community believe in themselves.  It is through organizations like Project Darreis, that we can come together and provide assistance to families in need.  We can be sportive role models to our children and help them find the inspiration to go on when times are tough.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama spoke to America’s youth in a speech he gave at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia.  His words were powerful and inspiring.  President Obama addressed parents, teachers, and students about the importance of education and hard work.  He spoke directly to the young people of America and said:

“…at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life -- what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.  Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you, because here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”

So let’s work together – parents, community, and teachers – to help our children choose education.  Let us partner up and provide a supportive and nurturing environment for our children to flourish and pick a path that is both righteous and honorable.  I have committed myself to Oakland’s youth.  It is my hope that I can help my students pick up books and not weapons, use words and not fists, and be successful in life.  Violence is not the solution to our problems.  Love, support, and education conquer all.  

Now playing...The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Santa's Ten Celebrate Again

14 years ago marked the very first Sexy Nine Christmas party.  Several 14 year olds got together to celebrate the Christmas season for the first time.  Some had been friends for years already and others had just met shortly after entering high school...all would be friends for many years to come.

I remember being so excited that this group of girls, this popular group of beautiful girls, had invited me to share in a night of laughs, merriment, and friendship.  Little did we know, this would be a tradition for so many years to come.  We decided that Secret Santa would be exciting and much more affordable than buying each girlfriend an individual gift.  On the menu were various items that we asked our mom's to cook or threw together ourselves with little or no culinary ability.

Years later, we left for college and began making new friends.  Yet, every Christmas season, we looked forward to planning and celebrating our annual Christmas party.  Secret Santa stopped and we signed up to bring an appetizers, main dish, dessert, or a vegetable.  After we celebrated with each other, we ventured for a night out on the town.

Then we graduated college and moved out of our parents' houses.  We began having parties at OUR own homes and condos and eating like queens.  As every year has brought firsts - boyfriends, apartments, careers, fiances, husbands, pregnancy- this year was no different.  Instead of spending money on gifts for each other, for the first time we spent money on a mother and her son who are much less fortunate than us.

After dinner, we shared our gifts for the baby boy, played Christmas music, and wrapped tons of presents for our adopt-a-family to open on Christmas morning.

Please enjoy a few photos from our magical and memorable evening...
The house was decorated
The holiday treats were abundant.
Tasty hor d'ourves
A beautiful tree with all the trimmings and trappings.
A festive table scape.
Friends that are family...
We drank...

We ate...

 We celebrated upcoming birthdays and laughed...
We shared our presents...
And we wrapped the presents for our family...
Thank you again Dr. Chavez-Grinde for hosting...
And thank you to my favorite ladies in the world.  The last 14 years have been unforgettable.  I will love you always and treasure our unique and lasing bond.  Things only keep getting better with time.
Now playing...You've got a friends by James Taylor

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Every room that I went in was filled with PUMPKIN PIE!!!!

On Thanksgiving my sister made the MOST INCREDIBLE pumpkin pie I have ever tasted.  I've always liked pumpkin pie and felt like I was searching for a pumpkin pie with crust that didn't taste like cardboard.  WELL the search is O-V-E-R. 

I made this pie for (1) annual girls Christmas party and (2) Mike and it was a HUGE hit.  I thought I would share the recipe with you so you can impress your friends at your next holiday party.

ENJOY....and thank you KC for sharing this with all of us.

For the pie:

1 29 oz. can, pure pumpkin
1 5 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon

For the crust:

1 box Pillsbury yellow cake mix (with pudding in the mix)
2 sticks butter
2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350
Line two 9" pie pans with wax paper.
Mix together pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, salt and cinnamon.  Pour into pans and make even.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over both pies.  Put pecans through food processor to finely chop and evenly distribute over cake mix.  Melt one stick of butter at a time and pour on top of pecans.

 Bake for 1 hr., let cool and chill.  Place upside down and cut.  Add a dollop of whipped cream and drizzle warm caramel sauce.

 This pie is so easy to make and WILL be a huge hit at any holiday party.

Now playing...Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays by *NSYNC
(The cheesiest music pick I have posted yet!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

10 years later... A high school reunion.

I frequently hear people stress about their high school reunions and complain about not wanting to go... I however, am NOT one of those people.  I was very excited to visit with old friends and spend time with my best girlfriends back in good old Burlingame. 

I am lucky to have made some of my closest girlfriends at the beautiful Burlingame High School.  We have remained incredibly close since we graduated 10 years ago.  (For those who don't know about how important these ladies are to me  you can read up in my post Relationships: High School Girlfriends). 
Within the walls of this beautiful (now) 88 year old building, I shared countless laughs, tears, and memories with some of the most remarkable individuals.  And so, 10 years passed and it was time to reunite and catch up!  Unfortunately, most of my close girlfriends could not attend BUT Miss V, Cristina, Rachel, and I attended on behalf of all the "Cheerleaders." 

We caught up with old classmates...

Partied with best friends...

And found that in the past 10 years, besides "growing-up," somethings never really change...

Most importantly, we loved every minute of it!

Now playing... Country Grammar by Nelly