The Introvert’s Dilemma

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Lazy Eye

Lazy Eye

This comic is a homage to the fact that as a child (and even high school student) I struggled with navigating the waters of a lazy right eye, which just wouldn’t cooperate with me. Since then, I must have done some strength training, or maybe I dream really hard. My right eye is active and healthy, and I have learned to sympathize with my students who struggle with lazy eyes, or even anthropophobia, a fear of people, which may include a fear of eye contact. The struggle is real, people.

Is this comic as cheesy as a meal of three-cheese grilled cheese with a side of four-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese? Absolutely it is. But I hope it injects a little more empathy into your interactions with others today.

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Love,

Ochwoman

A Letter About Slaying Dragons, I Mean, Middle School Myths

Dear Rising Seventh Grader,

If you’re like I was as an awkward, gangly sixth-grader-going-on-seventh-grader, your palms are sweaty, your furrowed brow indicates an ample amount of apprehension, and your brain is a buzzing New York City intersection teeming with traffic. You can take a deep breath now. Relax. Help is here. Your older siblings, friends, not-friends, and maybe even your parents have been supplying your overactive nerves with a steady stream of white lies. Luckily, I’m here to bust the top four middle school myths for you, so that you can soar to success in middle school.

  1. Middle school is a zoo.

This myth is both fact and fiction. Is middle school a zoo…literally? No. Fact: Middle school is NOT a zoo. We do not house ordinarily wild animals in cages for visitors’ enjoyment. Is it as loud as a zoo at times? Is it entertaining, crazy, unpredictable like a zoo? Absolutely. This myth is not meant to be taken literally, but if you read it as figurative language, as a metaphor (which is a comparison between two things that doesn’t use like or as) then you can extract meaning like freshly squeezed juice from a lemon. (That’s a simile, a comparison which does use like or as.) Though this place may teeter on the brink of chaos, you can always look for a bright side and a reason to make lemonade.

  1. The eighth graders will eat you alive!

Consider this your next lesson in figurative language. Myth #2 is a hyperbole, or an extreme exaggeration. This statement is not meant to be taken literally but serves to make a point. Are the eighth graders as tall and tantalizingly overbearing as skyscrapers? Sometimes. Will they shriek, show off, maniacally laugh in your presence, and call you “Sevie!” to make you feel inferior? Perhaps. However, eighth graders can also be your mentors and friends, directing you to your classroom like a GPS or perfectly passing the soccer ball to you in a pick-up game after school. They may have grown more than you, likely both in height and experience, but you should use this growth to your advantage: learn from the eighth graders.

  1. Some of the teachers live at school.

Ms. A stockpiles granola bars, crackers, and bags of fruit in her desk drawers. Mr. B’s hoodies huddle together in the corner of his class, like napping cats. Mrs. C has a bag of clothes she brings to school every day. Newsflash: these teachers, no matter how crazy your observations, do not live at school. Ms. A stashes secret snacks in her desk for students who forgot or can’t afford lunch. Mr. B hoards hoodies because some students come to school shivering in the wintertime, without a coat to hug them snug and warm. And Mrs C? She stays after school almost every day to coach students in soccer and basketball. She has to be ready. They all have to be ready. These teachers don’t live at school, but they do love their jobs so much it appears they’re living here. Try to love being here as much as your teachers do.

  1. There is a secret pool in the basement!

Let us break this Buy-One-Get-One myth. Not only do we not have a secret pool, but we also don’t have a basement. However, if your imagination is just wild enough, you might be able to write a secret pool into a story, or explore a book from its basement to roof–thoroughly, creatively. In books and in writing, you will find freakishly fantastic, deplorably absurd, exceptionally extraordinary things that reality just can’t show you. Don’t be afraid to risk everything and throw yourself into the wonderful world of fiction.

It can be difficult to differentiate between fact & fiction, between unmistakably real and indubitably myth. The two seem inextricable like peanut butter and jelly. You will struggle to separate the two, to find meaning in new words, and to define your new life in this new place. You will struggle, but you will struggle to success.

I feel confident in you now, Sevie, but first, a final fact: Middle school myths are fire-breathing dragons. (That’s a hyperbolic metaphor.) They’re scary at first, have power to breathe fire, and can scorch everything in sight, but only if you believe in them. If there’s anything you come to middle school with, besides your brain and some bravery, it should be these final words of wisdom: Don’t believe everything you hear the first time.

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From your maybe future teacher,

Ochwoman

#IWishMyStudentsKnew: I Like You.

About a month ago, an elementary school teacher asked her students to reflect on and write about the following question:

What do you wish your teacher knew about you?

The results were funny, heartbreaking, and above all: authentic. I (and my students) needed something positive to latch on to near the end of the school year before diving into our standardized test next week, so I asked them the same question.

And my god, are my students bright, brilliant, and blindingly amazing.

I already knew it before, but as science goes, this experiment fully proved, validated, legitimized the hypothesis.

Let me state it again, as now, it is Fact:

My students are bright, brilliant, and blindingly Amazing.

I will share now the most touching experience of my morning, while I asked my students to answer what #IWishMyTeacherKnew.

This is Laura’s response.

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I sat for a moment at my desk, feeling her response.

Then, I went over to Laura and told her I wanted to teach her something.

I. We placed our right hand to our hearts, pinkies up.

Like. Middle finger and thumb together, we pulled an invisible thread outward from our hearts.

You. We pointed to one another.

“I like you, Lauren. Now you can share that with people, so they know you like them too.” I smiled. She began to cry.

“May I hug you?” I asked her.

We hugged, and out of her mouth she whispered two words:

“Thank you.”

For anyone who doesn’t know, teaching cannot be summed up by standardized tests, nor can it be summed up by standards taught and assessed. Teaching is a collection of memorable moments when communities collide, brains connect, and hearts become one.

Teaching is not glorious. It is often messy, thankless, and downright difficult.

But if humans, so diverse in age, race, socioeconomic status, music preferences, slang, cultural values, and learning styles can come together to learn, love, and remember together, well then,

If there’s one thing #IWishMyStudentsKnew, it’s this:

Teaching is worth every goddamn moment. Every. Last. One.

And I will always, always be here to to remind you, I like you.

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Love,

Ochwoman

10 Tips: How to Make it in High School

Zits, drama, skipping, SAT’s, boyfriends, girlfriends, are we friends? As a 25-year-old reflecting back on high school, I struggle to remember my struggles of a decade ago, but these are the things I remember.
I sometimes have students from previous years email me with friendly hello-how-are-you’s, but today, I received a special email from a student who is nervous that 8th grade is almost over. Why? Next year, she’ll be in high school, and she knows that’s a whole other animal. She asked me for some advice to help alleviate her worries, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 tips for how to make high school the best experience possible for students like me…and you!
1. Keep track of assignments by using an agenda or a free app like Google Keep to help you stay on track with your busy schedule
2. Prioritize your studying! Studying doesn’t mean looking everything over from beginning to end, but looking over what you need to practice most first.
3. Make friends. Keep friends. Make new friends. They’ll keep you stress-free in and out of school.
4. Join a club for something you’re passionate about or want to try. Not only will it look great for college, but you’ll make friends in the process!
5. As much as possible, don’t procrastinate.
6. When you procrastinate, you should inevitably learn to speed read, write legibly while the bus is moving, and know how to ask friends for help. (Note: I said for help, not for their homework to copy. Copying = plagiarism = serious consequences)
7. Get to know your teachers, counselors, and principals. Yes, it’s scary that they’re adults, but they may be just the people you need someday!
8. When an awesome opportunity arises, take it, even if you’re scared or have stage fright or have to hold your breath to do it.
9. Start exploring what you’re passionate about NOW: Who do you want to be when you grow up? Not what do you want to be. Once you know who you’d like to be, you can figure out what careers might fit you.
10. Lastly, always, always take a deep breath, smile, and laugh it off.
Middle school, high school, and life can be terrifying, but not if you have all the right tips, tools, and most of all friends. Happy living!

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Love,

Ochwoman

Parentheses (Day 2)

When I was a child
I would wonder upon my mother’s face
And upon the parentheses that neatly embraced her smile.
My mother is old:
Parentheses are a mark of the old, I thought.

When I was a student in middle school
I was told that I used too many parentheses in my sentences.
(This was marked upon my page, in Red Pen,
By teachers who thought I was doing it all wrong.)
You don’t need parentheses here, they said,
Or else erase these words altogether!
(These words? They’re not needed, they wrote.)
But I was in the seventh grade,
And I felt I was being clever and mature,
So I continued my arrogant error.
(Parentheses are a mark of the old, I thought.)

When I was twenty-three,
Still young, yet old enough to proclaim myself an Adult,
All at once I remembered my previous opinion on parentheses:
I looked in the mirror, as I do every day,
But this time, as I marked my eyes with black eyeliner,
I noticed something new. I gasped, aghast.
(I am twenty-three, and was shocked you see.)
Crow’s feet had crawled to rest beside my eyes.
Delicate lines danced beneath and beside
My eyes as I smiled, frowned, smiled, frowned.
(Checking, double-checking, as if to be certain.)
There beside my lips, parentheses had formed.
Their lines were not yet deep or indelible,
But were there as I stared.

(And this is when I revised my thoughts.)
Parentheses are not a mark of the old, I thought.
Parentheses, and commas, and m-dashes
Draw Attention to a life well-lived.

(Parentheses prove that many times in life
We’ve taken the time to smile;
Commas prove our experiences are plenty,
And we can list and line them up beside one another;
M-dashes—well, these are the very best—
For with a pause we can revise ourselves mid-thought.)

When I am old,
And have laughed and lived,
I will earn my permanent parentheses,
And I will wear them proudly around my smile,
Just as my mother did
When I was a child.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

4:40am: I awake. I thought I would feel tired at this early alarm; however, I fell fast asleep at 9:20pm last night in a hoodie and jeans.

4:45am: I shower away the sleepiness.

5am: I take my dog out, and hooray: He does #1 AND #2 on the first try!

5:20am: I finish planning for the day, creating activities and handouts, and uploading documents to our Drive for colleagues and students to find.

6am: What? It’s 6am already? I have to get ready!

6:25am: Fabric toys in dog’s toy box. All paper up, up, and away. (Yes, my dog has eaten my adult homework before, my W2, AND a student’s homework before.) Head out the door.

6:50am: I arrive at school as a sliver of the sun peeks over the horizon.

6:55am: Clean up, copies, check mailbox, reply to emails, organize papers, update Blackboard, pick up laptop cart, drive down hallway, feel like I’m failing a driver’s test, safely get the cart into my room, repeat, sit down, breathe, re-orient myself, did I make copies of this?!?!?, go make copies of this, wait in line for copier, make copies only for first class because there’s not enough time before the student stampede begins.

7:40am: Students arrive, groggy, loud, weird, quiet, ready, bored, excited….awesome.

8:50am: Five computers’ batteries have died already. We make it work.

9:25am: Time for yoga class. A new student arrives, “I’m so glad I finally get to come to yoga!” As I’m about to ogle over this sweet response he adds, “For all the chicks!” and I am reminded these are seventh grade students.

10:05am: We attempt something called a “yoga wave” with moderate success.

10:10am: Speed-walk back to classroom for planning period. Get no planning done. Grade homework assignments & input into gradebook. Reply to two parent emails. Who invented emails? I thank and hate him or her daily. Update agenda & desk calendar with color-coded stickers and pens of every color from the rainbow. I call this: getting my head on straight.

11:00am: Already? They’re coming already? Pass out tests to finish. Give advice on how to persuade your parents to get that expensive lacrosse stick.

11:30am: Time for lunch. Reach in bag. I have no lunch. I have a credit card! Drive to Starbucks for caffeine and coffee cake. Drive back, book in hand because leisurely reading during a 30-minute lunch period is a pipe dream.

11:50am: Mmm, coffee cake. Slirp, coffee. Scroll, Pinterest.

12:00pm: It begins again. Google surveys, everyone! Let’s talk about audience. Commercials: Obama, Grey Poupon, Justin Bieber. Let’s talk about products. What would YOU want to buy? (If you had money…since we all know you have none as a seventh grader). No, you cannot buy a unicorn.

1:10pm: Blocking the doorway with backpacks and barging in anyway. Step out, both of you, and try again. Much better. Ms. Ochman! Ms. Ochman! Now, how might Ms. Ochman feel if you come in the room crazy and loud and booming and barrage her with questions? Confused. Overwhelmed. You got it. I bet, if we wait for announcements, I might answer your question before you even have to ask it.

1:30pm: Dooooo-woop! Doooooo-woop! I have my students’ attention for the briefest of moments. How far away would you say Timmy is from me? Three feet. Yes, based on the volume it was 15 seconds ago, I could not hear Timmy. Notice how quietly I’m talking now? You can all hear me, everyone in the room. I need you to focus on what volume you need to talk with the people right in front of you.

1:31pm: Great volume control.

1:35pm: VOLUME CHECK PLEASE!

2:00pm: Whatever. This volume thing is just me trying to prevent a migraine anyway.

2:30pm: Yes, yes we have watched this video before, but we watched it with different glasses on. Last time, we were looking for persuasive techniques. This time we put on different glasses to look for the audience they’re trying to persuade.

2:35pm: One, I need you to complete your exit ticket! Two, I need you to return your computers neatly to the correct slot plugging it in to the correct charger! Three, on the post-it write a sentence or hashtag, which describes what we learned in class today.

2:40pm: Fix computers & charging cord wires because they’re not all in the correct spot, and cords are spilled out like a zombie’s intestines.

2:50pm: Finally, the restroom!

3:00pm: Meet with assistant principal and instructional coach to plan a professional development session for 21st century skills.

3:20pm: Somehow agree to have my class video-recorded to show at the session. And this is a good thing?!?!

3:30pm: Distract AP and IC with cute cartoon video about 21st century skills.

3:35pm: Yes, I was just testing you. The instructional coach refocuses us quickly.

4:00pm: Google, help us. Why isn’t this book for free? We’re teachers. We need free resources. FREE!

4:45pm: Meeting done! Let’s go home!

4:50pm: Kidding. Let’s talk about gangs. Current events. Future of learning. Let’s go home. For real.

5:00pm: Traffic.

5:20pm: Traffic. Green light! Oh, we’re still not moving. Traffic.

5:30pm: SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR.

5:40pm: I can see my apartment building. It’s right there…

5:45pm: Honey, I’m home! Happy puppy, happy fiance.

5:50pm: Breakfast burritos for dinner. Parks & Rec. Happiness.

7:00pm: I really should work on this lesson for tomorrow. Gah! I’m being video-recorded. Stressful.

7:10pm: How do I even start this thing? It’s about Communication.

7:20pm: Look up videos. Check colleague’s resources in Drive. There are 3. I need something more.

7:30pm: They say don’t recreate the wheel. I’m definitely re-creating the wheel.

7:45pm: I like my wheel better.

8:00pm: My wheel makes sense to my students.

8:30pm: I hope my wheel makes sense to teachers and translates well on video.

9:00pm: Yeah, yeah babe, I’m almost done.

9:20pm: I just have to make that presentation.

9:30pm: I just have to update Blackboard.

9:40pm: I just have to make sure the Drive folders are visible for my students with presentations ready to go.

9:50pm: Well, maybe I should just …yeah, babe I said I’m almost done.

10:00pm: Click. CLICK. Reload. Kill page? Yeah, I guess so.

10:05pm: Clean kitchen counters & wash dishes. Set up caffeine machine.

10:10pm: Stop…SHOWAH TIME! Der-ner-ner-ner.

10:20pm: What am I wearing tomorrow? Pants. I have to teach yoga again tomorrow. And not black. I’m going to be recorded, and I don’t want to look depressing.

10:30pm: I should write a blog post. I had coffee today. I can do it.

11:07pm: I can’t believe I just did this. This is my day, my diary, and it repeats. The students may change each year. The mental focus may change each week or day.

But no matter the time of day, I am a teacher, and that will never change.

Be Here Now

Saturday, April 14, 2012, 6:45 p.m.

I’ve arrived again with my father. I head to the chair beside my grandmother’s temporary bed, as my father speaks to my mother behind me. I cease focusing on the conversation behind me, as my grandmother’s big blue eyes open.

“Hi Grandma!” I say, in a sweet, somewhat hushed voice. I take up her hand, and hold it tight in my left hand. “It’s Heather Belle.” I’ve said these two lines almost each time she’s opened those pretty eyes of hers, and I’ve never really been sure she knows who I am. She can’t really say much anymore. But right now, she does.

Though quiet, it pierces through me, “I’m afraid,” she says. My parents still talk behind me, but I rub my thumb against the worn skin of her hand.

“It’s okay, Grandma, we’re here with you.” I’m not quite sure what to say in this moment; her comment has grabbed my very heart and made it throb.

“I’m afraid,” she says again. I notice a tear coming out of her left eye. Just a glimmer, but it’s there.

There is a new presence in her eyes, not like the absentness of before, as she’d stare right through me, clear through the wall behind me. I sense terror. I sense fear of the unknown. I squeeze her hand tighter with both of my hands now and gaze into her pretty blue eyes with my own, hoping that she can feel me there and that she will be alright.

“It’s okay. I’m here,” I assure her again, “Grandma? I love you. Very much.” Her lips quiver a bit, and then stop. We look into each others’ eyes. The tear is still there, as I stroke her hand, her arm, and then back to her hand, to thumb over each knuckle.

My mother walks in front of me, and seeing her mother is awake, brushes the limp, gray hair back, saying, “Hi there Mama. Hi pretty.” My mother will never know what her mother has just said to me, what hers has just experienced with me. She is afraid. We are afraid. But we will come out of this together yet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012, 7:35 p.m.

My grandmother has been in and out of sleep, in and out of pain. My father walks into the room now from visiting my grandfather, who is also at the elderly care home and just down the hall. He announces that my grandfather wants to come visit my mother’s mother.

“I told him what’s going on…” My father’s voice trailing off suggests that his father now knows the severity of my grandmother’s sickness. “He’s just outside.”

My father walks further into the room, then stops and takes a breath.

Then he says something unexpected…He hesitates at first, then, speaking about my grandfather: “He said his father’s here.” I get chills. My great-grandfather is long dead.

My grandfather appears in the doorway in his wheelchair, and my father helps to wheel him into the room and around the bed. I clear a couple chairs out of the way, leaving one chair for myself. I take a seat. My grandfather sits beside me, content in his wheelchair.

“It’s Rich. Say, ‘Hi Rich,’” my mother prompts my grandmother. She manages a wave to my grandfather. It’s more of a slight lift of the hand after she finally recognizes him. This is the first time my grandfather has seen my grandmother with such a glazed gaze.

My grandfather reaches for my hand, and once I give my hand to him, he holds it tight. I look at him, and I realize I’d been thinking about how gray and how lifeless my grandmother is beginning to look. He must have read my thoughts and wanted to protect me.

Twenty-four hours ago, my father had called me. “Your grandmother’s not doing well, Heather…her kidneys started failing yesterday.” Yesterday. He couldn’t tell me yesterday? He had to wait? My father always waits to tell me things, after the fact.“I’m sorry…I want to protect you from bad things.” And here is my grandfather, also wanting to protect me from bad things.

He lets go of my hand. Enough support, apparently. We all look at my grandmother, her eyes are slowly opening and closing. Her body is trying to decide between sleeping or staying awake, ignoring the pain or realizing it.

“You remember Janet, don’t you? Grandma Mike?” my father asks. My grandfather nods his head, not taking his eyes off of my grandmother. My father and I both watch my grandfather carefully, as he observes my grandmother. It looks like he wants to say something, but he changes his mind, his mouth closing.

“Do you want to shake her hand?” my father asks him. My grandfather shakes his head no, pulling his hand closer to himself. That’s when I see it in his eyes too: a slight terror, a fear of the unknown.

And that’s when I realize, all at once: he did not hold my hand to protect me. He reached for my hand as a scared child would, to protect himself. Though he is 77-years-old, he saw a 92-year-old woman in pain and out of it, and he became afraid. He does not want that to be him someday, just as we all want to evade death. I feel a new fondness for my grandfather after I realize how much he’d said to me without really saying anything at all.

“I think we’ll say goodbye now, okay?” my father says to his father. My grandfather waves to my grandmother once more, though her eyes are now heavy with slumber.

“I’ll come for a walk, I think,” I say. My father agrees, and I look at my grandfather’s face. Taking his hand again, I say, “I’ll come for a walk with you, okay?”

Just like that we head out of my grandmother’s room to bring my grandfather back to his. My mother will never know her mother was afraid for her life, just as my father will never know his father was afraid for his own. I hope my grandfather feels close to me, as I do to him now. We walk down the hallway, my father and I, pushing my grandfather’s wheelchair in front. We set my grandfather up near his bed, kiss him goodbye, and begin to walk back toward my grandmother’s room.

My father will not know why my grandfather grabbed my hand, but my father also won’t know I didn’t just go on this walk for my grandfather. I went on it just as much for him. I did not want my father to have to walk back alone. This, I consider my way of protecting him. I may only be 22-years-old, but I can just as easily protect a 56-year-old, a 77-year-old, and a 92-year-old all in one night, just by being here. For this I am thankful, and for this I know: I am not afraid.

*Journaling from 2012.*

25 Things I’ve Accomplished in 25 Years

  1. I took my first breath.
  2. I wore bows in my thin, short hair to help others learn that, yes, I was a girl.
  3. I began to speak: words, words, words.
  4. I took naps; other days, I rebelled, deciding instead to jump upon my bed.
  5. I learned what it was like to lose a friend, in our family dog, Mikki.
  6. I learned what school was, and friends, and stranger danger.
  7. I began to critique words, wondering why steak and stake were pronounced the same, but spelled differently.
  8. I played doctor, basketball, school, soccer, and I played it all with my brother and sister.
  9. I began to get homework at school, and I thought it was cool.
  10. I moved to a new home and learned that some families you’re not born into, you live into.
  11. I learned that not all people in this world are good, that sometimes a nation can be at once rocked and as strong as a rock: United We Stand.
  12. I watched a teacher leave for war, as he was in the army reserve, and I wrote voraciously to replace his absence.
  13. I learned that being a teenager was not so much about the label, as it was about managing awkward moments.
  14. I learned that high school was a big, big place, and that sometimes it’s okay to feel very, very small.
  15. I tried to be a perfectionist at everything I did, raising my hand in every class, getting A+’s on papers and math quizzes.
  16. I learned that everyone fails; for me, it was driver’s license tests.
  17. I finally gained independence with a driver’s license, and parental pressure to drive smart and slow too.
  18. I became an adult, according to society’s definition, but still, at heart I was and wanted to remain, a kid.
  19. I lived away from home for the first time in my life and found it strange to sleep in a large, cave-like room, with an orange glow, with seven complete strangers.
  20. I began to make Penn State University my home, falling in love with the campus in autumn, my roommates in North Halls, and the trails I traveled on runs.
  21. I turned 21, went out for my Phyrst beer in a bar, and found comfort in the fact that all we really need are a few close friends.
  22. I made an impact in the lives of one hundred-thirty eighth-grade students through teaching and dancing, and I witnessed pure selflessness, and bravery too.
  23. I learned it’s true what Blink 182 says: Nobody likes you when you’re 23. (Nobody, meaning mainly any worthy employer.)
  24. I finished my first full year of teaching, and absorbed everything that came with it: overwhelmed feelings, stress, tears, pride, and joy.
  25. I now know that no matter how far away family may be, we find ways to connect, whether through a crazy, but totally doable #Run1000Miles challenge or a silly Skype video call; we make time for those who matter most.

I was apprehensive about turning 25, as it seems to be so much bigger a number than all the rest, but I realize, it’s my year to truly make a difference, in others’ lives and in mine. I want to make an impact in this world, I want to leave my footprints in the earth, and I want to place my fingerprints on a path of positive change. I want to start with you. Let me know how I can make your life a better life to live, and I’ll see what I can do.

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All my love,

Ochwoman

The Real #IceBucketChallenge

For weeks now, I have watched as family members, friends, college acquaintances, and even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg himself have doused themselves with buckets of ice and frigid water, all in the name of ALS. These videos have popped up like dandelions in springtime, gradually taking over the yard that is my news feed. Now, I don’t mind dandelions. They give you something to blow a wish on, outside of the candles on your birthday cake.

However, what I see in these videos are wishes blown up into the sky without any tangible change, though sources like USA Today claim the challenge is “flooding” ALSA with donations. I have my own questions though…How many people, after dumping ice over their heads, took the time to learn about ALS? How many people, after momentarily freezing, chose to take on the challenge of donating to ALSA as well? If you are one of the people who has taken steps beyond the #IceBucketChallenge itself, I commend you, and I urge you to encourage others to do the same.

What makes the #IceBucketChallenge so successful?

  • Ease & efficiency: This challenge takes no more than 30 seconds once you’ve decided to do it, and most everyone with access to the internet also has access to a container, ice & water, and a phone camera.
  • Peer pressure: Were this a movement pushed by ALSA, we might not feel so motivated. Akin to the early 2000’s chain letters, an “or else”-type demand holds more significant value when sent by our friends and publicly advertised on our personal social media pages.
  • #Hashtag: Hashtags have proven instrumental in spreading the word about, quite literally, anything from the all-important #FirstWorldProblems, to John Oliver’s successful, save-the-space-animals cry with #GoGetThoseGeckos. Let’s face it: hashtags are catchy. If everyone’s doing it and saying it, we want to join in too.
  • Visual entertainment: Solely text-based posts are not as eye-catching as those with pictures or videos. Now, add in the fact that people dumping ice on themselves can trigger any number of amusing reactions, and we can’t help but watch, laugh, and take on the challenge ourselves. Trust me, I’ve been LOLing a lot at my friends’ expense of late.

Why now? What now?

Last night, I received a g-chat message:

Check Facebook 🙂

My response? “NOOOOOOOOOO!” I knew, even before I checked my Facebook notifications that my brother, Ryan, and his wife, Emily, had completed their own ice adventure last night and had challenged me to do the same, or donate $100 to ALSA.

Though all these videos have been sprouting up in my news feed for weeks, I realized I still knew nothing about ALS. Beyond that, I was not in a position to part with $100, regardless of the goodness of the cause. I decided to do something else about it.

I will not be dumping ice on my head today.

I will not be donating $100 to ALSA.

I will be learning about ALS, and you readers can learn along with me.

What You Need To Know:

  • ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a disease commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
  • ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain, muscles, and spine.
  • The average life expectancy of those diagnosed with ALS is 2 to 5 years after the onset of the disease.
  • There is no known cure for the disease, though there is a drug, Riluzole, which can prolong the lives of those who are diagnosed.

*Facts courtesy of alsa.org

I’d like to thank my brother and my sister-in-law for nominating me for the #IceBucketChallenge. I nominate all citizens of the Internet to do your parts as well. Now that you know something about ALS, do something about it. If you feel so inclined, dump ice over yourself, but while you’re filming your video, share a fact you learned about ALS. If you have money to spare, donate $100, or $20, or $5. Whatever you can donate does make a difference. If you’ve just seen another video crop up in your news feed, talk about it. Read about it. Write about it. Post about it. I will not cap this challenge at 24 hours. In fact, I urge you to go read something now. NOW. Google it: ALS. The most important thing we can do is educate ourselves, educate others, and take decisive action based on a well-informed conscience.

Critics, like Ben Kosinski from the Huffington Post, are labeling the #IceBucketChallenge as a “slacktivism” movement. To tell you the truth, right now it is. But I also think it can become something more, and we who are challenged are responsible for making the movement a significant statement rather than just a trending topic. As of now, the #IceBucketChallenge solely allows us to see the tip of a large and lethal iceberg. So take a chance, truly dive in, and see what lies beneath this challenge for yourself.