Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why I'm Volunteering to Be a Reading Partner Again

When I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was walking through a large public school library filled with students. They were all going to take a standardized test. There were so many students in the room that they were sitting on all of the window sills, and on the tops of bookshelves.

As I walked through the library, I realized that they were all going to fail the test because they couldn't read. Many of them were going to end up in jail.

I woke up feeling deeply sad, and a bit befuddled by why my subconscious would decide to stage a dream about America's messed up public education system at the beginning of my vacation! Over the next two nights, I had more dreams about working with young people, but the first one was the most vivid. It stayed with me throughout the trip.

Then, this week, I read The Washington Post story, SAT reading scores hit a four-decade low.

Sooooooo, I've decided to be a volunteer "reading partner" again at my local elementary school.  Once a week, I'll read one-on-one with a kindergartner for half an hour, and then with a fifth grader for half an hour.  We'll stay reading partners throughout the school year.

I took a break from being a reading partner during the last last school year 'cause frankly, working in the public school system depresses me.  It's not the kids, it's just the overall dysfunction of the system. But you know what?  I need to get over it 'cause it's only an hour a week for eight months out of the year. And I always love working with young people. And I have a flexible schedule 'cause I work for myself.  Come on, Bravo!

If you're looking for a volunteer opportunity, search around on VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and, as well as on individual organization's websites. Don't forget to see if your local public school and public library need volunteers too!

Will you be volunteering this fall? If so, what made you decide to volunteer?

Harriet the Spy was one of my absolute favorite books growing up.  I read it more times than I can count!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

3 Fall Blogging Classes (1 Virtual, 2 in Berkeley)

Just wanted to let the bloggers among you know that I have three blogging classes coming up this fall (one virtual and two in Berkeley). You can see examples of some of my past students, and their blogging successes in the most recent issue of the Juicy Blogging eNews: 13 Juicy Bloggers.

Tea and Cupcakes with Creative Bloggers
October 14
Teahouse Studio
Berkeley, CA

Juicy Blogging E-Course: The Art and Play of Blogging
October 16-November 6

Blogging for Writers: Build an Audience for Your Work
October 27
The Writing Salon
Berkeley, CA

Let me know if you have questions!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Courage, Leadership, Grandmothers, Half The Sky and The Mission List

My in-box was so full of have fun, do good books, films, events and classes to share with you I decided to gather them all into one post. Enjoy!

Grandmother Power
Photo journalist Paola Gianturco (who I interviewed for the Big Vision Podcast in 2007) has a new book out, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon. Check out Tara Mohr's interview with her on The Huffington Post.


 Playing Big

Tara's 6-month long Playing Big, a program for "women who want to play bigger" starts in October. You can get a taste of Tara's wisdom by watching this clip from her recent appearance on the Today Show where she talks about common ways women undermine themselves with their own words.

Rockwood Leadership Institute has Art of Leadership Trainings coming up on both coasts. The Art of Leadership is a, "retreat workshop for social change leaders from the nonprofit, philanthropic, labor and socially responsible business sectors."

Check out the piece, Playing It Safe, by Rockwood's President, Akaya Winwood.

Marianne Elliot has created a new online course, 30 Days of Courage, "for people who want to step out of their comfort zone, through the small acts of daily bravery that add up to a courageous life." She's offering a special deal right now that if you buy her book, Zen Under Fire: A Story of Love and War in Afghanistan, you will receive 30 Days of Courage for free

You'll notice when you click on the link for Zen Under Fire, that the book is only available from New Zealand at this time. It'll be more expensive than the usual paperback for folks outside of NZ, but with 30 Days of Courage added in for free, it's a deal!

Zen Under Fire will be available in the U.S. June 2013.

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwise is now a documentary. It will air on PBS in two parts on October 1st and 2nd.

Check out this article in MORE Magazine about Diane Lane, one of six actresses involved in film.

I originally found out about the Half The Sky film through The Mission List, an online community for women who want to use their influence in social media for social good. You can join their Twitter chat about Half the Sky on both nights with the hashtag #HalftheSkyTML.

I also read about Giving Tuesday on The Mission List. Giving Tuesday is a campaign to create a national day of charitable giving at the start of the winter holiday season. It will take place on on November 27, 2012 - the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Full disclosure: I'm involved with most of the people and projects I mentioned personally and/or professionally. I'm completely biased!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

5 Things I Loved About Spain

After one of the best meals of my life at Casa Lucio
I'm back from a 2-week vacation in Spain, and wanted to share some of my reflections before it all fades away into the routine of everyday life.


The hubs and I spend about four days in Madrid and 10 in Barcelona. During that time, we walked at least 6 miles a day around the city.  Sooooo much better than sitting in front of a computer all day. Why does modern life involve so much sitting!

Real food

I don't think we ate any processed food in Spain. Even though I ate way more animal products, and pastries (: than I would at home, I felt great.


I know we're all worried about skin cancer, but geesh does daily sunshine feel good.


I don't remember the last time I had a two-week vacation, but wow is it different than a weekend away.  It was wonderful to have such an extended break, and to be able to spend so much time with the hubs. Highly recommend.

Art and Beauty

The highlight of Madrid for me was going to The Prado.  I usually get a bit weary after being in a museum for a couple hours, but when we left The Prado, I was energized and inspired. My two favorite paintings were The Three Graces by Rubens and Amalia de Llano y Dotres, condesa de Vilches by Federico de Madrazo.

In Barcelona, we toured through Gaudi's Casa Milà/La Pedrera with its amazing roof, strolled through his whimsical Parc Güell, and walked around the outside of La Sagrada Familia (the ticket line was a zoo, so we didn't go inside). I particularly enjoyed the exhibit case in La Pedrera that showed examples of shapes in nature (e.g. the spirals in shells) that inspired Gaudi's designs.

We also went to the city beaches in Barcelona on the blue Mediterranean Sea. It doesn't get more beautiful than that!


Good food, exercise, sunshine, relaxation, time with loved ones, art and beauty.  Sounds like the basic ingredients for happiness to me.  Now to figure out how to make each day a little bit like a Spanish vacation!

Did you have some time away from your regular routine this summer? If so, what did you love about it that you'd like to integrate into your everyday life?