Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Empowering Women Bloggers

Two projects supporting women bloggers launched yesterday, the new Blogher network and the Young Caucasus Women Project.

The new Blogher site features summaries of posts by bloghers in the following categories (click on them and check them out):

Blogging & Social Media
Business & Careers
Entertainment & Arts
Fashion & Shopping
Feminism & Gender
Food & Drink
Health & Wellness
Media & Journalism
Mommy & Family
Non-Profits & NGOs (I'm one of the contributing editors for this one).
Politics & News
Race & Ethnicity
Religion & Spirituality
Research & Academia
Sex & Relationships
Technology & Web
Travel & Recreation

In addition, they have blogrolls of women bloghers in each category.

The Young Caucasus Women Project works with young women ages 15-19 from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia who are participating in the Future Leaders Exchange Program.

This week the adult mentor blogger, Joitske Hulsebosch posted her answer to the question, "Who in the World Would you Really Like to Send an Email/Letter to, or to Read Your Blog Posts and Why?" Joitske wrote her answer to the question and now this week the young women are writing their posts. During the process the women, including Joitske, will read and comment on each other's posts.

Here are a few excerpts to tempt you over to the site:

A young woman from Armenia:
I would like to write to Charles Aznavour. He is an Armenian-French singer-composer, who was born in Paris and he is often called “the international ambassador of French chanson”. I do love his songs and his amazing voice, but that is not the reason I would like to write to him. It took Charles Aznavour 20 long years to climb his way to the international mega-star, that he is now. I would write to him that I really admire his willpower and I am totally amazed. It is incredible. I think that willpower is one of the most important thinks, especially for youth, since we are the ones who carry that huge responsibility of making the future and the way we’ll handle it somehow depends on how much willpower we have and how willing we are to make changes in the world in order to make it a better place to live for all of us!

A young woman from Azerbaijan:
I would like to write a letter or an e-mail to the famous Brazilian writer – Paolo Koelyo. I have heard a lot about his tough life. . . .The most important thing I understood, reading Alchemist was that everyone should follow his or her dream. You should never quit following your dream. You should always believe in yourself. Whatever happens in your life, whichever obstacles you face in following your dream, never think that it all works against you. Always be positive and remember that what you thought were obstacles appeared to be just signs, which make you stronger and help you to achieve your dream.

A young woman from Georgia:
I want to write an e-mail/letter/blog to the officials in Belarus, who are responsible for not letting exchange students come to the United States. I remember being very upset when my local representative told me that these kids were denied this great opportunity. I asked if there was anything we could do about it, the answer was NO. If I could really e-mail the officials in Belarus, I would try to explain how beneficial this program is for their own country, how much knowledge, experience and opportunities it gives the exchange students. I’d try to describe every aspect of it and how it helped me. During my stay here I changed a lot, I became a more responsible person and started to actually care about people around me. I started to think of myself, as a part of a community, who can make changes for the better

I will be posting and mentoring along with Beth Kanter during the last week of February.

I am so thrilled to be a part of these projects, of these models of collaboration and of the power of circles of women.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Feel Good Dance Fun

I read this article about gospel aerobics in the Oakland Tribune after Christmas and thought it was great. During a gospel aerobics class, the instructor plays gospel music (which I love), and makes connections for the women between their spiritual and physical health. As one student says,
"It's a whole approach that the body is your temple as opposed to 'Thin is in,'" John says. "It's not about being thin so you can fit into the latest fashions."

This is similar to the body-accepting philosophy I observed at a local belly dancing class last week at the Suhaila Salimpour School of Dance. The women taking the class were all shapes and sizes with varying abilities, but it was clear that the environment in the class made all of them feel positively about their bodies.

I really think exercise classes that reinforce positive body image should be a requirement for girls in school. Think about all the good that could be done if women took all the energy they spend worrying about how their bodies look and put it into making the world a better place.

* If you want to hear more about the belly dancing class check out Margaret Cho's blog. She was in the class (it was being filmed for a reality show pilot) so I bet she'll write about it, and of course, it'll be hilarious.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Blogging Blahs

Do any of you blog readers or blog writers out there ever get the blogging blahs? Maybe its because its winter or because I'm busy or because I'm hormonally challenged (you know what I am talking about ladies), but I have been having the blogging blahs.

Maybe its because I am reading too many blogs (I have 92 feeds in my Bloglines account, eek) and am experiencing what sometimes happens to me when I go to a big bookstore and I think, is there really that much to say? Shouldn't people be spending a little more time outside?

Maybe its because I chose to write about Have Fun * Do Good and sometimes I feel like writing about Be Grumpy * Be Selfish.

The irony, is I have all these great projects coming up that I want to tell you about. Things are rolling along nicely at NetSquared and I'll have some new ways for folks to get involved with that to share soon. I am going to start blogging as a volunteer editor of nonprofit women bloggers at Blogher starting Monday along with Beth Kanter and Nancy White, which I am really excited about. If you are nonprofit woman blogger, please send us your URL so we can include you in our blogroll. Later next month I'll be mentoring some young bloggers along with Beth Kanter, as part of the Young Caucasus Women Project. Having worked with young people in a writing program for such a long time at Streetside, I am hankering to be doing that kind of work again. And I'll also be participating in a link exchange as part of the Nonprofit Blog Exchange next month as well. Lots of great stuff.

Now that I've told you about my blahs, I feel a little better and maybe I'll just have to mix it up with some Be Grumpy * Be Selfish posts to keep it interesting.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

On Being Alone

We are cat-sitting a friend's cat, Laika, this week. She often stays at our house while he is out of town. We LOVE her. She is more like a dog than a cat in that she is super affectionate, wants to be with us all the time and follows us around the house. And she is an eater. She loves to eat. None of this, "cat's know when to stop eating" business.

There is only one thing that drives me a little crazy about her. She scratches on our bedroom door periodically during the night. I'm not a big fan of pets sleeping with you or animal hair in your sheets, so she isn't allowed in our bedroom.

Today, Saturday, was particularly bad. She started at 4 AM. So I got up, used the bathroom, gave her a pat and went back to bed. 6 AM. More scratching and mewing. I got up and decided that it was late enough for breakfast and filled her bowl. 8 AM. I got up and changed her litter hoping that was what all the mewing was about. I was awake at this point and my husband had left for work so I started reading Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. I'd been waiting to have time to read it all week. More scratching at 8:15, 8:30, 9:00. I just want to read in bed (my favorite luxury), but she kept scratching and crying. I got up and showed her the pink spray bottle I use for such occasions and she ran away before I could use it. 9:30. I sprayed and she ran. 10 AM she started again. I called my husband.

"I think she is lonely," he said. Of course, her scratching never wakes him up.

I felt terrible. Mean old human being keeping love from a 13-year old kitty.

I got up and used the bathroom. She pushed open the bathroom door I'd left ajar and sat in front of the toilet with her back to me. Always polite.

I'd only finished the first hundred plus pages of Obama's book where he talks about his struggle during his youth to discover his identity as a person with a White American mother and a Black African father. Many times he felt very alone.

Feeling alone can bring the most excruciating pain. Even to an old cat.

I went in the linen closet, pulled out an old sheet and put it at the end of our bed. I picked up Laika and put her in the middle of the sheet. She promptly fell asleep.

Sometimes it takes so little to bring peace to another being.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cause-related Marketing is on the Rise

While I was watching the Golden Globes last night, L'Oréal showed a series of commercials advertising their Women of Worth campaign, "a grassroots program and award that celebrates, recognizes and supports women who actively help others in their communities". You can nominate a "woman of worth" on their site between now and May 19th. One woman will be chosen from 7 US regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountains and Pacific. The winner will receive a $5,000 donation to the cause of their choice in their name, and a matching grant of $5,000 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in their name.

The site also includes a "get involved" page with a list of links to, "Ten Tips for Getting Involved in Your Community:

1. Research the causes or issues important to you.
2. Consider the skills you have to offer
3. Would you like to learn something new?
4. Combine your goals
5. Don't over-commit your schedule
6. Nonprofits may have questions, too.
7. Consider volunteering as a family.
8. Virtual volunteering?
9. I never thought of that!
10. Give voice to your heart through volunteering!

It occurred to me as they repeated this commercial during the night, and apparently it'll be shown again during the Academy Awards, that cause-related marketing is growing.

The Swedish clothing company, H&M, recently opened two stores in downtown San Francisco. I was looking on their web site for their addresses and was struck that one of the top menu options was, "H&M and UNICEF visit Cambodia." Apparently, H&M and UNICEF signed a three-year deal that includes, "an education project for girls in developing countries and a project to prevent the spread of HIV among young people in Cambodia."

This fall, St. John's Knits signed a deal with Angelina Jolie to be, "both the face of St. John the brand, as well as the voice behind a newly-formed charity created in support of children's causes."

I'm wondering if the big budget ad campaign and successful use of high profile celebrities by the ONE campaign, and the success of Live 8 has caused the growth or if it is still a reaction to the nation's conscious or unconscious post-September 11th reflection, "What really matters?" What I do find interesting is the investment in these causes by the corporations, rather than just the placement of their logo on a nonprofits' web site as a sponsor.

Obviously, the bottom line for corporations is to make a profit, but at least some good may come of this trend while it lasts.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Three Do * Good Blogs

I came across two interesting blogs over the holidays:

World Changing: Another World is Here and Treehugger: The Future is Green. Find it Here.

World Changing is like the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer version of Treehugger. 21 contributing editors from all over the world post extensive articles about tools, models and ideas for building a better future. Jamais Cascio posted two posts recently that caught my eye.

One post was about an Islamic group that is proposing a sustainable mosque to be built for the 2012 Olympics in London. It would have wind turbines built into the minarets, a closed system for recycling the water used for ritual washing, a tidal power plant and solar panels. Pretty cool, huh? In the other post, Cascio posted info. taken from a Salon.com article, that you've probably already heard about, but I hadn't, that Sweden has created a commission to find ways to end the country's use of oil by 2020. Gotta love those Swedes!

Treehugger is chuck full of fun ideas, again from contributing bloggers all over the world: a lifestyle magazine for folks concerned about the environment, a Take Your (shopping) Bag for a Walk campaign and a cool looking bicycle parking unit made from recycled aluminum (pictured above). Treehugger readers can send in tips for posts.

Also, this morning, Pam McAllister was nice enough to send my a note to say she reads this blog (thanks, Pam!) and directed me to her blog, Tailwinds: Energy Sources for People Making a Difference. I haven't had a chance to read through many posts, but it seems like stuff that Have Fun * Do Good readers might want to check out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Do Good Fraternity

I listen to a few podcasts, UNICEF, Barack Obama, Ebert and Roeper, the ONE Campaign and the 501c3Cast.

I missed the 501c3cast when they took a break over the holidays, but they are back full force with two great shows to start the new year. Their January 3rd show has an interview with Chad Coltrane of Push America. Push America provides ways for members of the fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi to work with and improve the lives of people with disabilities. Having particularly chosen a school with more women than men, and no Greek system, I have to admit that I have certain prejudices against fraternities. I was super impressed by this organization and the work that they do.

They have construction programs that help to build things like ramps and accessible fishing piers, boardwalks, pavilions and playgrounds for families, individuals, organizations and camps, and cycling programs that raise money, promote awareness and do accessible construction.

For every interview that Corey at the 501c3cast does, he ask his interviewee for a quote that keeps them going while they are doing their do*good work. During his January 9th interview with Stefan Ledinger of Kinderjugendkreis, Ledinger read an allegory that I liked a lot:

If you had a bank that would transfer $86,400 dollars to your bank account every morning and would cancel whatever amount was left at the end of the day, what would you do? Of course you would go the bank every day, withdraw all the money and spend it on something useful. Well, you have such a bank, its name is time. Every morning it grants you 86,400 seconds. Every evening, everything you have used for a good cause is cancelled. Nothing is left for the next day. If you do not spend your days' deposit, it is lost and can not be got back. It is up to every one of us to use this treasure of hours, minutes and seconds as good as possible for a high return of health, happiness and success.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World

I just finished a really great book called, A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World by Isabel Losada. If you live outside of the United States, you can probably find it under the title, For Tibet, With Love. It's a great book to start the year off with. Thanks to my friend Danny who gave it to me for Christmas.

A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World describes Losada's journey from navel gazer to activist. What starts as an Ask Jeeves query, "What can I do about Tibet?" leads her to demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy in London, traveling to Tibet, jumping out of a plane to raise money, organizing a 50-foot banner of the Dalai Lama to be unfurled from Nelson's column and meeting the Dalai Lama.

What I liked most about the book was that she doesn't make it seem easy, in a normal way. So many autobiographies of activists either make the story of their life seem filled with such tragic and extreme obstacles that you think, "I could never be as strong as them," or seem so easy and flowing you think, "I could never be as intelligent/talented/lucky as them." But Losada's book describes the kind of obstacles to changing the world that everyone faces--lack of funds, apathy, bureaucracy, stressed out co-workers and bad weather.

At first when I was reading it, I was sort of frustrated by reading about all of the small challenges, but then I realized that this is how it is when you want to create social change. Yes, there are big dramatic obstacles, but a lot of it is day to day difficulties.

And how does Losada move through it? She gets frustrated and annoyed like a normal person, and she focuses on her goal, gets support from friends, perseveres and repeats her mantra (the Serenity Prayer):
Grant me the serenity to know the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
At her interview with the Dalai Lama, she asks him how a person can know the difference between what he or she can change, and what they can't. He answered:
Through experiment. Research. Calculate whether you can achieve on mental level, then experiment. . . .from the Buddhist viewpoint the action, whether right or wrong, ultimately much depends on motivation. Result not very sure. Your intention, something good. Good purpose, good goal. But some other factors, conditions, results may not go that way. So it doesn't matter. Your motivation is very sincere. The result is not predictable. Difficult.

I wonder if as many activists, nonprofit workers, social workers and the like would get as burned out if they knew that their positive intentions and motivations, the fact that they tried to make a difference, is what really matters.

Monday, January 09, 2006


So . . . . the 2006 Bloggies has an award for best new blog (that was started during 2005) and um, this blog is new. . . . the nomination deadline is Tuesday, January 10th at 10 PM EST.

As their web site says:

Millions of blogs.
Thousands of nominees.
151 finalists.

But it can't hurt to try. Hee hee.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Have Fun * Do Good iMix

I was searching through the iTunes Music Store's iMix section for new running music and thought I'd add my own iMix, so here is my 30 minute Have Fun * Do Good mix. If you go to the iTunes Music Store's iMix section and search by "iMix name" for "Have Fun * Do Good Mix" it should come up and you can hear bits of the songs.

Have Fun * Do Good Mix

1. Proud by Heather Small & Various Artists (from the Queer as Folk soundtrack).
I think this song is meant to be about living with gay pride, but for me the lyric, "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" is about living with integrity in all aspects of your life.

2. Where Is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas & Justin Timberlake
Wow. I never realized Justin Timberlake was on that song. Scary. But it is still a great song:
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality

3. Everyone Deserves Music by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yay for Oakland native Michael Franti!
Everyone deserves music, sweet music
Even our worst enemies Lord, they deserves music, music

4. We Don't Stop by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yes, I love Michael Franti:

They gotta war for oil, a war for gold
A war for money and a war for souls
A war on terror, a war on drugs
A war on kindness and a war on hugs
A war on birds and a war on bees
They gotta a war on hippies tryin' save the trees
A war with jets and a war with missiles
A war with high seated, government officials
Wall street war, on high finance
A war on people who just love to dance
A war on music, a war on speech
A war on teachers and the things they teach
A war for the last 500 years
War's just messin' up the atmosphere
A war on Muslims, a war on Jews
A war on Christians and Hindus
A whole lotta people just sayin' kill them all
They gotta a war on Mumia Abu Jamal
The war on pot, is a war that's failed
A war that's fillin' up the nation's jails
World war one, two, three and four
Chemical weapons, biological war
Bush war 1, Bush war 2
They gotta war for me, they gotta war for you!

5. Don't Give Up (Africa) by Alicia Keys & Bono
This is a remake of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush's,"Don't Give Up." It was released in honor of World AIDS day this year. 100 percent of the proceeds from iTunes' download sales of this song go to Keep a Child a Alive.

6. Wake Up Everybody, Pt. 1 by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
The chorus says it all:
The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me.

7. The New Heroes, Pt. 2 by Christopher Hedges from the soundtrack of the PBS series about social entrepreneurs, The New Heroes

Please let me know if you have more songs to add!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Doing is Faster than Dreading

When my husband and I bought our house around this time last year, it was staged, and the room that we wanted to use as a guest room/office for me was set up as a children's room with yellow walls (fine), dark royal blue trim on the windows, ceiling and floor (not fine), and a wallpaper border of bunnies, moons and stars (very not fine).

The first week we moved into the house we put white primer on the blue trim and then both preceded to get long, nasty winter flus and by the time we recovered, the holidays were over and we were back in the work grind with less time to spend on the house.

About once a month or so we would say, we really need to finish that room, but how are we going to deal with the wallpaper? We were both sure that peeling off the wallpaper would require us to repaint the yellow walls, so we put it off and moved very little furniture into the room because we knew we would be painting it "soon."

As the months passed, we asked friends about how to remove the wallpaper, apologized to guests staying in the room about the bunnnies, bought a special scraper and goo to take it off, shared an office because I didn't want to move my stuff in to move it out to paint, and generally avoided the prospect of taking down the wallpaper.

Yesterday, my husband announced that today was the day to take down the wallpaper, and guess what, when he started scoring the wallpaper with the special scraper to put on the special goo to use another special scraper, he realized that the paper was so thick and loosely adhered, he could just peel it off the wall.

It took 10 minutes, and it was down. Well, it took us one year and 10 minutes.

Why am I telling you about our wallpaper? Because as we stood there laughing at how long it had taken us to do this little thing, I thought about the career counseling clients I work with, and how I always tell them that if you are trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, or you want to reach a specific goal, talking about it is helpful, but taking action is the best.

So, when you begin working on your New Year's resolutions, whether they are to change careers, to have fun * do good or to lose five pounds, don't wait to take action 'cause it may be easier than you think.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Something is on the Rise in 2006

Yesterday my husband and I had a little New Year's Day get together with some friends and the night before I went to a New Year's dinner at my neighbors' house (my husband had to work). It was the first year that I felt like celebrating the New Year. I've always thought New Year's was an arbritrary, rather boring holiday--woo hoo it's January-- but for some reason this year I wanted to celebrate and interestingly I have talked to a number of people who feel the same way--something is on the rise in 2006.

I don't know if it is that we're halfway through the 00's, or that it is over 4 years since 9/11, or that Hurricane Katrina put extreme poverty on the evening news, but it feels like America is waking up from a long sleep and somehow becoming more conscious of the country that it needs to become . . .

Perhaps it is the Have Fun * Do Good lense that I filter the world through, but I think that part of the benefit of the many tragedies of the 00's is that many of them have been the kind of moments, for at least the American collective conscious, that life is short, it can change forever in one moment and that what we do in this moment does have a "butterfly effect" and can can change not only our individual futures, but our collective futures as well.

It feels like we are at that on the edge moment when either all of the predictions of global disaster will start to become true, or our world will take a different direction.

The blog HorsePigCow had an interesting post yesterday about how this has been a year of great change because of emerging technology:

We came together to create, break down, build up, and cause trouble. We saw the amateur rise and get redefined - not as the lesser opposite of the professional, but as the celebrated antithesis to the stuffy, top-down controlled corporate world. We started to see power structures crumbling, former 'respected institutions' baring cracks and the general shaking up of 'conventional wisdoms' and hegemonies. People as individuals are no longer powerless, mostly due to our ability to connect to others to form strong collaborative efforts against injustice.Yadda yadda yadda.

But I'm starting to see what could really throw a wrench into the growth of this hopeful revolution. It's the ugly head of co-optation. The corporate engine seems to be more well-oiled than ever.

I guess I feel hopeful from the co-optation of positive things. If we are what we eat, at least we're feeding the corporate beast that we've created good food.

My friend, Alli Chagi-Starr, reminded me of Margaret Mead's famous quote yesterday:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Perhaps if small groups continue to make choices to have fun and do good, larger groups will eat them up and the world will be transformed.

Jory Des Jardins writes in her New Year's Day post about 2006 being a year for her to sort through all of the ideas and opportunities that 2005 brought her way and to focus on the few that are the most important in 2006.

As Americans, we are so good at creating--products, ideas, work--but I think no one can argue that we have too much of everything. Perhaps 2006 is the year to focus on what matters the most.