Monday, November 24, 2014

a grateful heart

A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
-James E. Faust

Friday, November 21, 2014

if a man aspires...

"If a man aspires toward a righteous life, 
his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals." 
- Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, November 13, 2014

cuts through the heart

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” 
― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

brown girl dreaming

I loved the book Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, a memoir in free verse. I wrote about it over on One Page to the Next.

I was recently in Washington DC where I left a copy of the book with the usual book plate

If you'd like to hear an interview of Jacqueline Woodson on NPR click HERE. Or, read an excerpt.

Get this book for all the middle grade and young adult readers you know. It is also a wonderful gift for all the lovers of free verse and poetry you know.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This isn't how the story ends

"At any given moment, you have the power to say: 
This is not how the story is going to end." 
-Christine Mason Miller

Are we, as people, this uncreative? Are we this oblivious to the needs of other creatures?

I don't think so.

This isn't how the story ends. This may just be how the story begins...

Human creativity and innovation... Human empathy and compassion… We have solved and are able to solve so many problems.

Through the choices that we make every day… we can be more conscious, we can be more humane. We can all make choices that have better consequences for animals.

When we know better, we do better.

What will you do? When will you speak against the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan?

Will you sign a petition? Or speak with your money and never support the dolphin entertainment industry or any captive dolphin programs?

Would you contact the Prime Minister of Japan?
Prime Minister Shinzo- Abe
Cabinet Office, Government of Japan
1-6-1 Nagata-cho
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. 100-8914 JAPAN

Would you contact the U.S. Embassy in Japan?
US Embassy in Japan:
Caroline Kennedy – Ambassador of the United States to Japan
Telephone: 011-81-3-3224-5000
Fax: 011-81-3-3505-1862
Send E-mail to the U.S. Embassy in Japan
Please thank Caroline Kennedy for her defense of the dolphins

Would you contact the International Whaling Commission?
International Whaling Commission (IWC)
The Red House,
135 Station Road,
Cambridgeshire CB24 9NP, UK.
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 233 971
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 232 87

Would you contact the United Nations?
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Convention on Migratory Species (CMP)
UNEP/CMS Secretariat
Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany
Tel: (+49 228) 815 2401
Fax: (+49 228) 815 2449

Be creative. Be innovative. Be empathetic. Be compassionate.

Appreciate dolphins… in their natural habitat.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

at least

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. 
And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.
- Dalai Lama

The dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan has begun… again. 

September 15th was the first slaughter of the season.

And my heart breaks… again.

#taiji #Tweet4taiji

born to learn


Saturday, September 6, 2014

feeling the beauty of life

Challenge your assumptions…

"when people see me they just see a runner"

Every Runner Has A Reason from Heist on Vimeo.

Is there something you do where, when you are doing it, you are not your label? 

Enjoy this moment, right here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

we pressers of on

I felt the need to repost…

Instructions For A Bad Day

"There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go. Be confident. Know that now is only a moment, and that if today is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, today will have ended. Be gracious. Accept each extended hand offered, to pull you back from the somewhere you cannot escape. Be diligent. Scrape the gray sky clean. Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the truth, and the truth is whether we see them or not - the sun and moon are still there and always there is light. Be forthright. Despite your instinct to say "it's alright, I'm okay" - be honest. Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity. Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you've been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong, that the long drawn and heavy breaths of despair have at times been felt by everyone - that pain is part of the human condition and that alone makes you a legion. We hungry underdogs, we risers with dawn, we dissmisser's of odds, we presser's of on – we will station ourselves to the calm. We will hold ourselves to the steady, be ready player one. Life is going to come at you armed with hard times and tough choices, your voice is your weapon, your thoughts ammunition – there are no free extra men, be aware that as the instant now passes, it exists now as then. So be a mirror reflecting yourself back, and remembering the times when you thought all of this was too hard and you'd never make it through. Remember the times you could have pressed quit – but you hit continue. Be forgiving. Living with the burden of anger, is not living. Giving your focus to wrath will leave your entire self absent of what you need. Love and hate are beasts and the one that grows is the one you feed. Be persistent. Be the weed growing through the cracks in the cement, beautiful - because it doesn't know it's not supposed to grow there. Be resolute. Declare what you accept as true in a way that envisions the resolve with which you accept it. If you are having a good day, be considerate. A simple smile could be the first-aid kit that someone has been looking for. If you believe with absolute honesty that you are doing everything you can - do more. There will be bad days, Times when the world weighs on you for so long it leaves you looking for an easy way out. There will be moments when the drought of joy seems unending. Instances spent pretending that everything is alright when it clearly is not, check your blind spot. See that love is still there, be patient. Every nightmare has a beginning, but every bad day has an end. Ignore what others have called you. I am calling you friend. Make us comprehend the urgency of your crisis. Silence left to its own devices, breed's silence. So speak and be heard. One word after the next, express yourself and put your life in the context – if you find that no one is listening, be loud. Make noise. Stand in poise and be open. Hope in these situations is not enough and you will need someone to lean on. In the unlikely event that you have no one, look again. Everyone is blessed with the ability to listen. The deaf will hear you with their eyes. The blind will see you with their hands. Let your heart fill their news-stands, Let them read all about it. Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights. Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but come back. They will tell you; you can stack misery, you can pack disappear you can even wear your sorrow – but come tomorrow you must change your clothes. Everyone knows pain. We are not meant to carry it forever. We were never meant to hold it so closely, so be certain in the belief that what pain belongs to now will belong soon to then. That when someone asks you how was your day, realize that for some of us – it's the only way we know how to say, be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now – let go."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

next to the person you loved

“Wasn't that the point of life? To find someone to share it with?

And if you got that part right, how far wrong could you go? If you were standing next to the person you loved more than everything else, wasn't everything else just scenery?” 

― Rainbow RowellLandline

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu wrote The Book of Forgiving. And, earlier this year they launched a parallel initiative: the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge. During the initial three-month signup period, 20,000 people from every time zone in the world invited forgiveness into their lives, delivered via a daily email. 

Are you ready to find out why granting forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I like the new us

"While what it means to be family hasn't changed, what a family looks like has."

Thank you, Chevrolet.

Looks like my next car needs to be a Chevy Traverse.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice

You are the sky.
Everything else is just the weather.
- Pema Chödrön

Friday, May 9, 2014

Does any goodness linger...

Anthony Doerr's wonderful new novel, All The Light We Cannot See, follows the lives of Werner Pfennig, an orphan boy in pre-World War II Germany and Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind girl living with her father in Paris. Throughout, the book flashes forward and back through time. The novel explores the journey of both their lives and how it is possible for small moments to really change your life. Werner is driven by a deep love of science and math, while Marie is drawn to the power of books and the idea of story. In the midst of the rise of Nazi Germany and the beginning of the French Resistance, these two young people face the history they are born into. 

This is a brilliantly researched war story, a compassionate and authentic coming-of-age story, and a philosophical fable - all rolled into one beautiful tale.  This novel, like life, swirls between the moral uncertainties and necessary bravery of life, and the perceived certainty of knowledge and science... between the chaos and rhetoric of war and the incredible beauty of life and love. 

The short chapters, the alternating narration, the visual language, and the beautiful storytelling will have you reading this book slowly wanting to savor it… observing the significance of small moments.

I loved this book… so much so that I left several copies around Boise.

Into each was glued this note:

So, if you were in a coffee shop recently or if you happen into a public place in the next week, look around. You may find a complimentary copy just waiting for you to read.

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 2, 2014

a force for good

Yesterday, in New York...

"Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you - and go after those things as if nothing else matters.
Because, actually, nothing else does."
- George Saunders 

I was just in New York. I met with lots of inspiring people who do good work. And, while flying, I read Congratulations, By The Way by George Saunders five times. And each time I read it, I cried a little. I cried in that good way you cry when you read Mr. Tushman's graduation speech at the end of Wonder. I cried in that heart pulling way you cry when reading Sarah Kay's spoken word poem, B.

If you need a graduation gift this spring, keep this little book in mind. I can't think of a better tribute or wish for a happy life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

failures of kindness

Sometimes my kids ask me, "What was the worst thing you did as a pre-teen and teenager?"

I know they are looking for a story about the hazards of smoking, or why you should never drink and drive, or … if only I had studied more.

But what I always say, and what is the most true for me, can be summed up in George Saunders advice to graduates last year:

"What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness." -George Saunders

Added April 29th:
Check out George Saunders' new book, Congratulations, By The Way. I just ordered it today after hearing him speak about it on The Diane Rhem Show.

Monday, April 14, 2014

transparent, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and inspiring

Over the weekend I read Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger. 

I follow Eric on twitter @NMHS_Principal. He's the principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey. His twitter feed focuses on leading and learning in the digital age. His creative work is a model for moving schools and districts forward. His emphasis for change begins with the use of social media and technology as a means to engage students, improve communication with stakeholders, enhance public relations, create a positive brand presence, discover opportunity, transform learning spaces, and help educators grow professionally.

As Eric says in his book…  Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times presents a framework for leaders to harness the power of digital technologies in order to create school cultures that are transparent, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and inspiring.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were:
Leaders today must establish a vision and implement a strategic process that creates a teaching and learning culture that provides students with essential skill sets - creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, technological proficiency, and global awareness.
These skills and processes should be at the heart of every decision a leader makes and are key to providing students with the tools to succeed in jobs that have not yet been created. Consistent innovation, effective integration of technology, meaningful professional development, connecting beyond the walls of a brick-and-mortar building, and an open mind are all mandatory duties of a leader in the digital age. 

And, on a new type of learner:
Leaders of schools need to acknowledge that learners today are "wired" differently as a result of the experiential learning that is taking place outside of school. The learning styles of the active, digital learner conflict with traditional teaching styles and preferences.
Students today want to know things all of the time. In their world, they can use numerous digital tools to learn whatever they want, any time and from anywhere. These students have been raised in a technology-rich environment, accept that this environment is the norm, and they have grown up surrounded by digital devices that they regularly use to interact with other people and the outside world.

It is a sad reality that learners have transitioned to the Information Age while schools continue to operate under the constructs, ideas, and assumptions of the Industrial Age.


...with more digital leaders moving schools forward, real change can begin. Be sure to get this book for the leaders you know. Help change begin.

Also, be sure to listen to @NMHS_Principal interviewed by @coolcatteacher. (podcast #25)

Friday, April 11, 2014


Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

- Mary Oliver

Sunday, April 6, 2014

chosen with care

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill." - Buddha

Saturday, April 5, 2014

to be a hero...

To be a hero, you must:

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt

origami yoda

"Children are great imitators. 
So give them something great to imitate."

Friday, March 28, 2014

what we want is to be noticed

Last week I was in Amsterdam. 
I loved it.

But, I couldn't be in Amsterdam without paying homage to the book, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

I left a copy in the Andaz Hotel.

The Andaz is an awesome hotel, set on the site of the former Amsterdam Public Library on the Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal). I highly recommend staying there.

I left another copy of The Fault In Our Stars in the Stedelijk Museum. The Stedelijk Amsterdam is an international museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design… and, you know, it seemed like the kind of place Sarah Urist Green would love.

So, as a family, we were having our own TFIOS spring break in Amsterdam. 

Then we went to the Hermitage in Amsterdam because… art… and the current special exhibit is The Silk Road, and Vv is studying China and The Silk Road… so perfect.

We were admiring the treasures: murals, buddha sculptures, precious silks, silver, glass, gold, and terra-cotta. Then Vv came up behind me and said, "Guess who is in the next room. Your favorite person!"  So I started guessing some of my favorite people. Then she added, "Think, books and youtube."

John Green? She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the next room. And there was John Green on the big screen doing his CrashCourse World History video on The Silk Road… in The Hermitage. Awesome. So we watched it twice!

And, for some reason, the whole thing reminded me of page 281 in TFIOS:
I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us - not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Be compassionate. And compassion will come back to you.

I keep thinking about The Good Luck Of Right Now by Matthew Quick. I keep giving the book as a gift, and I can't stop thinking about Bartholomew Neil, the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere, and balance.

When Matthew Quick was asked about the title, The Good Luck Of Right Now, he replied that the title popped into his head several years ago and he had no idea what it meant. Now he says it's about balance and riding out the rhythms of the universe.

For me, The Good Luck of Right Now is about asking the big questions and being comfortable with our collective inability to find absolutes.

Or, as Bartholomew realizes in Montreal:
I sat down on a chair and felt the cold on my face as I watched the snowflakes evaporate instantly, the moment they hit the warm, blue, chlorinated pool water - and I wondered if what I was witnessing could be a metaphor for our lives somehow, like we were all just little bits falling toward an inevitable dissolve, if that makes any sense at all.

Or, when Max talks about April, "What the f*ck, hey?"
Richard Gere, you whispered in my ear - Tell him you want to hear about his cat. Lessen his pain. Be compassionate. Remember the Dalai Lama's teachings.
Listen. Ease his suffering. Be compassionate. And compassion will come back to you. Heed the words of the Dalai Lama.

I would love for more people to read this book.

So, I've decided to do a giveaway. Leave a note in the comments, and I'll draw a winner on Monday, March 31st. I'll send a copy of The Good Luck Of Right Now to the winner.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

it's not a question of if we go open, but when

This weekend I read OPEN: How We'll Work, Live and Learn In The Future by David Price.

Here’s the publicity blurb:
What makes a global corporation give away its prized intellectual property?  Why are Ivy League universities allowing anyone to take their courses for free?  What drives a farmer in rural Africa to share his secrets with his competitors?  A collection of hactivists, hobbyists, forum-users and maverick leaders are leading a quiet but unstoppable revolution.  They are sharing everything they know, and turning knowledge into action in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago.  Driven by technology, and shaped by common values, going ‘open’ has transformed the way we live.  Going open is also confronting our formal institutions by turning conventional wisdom on its head.  Give away what you used to sell.  Work where and when you choose to. Take kids out of school, so they can learn.  Faced with an irreversible shift in our social lives, it’s not so much a question of if our workplaces, schools and colleges go open, but when.
Packed with illustration and advice, this entertaining read by learning futurist, David Price, argues that ‘open’ is not only affecting how we are choosing to live, but that it’s going to be the difference between success and failure in the future.

I loved it!

I was just having a conversation this week about the emergence of open, transparent education. When discussing a local private school, I gave the model of TED talks or MOOCs: just because we can watch awesome lectures online for free, that doesn't devalue the cost of being in the room. Why wouldn't private primary and secondary schools 'open' their lectures online? If anything, an awesome lecture would inspire me to get my child in that room.

David Price's optimistic book, OPEN explains the unstoppable revolution of going open.

I highlighted more of the book than not. I'll need to read it a second time as I want to fully absorb his thoughtful commentary. 

It's everything I have observed in my children's learning and in my own learning. We all have our own personal learning networks, hashtags we follow and contribute to, classes we have taken online, youtube channels we subscribe to, and blogs we write. 

The book itself was recommended to me by the head of school at The British International School in Budapest, and my favorite educator at Munich International School in Starnberg. 

Even as I write this post, I have my kindle open to the notes I've taken, my iPad beside me to research more thoughts, and several tabs on my laptop open to videos and supporting materials. 

We are all entrepreneurial learners… hacking what's available, recombining and curating information with unlimited possibilities. I am so excited to see what new types of institutions form as workplaces and schools become open.

How will you participate in your learning? How will you teach?

You need to read this book if you care about education, or work, or governance, or the economy, or the future.

Monday, March 10, 2014

tie the poem to a chair

The other day on twitter's #aplitchat, the poem Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins was referenced:

Q6. As teachers, how do we prevent students from "tying it to a chair, torturing a confession from it" -- Billy Collins

This question sparked a wonderful conversation about the Common Core emphasis on Close Reading and whether it brings students back to the poem or neglects the artistry of it all. 

Some teachers said they use this Collins poem to introduce the idea of reading for appreciation instead of response on demand.

There was discussion of David Coleman's definition of Close Reading. David Coleman, a lead author of the Common Core standards, has a narrow view of how to get to the reader's interpretation.

It was a creative conversation, made even better by requiring me to re-read the wonderful Billy Collin's poem.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tied a poem to a chair with rope and tortured a confession out of it? Have you ever asked your students to beat it with a hose?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

questions are rising in value while answers are declining

Yesterday I read A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger.

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger is about the importance of asking thoughtful, ambitious "beautiful questions". The kind of questions that can bring about change in the world around you. A fair amount of the book is focused on the need to ask deeper, better questions in business, education, nonprofits, and life. This really resonated with me.

Educators, parents, board members, students, and anyone who cares about creating change should read this book.

The title, A More Beautiful Question, is inspired by the line from the poet e.e. Cummings: "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." 

There is a definite link between good questions and innovation. 

When entrenched practices and approaches grab hold, when we keep doing what has always been done, when our impulse is to keep plowing ahead, that's when we need to step back and question whether we are on the right path.

Why? What if? How?

Warren Berger says:

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something - and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.
The Pulitzer Prize - winning historian David Hackett Fischer observed that:
Questions are the engines of intellect - cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.

Dan Rothstein of Right Question Institute believes:
Questions do something that has an 'unlocking' effect in people's minds. It's an experience we've all had at one point or another. Just asking or hearing a question phrased a certain way produces an almost palpable feeling of discovery and new understanding. Questions produce the lightbulb effect. 

One of my favorite parts of this book had "the lightbulb effect" for me:
Clearly, technology will have answers covered - so we will no longer need to fill our heads with those answers as much as we once did, bringing to mind a classic Einstein story. A reporter doing an interview concludes by asking Einstein for his phone number, and Einstein reaches for a nearby phone book.  While Einstein is looking up his own number in the book, the reporter asks why such a smart man can't remember it. Einstein explains that there's no reason to fill his mind with information that can so easily be looked up.

 As well as this bit about Seth Godin and education:
Godin and others believe that in attempting to modernize old models of schooling, we should start by asking some basic questions about purpose. Godin offers up this query as a starting point: What are schools for? (That question  could also be phrased as Why are we sending kids to school in the first place?)
Stop to consider Godin's question, although there's no one answer to it, many would agree that at least part of the answer could be summed up as "To prepare students to be productive citizens in the twenty-first century." 
That, in turn, raises another fundamental question: What kind of preparation does the modern workplace and society demand of its citizens - i.e., what kind of skills, knowledge, and capabilities are needed to be productive and thrive?

With beautiful questions leading to more beautiful questions, we are off and running. Now, this is a conversation of which I would love to be a part. 

I will leave you with these beautiful questions to get you started:

"What do you want to say?"

"Why does it need to be said?"

"What if you could say it in a way that has never before been done?"

"How might you do that?"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

women make it happen

Today is International Women's Day. 
Invest in women, because women make it happen!

Check out what women are building on Kiva

Thursday, March 6, 2014

simple buddhist monk

“With our thoughts, we make our world,” he said. “Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves.”

His favorite prayer which he told lawmakers he says daily to give him inner strength:

“I am asking to serve humanity. As long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world,” he said.