“In the Bag” for Education


I recently attended the screening of the 2015 documentary, “He Named Me Malala,” presented by the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the PG-13 film tells the poignant and true story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban on October 9, 2012, for promoting education for girls. Malala was returning from school on a bus when a militant boarded the bus and shot Malala. Two of her classmates, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, were also shot and injured.

After being nearly killed, Malala moved to England with her family and began a slow recovery. As she continued her schoolwork in England, her story made international headlines and captured the hearts of individuals around the globe.

For her activism on behalf of girls’ rights, Malala shared a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian activist who works for children’s rights.

At times, “He Named Me Malala,” was difficult to watch as the film recounted the horrors and violence Malala experienced as the Taliban became a dominant socio-political force in her hometown of Mingora in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Her family members, including her parents and her two younger brothers, are featured in the film.

IMG_5853 copy

The film was shown in the Old Main Chapel Theatre at CU. When I entered the theater, I noticed there was a flat package on every seat. After taking my seat, I unfolded a large (24-inch by 24-inch) plastic bag with Malala’s portrait. The bag was free and meant to be used to send in clothes for the Malala Fund to help empower adolescent girls through secondary education. There were clear instructions on the outside to stuff the bag with high quality, freshly laundered clothing for toddlers, kids and women. The concept appealed to me and I took my bag home and filled it with clothes before sending it off at my local post office. This fundraising effort is in partnership with Schoola and postage for the bag is prepaid if mailed in the U.S.

For more information, go to: malala.org and Schoola

Tough Love at the CWA

CWA banner

Every year, a vibrant group of intellectuals, scientists, writers, artists, musicians, business folks, spiritual thinkers and more, heads to the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, to participate in the annual Conference on World Affairs. The CWA, which is held in springtime, was founded in 1948 by Howard Higman, a professor of sociology at CU, and features panel discussions about “Everything Conceivable.”

Individuals come from all over the world to discuss a wide range of relevant and interesting topics. A sample of this year’s topics includes titles such as, “Technology is a Fetish,” “What We Need in a President,” “March to the Beat of Your Own Drum,” “Can Books Still Change the World?” – and many more.

Sessions, which usually last about an hour and a half, include a vital question and answer format that is open to audience members after panelists have given presentations about the topic being discussed. This year, a new Q & A format was used in a variety of venues so audience members could send in their questions via cell phone texts.

I’ve been a CWA moderator for years. I’ve moderated panels on everything from Empathy to ETs. This year my panel was titled, “Tough Love for Aspiring Writers,” and my panelists included author and journalist, Bonnie Burton; photographer and publisher, Alexandra Huddleston; Investigative journalist and author Adam J. Schrager; and journalist and author, Ellen Sweets.

CWA TLFAW Panelists

As a writer, it was fun to listen to these panelists talk about their work and what mattered to them about their writing. They discussed key matters such as where their ideas come from, their writing processes, the importance of publishing contracts, writer’s block, and what they love about their work.

For more info, check out: CWA

Step by Step

9g. EM:BLOG:Supplies photo

Writing is a lot like dancing. It takes patience, requires one to stretch, must be done on a regular basis, and the effort usually produces good feelings.

It seems like I’ve been writing since I was five, but I didn’t take up dance until I was an adult—more specifically, a “very adult.”

For the past eight years or so, I’ve taken a class called “Very Adult Jazz” at the East Boulder Rec Center in Boulder. I dance with a small group of movers and shakers. It’s like a book club where you meet once a week to contemplate the notes and move through the piece. You explore a story as a choreographed number with a beginning, middle and end.

I’ve had a number of amazing dance instructors including Judy Kreith, who is now spreading her wings as a writer and filmmaker. I’m sure Judy would say, “Dancing is a lot like writing.”

Dance instructor, Judy Kreith

Dance instructor, Judy Kreith

I’ve also taken “No Fear Phat Funk” beginning jazz with Nancy Cranbourne, and “Country Line Dancing” with Rickie Steinman.

Dance has introduced me to a whole new vocabulary. You’ve got the dance moves that are punctuated with accent marks such as chassé, pas de bourree,́ plié, and relevé.

You’ve got the non-accent terms such as ball change, grapevine, fan kick, jazz square, hoof, brush, stomp and scuff. It’s crazy fun.

Most of the other dancers in my class took ballet or tap as kids, so they have a leg up, so to speak. But I’m learning.

One day, while stretching at the bar, I realized that writing is a lot like dancing because, no matter what, you need to work on it over time and you usually get better day by day, moment by moment, step by step. You need to be able to work well with others, follow directions, learn new things, and then give it your best shot. And if you fall, you just get right back up.

9i. EM:BLOG:Dance key photo

Frozen in Nederland

9d. EM:BLOG:Blue Faces photo

Day trips in Colorado can be pretty chilly. Sometimes they’re just plain quirky.

Last March, my husband and I drove to the nearby mountain town of Nederland to check out the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. We got there on Sunday, which was the last day of the three-day event. It was easy to see there was a lot going on—themed coffin races, brain freeze contests, a frozen salmon toss, a frozen dead poet slam, a costumed polar plunge and a viewing of the documentary, “Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed.”

The event was packed with folks dressed up in costumes, dancing, drinking beer and gnawing on huge turkey legs. It was interesting to watch themed contestants scramble through mud and rocky terrain to win the coffin race.

9e. EM:BLOG:Polar Plunge photo

But why all the frozen fuss?

As the true story goes, about 1989 relatives brought newly deceased Norwegian, Bredo Morstol, to the Trans Time cryonics facility in Oakland, California, from Norway. In California, Bredo was placed in liquid nitrogen for some four years. Next, relatives moved him to Nederland, Colorado in 1993 where he remains frozen to this day via dry ice in a storage shed. The task of keeping Bredo, now affectionately known as “Grandpa,” frozen has been passed on to different individuals over decades.

Grandpa’s life and deep-freeze death are celebrated with the annual Frozen Dead Guy festival that started in 2002. In addition to some eclectic excitement in the Rockies, the event gives everyone a chance to think about death in a whole new frozen and fun way. I’d be curious as to what Grandpa might say. My guess, “Let it go.”

For more info, check out: http://frozendeadguydays.org

9f. EM:BLOG:White Wig photo