38 Acts of Kindness to Celebrate my Birthday

This month I turned 38 years old. It’s an odd year. It’s not a milestone year. In fact, it’s high enough to start joking that I was turning 21 for the 17th time. But I wanted to do something to mark this insignificant year in a significant way. In honor of this month’s blog theme, I attempted to do 38 Acts of Kindness that would support women. Armed with good intentions, I gave it my best shot –

I reached out to family and friends to let them know that I care —

(38) Texted friends and family positive quotes.

(37) Snail mailed letters to old friends.

(36) Called family members I haven’t spoken with in a while.

(35) Mailed four fun care packages to family and friends.


In my quest to support women entrepreneurs, I started with my author friends in my own backyard.

(34) Bought as many of my friends’ novels as I could afford.

(33) Reviewed my friends’ books on Goodreads and Amazon.

(32) Went to my local bookstore (and library) and rearranged a shelf to help spotlight my friends’ books.

(31) Asked several writing friends for their upcoming ARCs to help get our early reviews.

(30) Posted on my friends’ blogs to support their sites.

Supported women authors that I don’t know but admire –

(29) Bought their books.

(28) Reviewed their books on Goodreads and Amazon.

(27) Sent emails to 5 authors to thank them for their stories and offered to buy them a drink if their book tours ever take them to Portland, Oregon.

Shop Local and Support Local –

(26) I wrote a letter to a company when I got Above and Beyond customer service.

(25) I left the biggest tip I could afford for a truly kind waitress struggling on her first day of work.

(24) I went to a local comic book convention and made purchases to support local artists.

(23) I posted positive Yelp reviews.

Put my Money where my Mouth is –

(22) Made a $38 donation to support local medical care for low-income women and their families.

(21) Made a $38 donation to support a girl’s literacy programs in third world countries.

(20) Made a $38 donation to help women with their start-up businesses in third world countries.

(19) Made a $38 donation, in memory of my Grandmother.

Be Charitable

(18) Made a donation of professional women’s clothing to help low-income women have interview clothing.

(17) Donated the rest of my clothing items to GoodWill.

(16) I found a co-worker that could use my cat related items and gifted them to her.

(15) Volunteered to organize a collection’s drive of new children’s books so little girls can have books under their trees this holiday.

(14) Took all my change to Coinstar and donated it to charity.

(13) Volunteered my time to a Raffle Basket fundraiser to support local charities.


The Sweet Smell of Success (with Flowers)

(12) Bought a single flower for every single female co-worker in my work cubicle station.

(11) Bought bouquet of flowers for two women who are overworked and underappreciated.

(10) Bought a bouquet of flowers for a family member who lives a thousand miles away because I miss them.

Being a Team Player at Work

(9) Sent an email to a co-worker (and cc’d her boss) to thank her for her help on a project.

(8) Offered to help a co-worker complete a group task.

(7) Brought in treats to work for my co-workers to enjoy.

The Small Stuff Matters

(6) Bought coffee for a friend who was having a bad day.

(5) Invited an old friend to go out to lunch.

(4) Babysat for free so their mother could enjoy an afternoon to herself.


Pay Yourself First

When I first told my friend that I was going to attempt this project, she told me that I needed to put a few items on the list for myself.

(3) I bought a DNA kit from 23and me to see if I could connect with unknown family members around the world.

(2) I invested in my dream to be a published author by registering for the Emerald City Writing Conference.

(1) I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted for my birthday (Polenta Fries, Guava Birthday Cake, Pear and Blue Cheese Ice Cream and a Trader Joes Fireworks Chocolate Bar) and not to feel guilty over a single bite.


I am not the first person to attempt an Act of Kindness project but others have called it “random” acts. Let me be clear, there is nothing random about committing multiple acts. It takes time, thought, and money to pull off these intentional acts. Also it takes energy. In fact, move energy to the top of the list. But it was completely worth it.

Have you done an intentional Act of Kindness recently?

Mentoring Awe and Success

LogoCampAs Jessa explained, we’re doing a month worth of mentoring posts in honor of October 11  International Day of the Girl, a day marked by UN resolution for “promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.” In my day job, I teach physics at a community college and being a woman in a predominately male profession, recruiting women into Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is especially dear to my heart.

Last year, I received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant aimed at recruiting and retaining more female students in Information Systems (IS). One project that came out of that grant was a day-long Information Technology (IT) camp for middle school girls where they learned about computers, coding, and networking. We held that first camp earlier this summer.

My colleague Michele and I planned on running the camp with some of our current female IS students’ help. We started meeting weekly with those students to come up with a plan for the event. We had budgeted for about five students to help us out.

At the very first meeting with these IS students, it was very clear that we were going to be working with some amazing women.


1st surprise: Nine students showed up to the initial meeting, eight of those remained with us for the project’s duration.

2nd surprise: Instead of waiting for our guidance, the students went off and did their own research, and then presented a day-long curriculum that would teach hardware, software, and networking by installing and configuring the popular game Minecraft on Raspberry Pi micro-computers.

3d surprise: When asked to think about marketing, the students showed us a logo and a flyer that they had already designed. They wanted t-shirts with the new logo made for each of the campers. And they wanted each of the participants to be able to take home their Raspberry Pi.

At this point, it was very clear to us that we should take a step back and let the students run the show. We helped them create lessons plans to achieve the outcomes they wanted, but they took ownership of everything else. Because of the school’s administrative rules, we had to set up registration and advertising, but on the day of the camp the students were the ones in the classroom teaching the middle-graders. My colleagues and I were the gofers who collected permission slips, got snacks ready, and picked up pizza for lunch.

During this project, Michele and I became the mentees as much as we mentored. And our IS students became the best possible mentors for the middle school girls. The 88 girls who attended the camp were surveyed before and after the event. We had some amazing results. Here are the three questions that had the highest percentage change in the number of girls who strongly agreed or agreed:

  1. I know what a software application is. (increase 59.9%)
  2. I am comfortable with programming. (increase 30.8%)
  3. I am proficient with technology and computers. (increase26.1%)

MineCraftThese percentage change figures are unusually high when compared with other camps of this kind and similar questions, which usually produce figures in the 5% to 20% range.

Our IS students were also praised by the camp participants:

“I think this was a FABULOUS camp and I would really recommend that the college does this again!! :)”

“The college students mentors were very helpful and explained everything really well.”

“Today was an awesome way to learn about computers and to make new friends. it was an awesome experience I learned so much and it will be helpful in the future when it comes to picking a job. I don’t regret coming here even for a second. also when I first came here I didn’t know much but now I now more than I thought I would even learn in any other class.” 

I’m convinced that the success of the project is due entirely to how fantastic our IS students were. They lead hands-on practical activities instead of lecturing to the students. And of course, the middle school students related much better to our twenty-something college students than they would to middle-aged professors. J

We’ll repeat the camps for two more summers, that’s how long the NSF grant lasts. Maybe we’ll be able to find additional funding after that. I hope so, because our Day of IT truly became a day of magic.

Mentor Mentee

IMG_0101Learning is a lifelong process, or at least it seems that way to me. I’ve been reinventing myself lately, taking risks, stepping up, and flat-out doing things differently.

A year ago I never thought I’d teach classes again. Seriously, public speaking? CRINGE. Ten years ago my then-publisher was generous enough to send me to destinations around the U.S. to speak to groups. (Ah, the good old days of publishing and promotional budgets!) Truth was, I loved the travel but the actual stepping-up-to-the-podium part felt awkward, inauthentic and gave me an upset stomach every time. After my last event in 2007 I swore I’d never teach again.

Fast forward to fall of 2014. When I started taking film classes, and loving every minute of learning all these new technical skills, I suddenly realized there was so much I could back to the community. Structure, pitching, story telling, all sharable skills. After penning a couple class descriptions, I took the leap and the next month I began teaching.  It felt natural, real, and zero nausea.

But even better than that, I began developing story relationships with the students and helping them transition from the page to the screen. It was all about them — not the me telling them how to do something circa 2005. This process is both collaborative and inspiring.

On the flip side, I’m still learning, too. Filmmaking. Though I’ve worked on and off in TV production for 15 years the final cut always belonged to someone else. Sure, the money was great, but creatively speaking there was nothing to call my own… until last month.

During the last week of August, three of us embarked on our first indie documentary filmed in Neah Bay, Washington. It was quite the adventure with a massive learning curve, hurricane-force winds, and having our “production headquarters”  (see photo) blown away!

But I’ll save that stocampsitery for next month!

Mentoring Month: Day of the Girl

Next month on October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, a day marked by UN resolution for “promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of [girls’] human rights.” With equal rights and feminism very much in the news lately, it seems like a good time to share our experiences with mentoring girls and being mentored.

As a nerdy little bookworm myself, most of my mentoring came from books. So while I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about for this post, of course my thoughts turned to the books that helped me learn what it meant to be a girl. Okay, maybe at the time I wasn’t cogitating on empowered female characters, but I was definitely cheering on the awesome girls I was reading about.

My earliest conscious awareness of “girl as protagonist” was that girl-power classic, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME MARGARET by Judy Blume. This book only gets better the more times crazy people try to ban it. :) Margaret had issues — so many issues! — and they were my issues. Go, Margaret!

dragonsong   51LvdevLNwL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_

When it came time to buy books for my niece, I was very aware that I wanted to be sure to find strong female characters for her. Two of my post-Margaret favorites — and still favorites today — are DRAGONSONG by Anne McCaffrey and A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle. Both were stories about girls who didn’t quite fit in, who wanted more out of life than what was easy, and weren’t hesitating to go after it. Plus, awesome adventures with a SFF, naturally.

I’m relieved to report that my pre-teen niece is continuing on with awesome reads about powerful girls. In fact, she gave me some new titles:

matched   graceling   slated

MATCHED by Ally Condie: Niece’s review — “She goes rogue. So that’s good.”

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore: “Her special skill is killing and survival.”

SLATED by Teri Terry: “It’s complicated. But she changes for the better.”

Aren’t those mini reviews sort of girlhood written short? Well, hopefully not the killing, but definitely survival — literally, for some girls, even in today’s world. We can hope that “changes for the better” is the ultimate outcome. Meanwhile I’m planning on watching (for the third time) that other new feminist classic MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Because every once and awhile I need Furiosa as my spirit animal.

mad max

Do you have a favorite book that influenced what you knew about being a girl or woman? Please share in comments.

Getting a Golden Ticket to today’s Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory aka the San Diego Comic Con

I have visited San Diego more than any other vacation destination but it’s not for the warm beaches or the California sun. It’s to be crammed into the San Diego Convention Center with thousands of happy nerds, embracing their inner geeks, to attend the San Diego Comic Con.

In 2015, 130,000 tickets were sold out in one single hour. You almost feel like you have a better chance at winning the lottery than getting a registration ticket. There is no better depiction of this experience than this clip from the Big Bang Theory

This is the place where I recharge my creative batteries. If you like comic books, gaming, super heroes, costumes, or seeing upcoming television and movie programming, it’s the best 4 days you will ever have on vacation. For this blog post, I wanted to try to share that experience with you. Armed with only my iPhone, here are two clips from my favorite panels:

1) )Outlander Panel: Anything Sam Heughan says with his Scottish accent comes out sexy. So when each panelist was asked to read a quote, the audience was ready to be entertained by the actor who plays Jamie Fraser.

2) Marvel’s Agents of Shield: Chloe Bennet (Skye/Daisy Johnson) is asked to talk about the moment the cast found out that Agent Grant Ward (played by Brett Dalton) was a Hydra Agent.

My photo album —

Jessie in front of the Heroes Reborn (Zachary Levi) poster

Jessie in front of the Heroes Reborn (Zachary Levi) poster

Outlander Panel: Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe

Outlander Panel: Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe

Arrow Panel: Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards

Arrow Panel: Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards

Marvel's Agents of Shield Panel: Luke Wilson, Henry Simmons, Nick Blood and Adrianne Palicki

Marvel’s Agents of Shield Panel: Luke Wilson, Henry Simmons, Nick Blood and Adrianne Palicki

Marvel's Agents of Shield Panel: Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dalton

Marvel’s Agents of Shield Panel: Ming-Na Wen and Brett Dalton

Marvel's Agents of Shield Panel: Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge

Marvel’s Agents of Shield Panel: Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge

Agent Carter Panel: Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy

Agent Carter Panel: Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy

Grimm Panel: Bree Turner and Silas Weir Mitchell

Grimm Panel: Bree Turner and Silas Weir Mitchell

Legends of Tomorrow Panel: Brandon Routh and Wentworth Miller

Legends of Tomorrow Panel: Brandon Routh and Wentworth Miller


What has been your most memorable vacation? That one that has helped inspire, relax, or revitalize you?


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