Monthly Archives: January 2013

National Day of Service

On January 19, 2013, I, along with others nationwide, responded to President Obama’s call to action to serve as a volunteer for the National Day of Service. I was the first volunteer to arrive that morning at The Parenting Place, a community-based non-profit whose mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect through strengthening families.

After welcoming me, staff member Megan asked, “What organization are you with?”

“I’m not with an organization,” I said, explaining I’d signed up through the National Day of Service website. I didn’t tell her the rest of the story: I’d been a volunteer in various capacities since my teenaged years, but this was the first time my volunteerism had included the possibility of winning a trip to D.C. for a presidential inauguration.

Megan directed me to an office to store my coat. As I headed in that direction, I heard her tell her co-worker, “They don’t know each other.”

The rest of the group, five women and four children, trickled in. After brief introductions, we posed for a photo before settling in to work. 

iserve: Margie, Rebecca, Josie, Betsy, Karen, Carla, Linda, Aydin, Nicholas, and Nico (not pictured: photographer Katie).

Strangers at the onset, we learned of our connectedness as our day progressed.

Book lovers Aydin, a second grader; his brother, Nicholas, a third grader; and I were tasked with the job of cleaning and organizing the library. I enjoyed chatting with the boys about books, authors, and illustrators.

When Aydin pulled an Eric Carle book off a shelf he said, “Oh, my teacher would love this book!”

“Who’s your teacher?” I asked.

“Mrs. Dungan.”

I smiled. Kathy Dungan teaches at the elementary school my sons, Eric and Colin, attended. She is our friend and neighbor, and had been to our house for dinner the previous weekend. We’ve shared many conversations about education, books, and reading throughout the years.

Parenting Place library
Karen, Nick and Aydin on library duty

Carla—mother of Aydin; Nicholas; and Katie, a sixth grader and our photographer extraordinaire,—sang Kathy’s praises as she described how she has facilitated educational opportunities for Aydin that meet his abilities. We shared our mutual admiration for the 1st and 2nd grade multiage classrooms that my boys, and now Aydin, have benefited from.

The Parenting Place
Carla disinfecting with Simple Green

Linda brought her four-year-old son, Nico, to help. They were champions in converting a back room into a space designated for babies and toddlers. Nico, Aydin, Nicholas and Katie did a wonderful job serving as game testers, too.

The Parenting Place
Linda washing the small pieces and parts
The Parenting Place
Nico, master toy-sorter

Josie and Margie organized the art supplies, then Josie and I moved to the puzzle and game nook. We discovered that Josie’s daughter and my son Eric served as AmeriCorps volunteers 2011-2012 for City Year, an organization dedicated to keeping students in school and on track for graduation.

Craft nook at the Parenting Place
Josie cleaning and sorting the art supplies

While enjoying a bagel, I learned that Betsy’s daughter was packing to leave for a study abroad program the following day. Talking about the challenges of limiting luggage to “fifty pounds for six months,” I shared our experience of weighing Eric’s suitcase—also with a fifty-pound weight limit—on our veterinarian’s scale before he set out for twelve months in Argentina.

The Parenting Place kitchen
Betsy making the kitchen sparkle

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

We served together, children and adults, to honor President Obama and the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. No one in our group won the trip to D.C., but we were grateful for the opportunity to serve. We began our day as strangers. We ended it as friends.

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Try

A recent newspaper article reminded me of a motto I adopted years ago: You can’t win if you don’t try.

The article described how Jess Parrish, a wood carver, wanted to plunge into the world of ice carving. Ice carvers in his state refused to grant him an apprenticeship, though. The market was small, and they feared training a competitor.

Jess turned to the internet, which led him to the National Ice Carving Association and to his first competition six years ago in Green River, Wyoming. His chain saw burned up with two hours left to go in his event. He left early, not waiting around for the rest of the two-day competition.

Then, Jess received a phone call telling him that because he was the sole entrant in the amateur category, he was the de facto winner. He was encouraged to pursue ice carving, which he did. Four years later, he launched his own business.

Jess Parrish, of Longmont, works on an ice sculpture of a dragon outside Todd Reed Jewelry Store in Boulder on Dec. 1. Parrish has been ice carving for about six years and launched his business, Cool Hand Ice Carving, about two years ago. (Kira Horvath/Longmont Times-Call)

Jess Parrish, right, places huge slabs of ice into place with the help of his apprentice, Joaquin Botello, as they begin working on an ice sculpture of a dragon outside Todd Reed Jewelry Store in Boulder on Dec. 1. (Kira Horvath/Longmont Times-Call)

Twenty years ago, my boys were winners in a local coloring contest. They won first and third places in their respective age groups. Eric, aged five, won a can filled with Crayola markers. Colin, aged two, delighted in the stuffed bunny he won. When we picked up their prizes, we learned one of the reasons they’d won was because there were more prizes than participants.

Cake making 1993
Eric and Colin making a Mother’s Day cake, 1993.

I’ve heard a variation of my motto. You can’t hit the ball if you don’ t swing the bat. Would Eric and Colin have won had there been more competitors? Who knows. What we do know is this. They swung their bats and they hit the balls.

Eric & Colin Buley
Eric: 2006. Crayola tin: 1993. Colin: 2008.

I keep the Crayola tin on my desk as a reminder to swing my bat. And I swung three times in the past month. Last week, I learned that I hit the ball when I received a phone call offering me the media assistant position I’d applied for at Hellgate High School.

I started yesterday. Walking into the Hellgate library, where I served as a volunteer from 2004-2006, I felt like I had hit the ball out of the park.

World Book Night

Celebrate World Book Night 2013 on April 23rd

Giver applications are due January 23rd

It was a thrill to be a giver last year on World Book Night 2012. Of the 25,000 givers nationwide, three of us celebrated books and reading with students and staff at Willard Alternative High School.

World Book Night 2012
Karen Buley presents The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Namesake WBN 2012
Karin Knight reads from The Namesake
World Book Night 2012
Kim Anderson shares Housekeeping

I had the privilege of sharing Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Alexie has been on my radar for years, ever since I heard him speak at the University of Montana. He was inspirational, funny, and his words about the craft of writing prodded me to continue to plug away at my own writing.

World Book Night 2012
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian!
World Book Night 2012
Great smiles for great books
World Book Night 2012
Humor in Sherman Alexie’s words

This year, I’m applying to be a giver of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Not only has Diffenbaugh written a powerful debut novel about what can happen when you age out of foster care (you might find yourself homeless and sleeping in a park like protagonist Victoria Jones), she also is a co-founder of The Camellia Network, whose mission is to create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care.

A bouquet of angelica, bellflower, flax, lisianthus and orange to Vanessa Diffenbaugh. White carnations, cosmos and peppermint to all who make World Book Night 2013 possible.

Share a book.