Month: October 2010

  • Explain that connection again...

    Oh, between grieving for my mom and rappelling down a skyscraper?


    It all started last winter, our first Christmas without Mom.  Sad. Missed her. Odd blank space inside me where I thought there ought to be a bit more pathos or pain or something. Hmm.  But a busy life can help crowd out awkward introspection, and I allowed it to.

    For one thing, my friend Jason Jaggard had this great idea called Sparks, and our small group at the time could certainly benefit from an extra spark or two, so we signed on. I think we and the other folks who tried Sparks at that time were iteration 2 or 3 of the concept, so some things were in place, but there was definitely a "here's the idea, ready, go!" feeling to it. Closely followed by a "...and hey, tell us what happens, let us know how others might benefit from your experience in the future." In other words, we were guinea pigs developmental groups.

    The basic point is to inspire, or free, or challenge, each person to make a Spark decision of some kind, every week for five weeks, and then support one another in following through. A Spark can be anything that you could do in a week that:

    1. could make the world a better place, or

    2. could make yourself a better person, and

    3. must involve an element of risk.  Any sort of risk. The idea ought to give you pause, require a step of courage to implement, be "outside your comfort zone".

    It turned out to be an experiment in taking initiative, for me. Our small group soon moved on to a different focus but the connection was made for me: if something is important or valuable, then it is worth taking a risk to honor that, or to gain that.

    Fast forward to September 20. I know that the first anniversary of Mom's death is just a few days away, and no one seems to notice. The cards & condolences ceased ages ago. Life has just gone on without her, and it will keep going on without her. "As if she never was," murmured the leaden voice of Despair.

    This was a tactical mistake on Despair's part. Immediately I began to think of the ways my mother's life had changed and shaped the life of others, how she had created a whole extended family out of the words "I do" and a kiss from my father so many years ago.  Not only that, she created entities that outlive her, that continue to do good and improve the lives of many.  She became a champion at raising money for noble causes later in life, when she had the time, energy, wisdom and connectedness to do so.  It would honor her memory if I told some of that story for her. Perhaps my mom's story would spark hope, action, and change in others who had not even known her during her physical lifetime.

    Then came the invitation from the National Eagle Scout Association: let's raise awareness of urban Scouting by rappelling off the Bonaventure! The LA Area Council needs more money to do what's necessary in Los Angeles to spark good, to spark virtue, in our urban youth. Let's risk an expensive event in the hope that we will raise enough money to pay for the event and help urban Scouting.

    Hey, just the sort of thing Mom would love! And, just the sort of thing that would honor her, if done in her name!

    So, I'm doing it. You can too! Or, just give generously to spark change in the youth of Los Angeles, to honor Florence Nelson, and to push me over the edge at last.

  • Shameless plug for the Reading Seminar

    "Books that are over your head weary you unless you can reach up to them and pull yourself up to their level.  It is not the stretching that tires you, but the frustration of stretching unsuccessfully because you lack the skill to stretch effectively."
    -- Mortimer J. Adler

    Through my coaching/tutoring business I am offering a seminar that teaches crucial reading, research and study strategies for college students and graduate students alike.  Or, if you are a wise high school senior, learn this stuff now and really be prepared for college life next year. 

    The seminar is based upon Mortimer Adler's foundational text "How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading" and J. Robert Clinton's "Reading On the Run", as well as several other helpful texts and our decades of personal experience in academia.  This is NOT a remedial reading course, it is for students or professionals who have to plow through a lot of reading efficiently (i.e. QUICKLY) and effectively (i.e. learning all you need to know from your reading).  It is not a speed-reading course, nor a study skills course, although we will touch upon each of those topics.  The Academic Reading Seminar is available as a 2-hour introduction for $100 per person, a 4-hour half-day workshop for $180 per person, or a 6-hour comprehensive workshop for $250 per person.

    Wordsmith writing coaches are mobile experts in academic reading and writing: we come to you! Because we do not maintain brick-and-mortar offices and classrooms, we can keep our overhead very low, and pass the savings on to you. It is also convenient: we will meet you wherever is best for you.  If you can meet us within our biking range, we waive any travel fee and thank you for helping keep us fit and trim.  We are willing to drive to meet with you, but if driving is necessary, we must charge $.50 per mile one way, still a reasonable fee.

    Our standard hourly rate for tutoring and coaching at the undergrad/graduate level is $75/hour.  See our website for more details and our story.

    Call today to schedule your Academic Reading Seminar!  Ask about special group discount pricing too.
    (my phone number is on our website:

    "We must become a nation of truly competent readers, recognizing all that the word 'competent' implies.  Nothing less will satisfy the needs of the world that is coming."
    -- Mortimer J. Adler, 1940