Friday, June 24, 2022

Feel Good Friday - GLSEN

It’s the final Feel Good Friday of Pride month, perfect time to highlight the work of GLSEN

Founded by a group of teachers in 1990, GSLEN (pronounced glisten) is a national education organization, “working to create a safe and inclusive K-12 school environment for LGBTQ+ youth.” Their mission is “to ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” 

GLSEN coordinates a network of 43 chapters in 30 states across the nation and focuses on four major ways schools can cultivate a safe and supportive environment for all of their students: 

  • Developing supportive educators – providing training and resources for educators so that students can have a visibly supportive educator in the classroom who can advocate on LGBTQ students’ behalf, implement LGBTQ content in the lessons, and address bullying and harassment issues. Join the educator network or use some of the many resources for educators.
  • Passing and implementing comprehensive policies – advocating for policies that support LGBTQ students such as non-discrimination, facilities accessibility and affirming trans and gender non-conforming students’ participation in athletics. Join the advocacy network here.
  • Advocating for an inclusive and affirming curriculum – the team at GLSEN authors developmentally appropriate resources for educators to use throughout their school community. Download this Inclusive Curriculum Guide.
  • Supporting student Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) – GLSEN provides resources for student leaders to organize GSAs in their schools to help create community and push for change. Find GSA resources at this link.

In the 32 years since they began, GLSEN’s national network is now more than 1.5 million strong, with students, families, educators, and education advocates working to create safe schools. More than 500,000 GLSEN resources are downloaded by students and educators each year!


If you’d like to support the work of GLSEN you can make a donationshop for merch and help spread the word on social media. Like the GLSEN Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @GLSEN and Instagram @glsen



Friday, June 17, 2022

Feel Good Friday - FAI - The National Trust for Italy

Ciao! Felice sentirsi bene vernerdì!

I'm back from my trip to Italy and still interested in all things Italian, including today's Feel Good Friday organization, Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), the National Trust for Italy.

Founded in 1975, FAI "restores and takes care of special places in Italy so that present and future generations from all over the world may enjoy a priceless legacy." Italy has more UNESCO sites than any other country. FAI focuses on protecting these cultural, artistic and natural wonders as they say, "forever, for everyone." Watch this 2-minute video to see some of the sites and learn more.

Today, FAI manages 64 sites across Italy, 31 of which are open to the public. You can virtually tour them at this link: visit faiThese villas, castles and parks are acquired by donation, or granted by state or local authorities. With the help of individual and corporate sponsors, FAI restores the sites and then opens them to the public for exhibitions, events and educational programs for students. Collectively, these sites managed by FAI welcome a million visitors each year!

Whether you choose to visit Ieranto Bay, home of the sirens that tempted Ulysses; Villa Necchi Campiglio, an icon of 1930's deco in the heart of Milan; or Teatrino di Vetriano, the world's smallest public theater, do your research on the FAI website before you go. You can check this page for a listing of upcoming events.

If you'd like to support the work of FAI in preserving the cultural heritage of Italy you can do so by becoming a member, making a donation and spreading the good word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @fondoambiente. Grazie!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Feel Good Friday Flashback #5 - Hollaback! (now Right to Be)

Happy Feel Good Friday! I'm traveling for the next few weeks and will be tapping in to the FGF archives for stories. Join me as we look back at some favorites from the last 9 and a half years. 


Friday, July 10, 2020

I've been looking for ways to be a better ally to the Black community and that's what led me to today's Feel Good Friday organization, Hollaback! [Note: Hollaback! is now Right to Be]

Founded in 2005 by a group of seven young people in New York, Hollaback! is "a global, people-powered movement to end harassment in all its forms."  Here's how they do it.

Hollaback! offers FREE bystander intervention training to help you learn how to respond when you witness someone being harassed. I took the training a few weeks ago and highly recommend it. They teach you five methods you can use, known as Hollaback!'s 5Ds: distract, delegate, document, delay and direct. You can read about them at the bystander resources section of their website. It was helpful for me to learn that there are ways to be supportive without directly confronting the harasser.

Other training offered by Hollaback! includes conflict de-escalation, responding to and preventing harassment, and resilience - both in the workplace and in the face of Covid-19. In addition, Hollaback! has trained over 550 young people to become site leaders in their communities so they have the skills to launch a site and take on-the-ground action. Learn more about customized resources and site leaders.

Since the early days, Hollaback! has expanded to 21 cities in 16 countries. You can find your nearest Hollaback! office at this link or check out their online resources to learn how to deal with harassment in the workplace, on the street and online.

The final program to share is HeartMob, a platform created in 2015 to help end online harassment. People being harassed online can ask for the immediate support they need and the HeartMob community will respond. To date over 7,500 actions have been taken to support more than 1,600  people.

To get involved with Hollaback! and their work, you can join the HeartMob or sign up for a free training. I took "Bystander Intervention to Stop Police Sponsored Violence and Anti-Black Racist Harassment" and the schedule for that is here. You can also make a donation, and follow Hollaback! on Facebook and Twitter @iHollaback, to amplify their message and help them end harassment in all its forms.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

It Takes a Village

Or in this case, the town of Sicignano degli Alburni.

Let's set the stage. Before I left for Italy, I got some basic info from a cousin on the towns where our grandparents grew up. Both are near Salerno, and since I was going to end the hiking tour close by I was sure I could get to these towns. So sure I didn't really make any plans to do so.

I did realize, while on the hiking tour, that I should book a place in Salerno as step one. I found a cute B&B that looked pretty central and booked Sunday through Wednesday.

When I checked in Geni, the owner, asked me if I had a project and I told him I hoped visit the towns where my grandparents were born - Calvanico (grandfather) and Sicignano (grandmother). He gave me the same look I got from the woman at the train station in Rome all those weeks ago. A look that says, "Um, you're trying to do what??"

He explained that neither place was easy to reach by bus and said he would make some calls to see if he could find a driver for hire. Later that day, he told me Constantino would be able to take me to both towns on Tuesday and warned that he doesn't speak any English. Seemed like my only option so I said yes and was in front of the B&B Tuesday morning at the appointed time.

Imagine my surprise when Geni rolled up in his car. He told me that Constantino tested positive for Covid and couldn't drive me but Geni didn't want to tell me no when I had travelled so far so he rearranged his day so he could take me! 

It worked out for the best - well not for Constantino. Geni and I had some interesting conversations in the car. We talked about meditation and mindfulness, improv, Italian culture and tacos. Even better, when we got to the locations, he acted as part detective, part interpreter.

In Sicignano we started with a visit to a castle at the top of the hill. It was closed so we took pictures, admired the view, and walked back down the hill to find some people. We saw a nameplate on a house that said Carnevale (my grandmother's maiden name) and he asked a group of people standing around about the Carnevale family. There was a lot of talk, advice to go to the municipal building to pull records, and a conclusion that we needed to find Giovanni.

More walking and we stopped in a bar for a caffe before we hit the road. Geni mentioned our situation to the bartender and before I knew it, he was calling Giovanni on the phone while two other men came in to add info, opinions and give me Giovanni's number. We were told he lives in Salerno but wasn't coming back until Wednesday, the day I had to catch a train to Rome. As we left for Calvanico, Geni said people in the town will be talking about this for days. Based on the size of the town, I believe that is true.

I thought Sicignano was small, until we rolled in to Calvanico. Everything there was closed so we walked around and talked to a pharmacist who said there are no more Ruggieris in Calvanico. It was still great to see imagining that my grandfather, his sisters and his parents were running around on those same streets 100 years ago.

Back in Salerno Geni dropped me off at the B&B and later that day I sent Giovanni a message on WhatsApp. I was able to use Google translate and discovered that he was coming back from Positano that night and was available to meet for dinner at 8pm!

Giovanni and his wife Enza came to my B&B to pick me up and we walked through the streets asking each other questions. Are we related? Yes. How exactly? I'm not sure. Giovanni and his wife only spoke Italian and, while I could understand about 85% of what they were saying, where exactly the cousins connect is still a mystery.

We had a lovely dinner and then walked down to the water for gelato at Bar Netuno - the best in Salerno. While they spoke Italian, I spoke my trademarked Span-tal-ish. Many of my sentences started with Spanish switched to Italian when I realized what I was doing and ended in English when I couldn't think of the word in the other two languages. It all worked surprisingly well.

All of this happened yesterday and I'm still a bit in shock that, with the loosest of plans and limited information, I found a relative in Italy and we were able to meet in person. 

While I wish I hadn't twisted my knee early on, overall this trip has been pretty spectacular. 

One more meal in Rome, a 5am wake up call, a final train ride, two planes and a Lyft and I'll be home! I'm looking forward to getting back.

We are here!

Started with a visit to the castle. Closed.

But the views of the valley were great!

Sicignano's version of Lombard Street.

The bartender calls Giovanni while Geni stands by to translate.

The road to Calvanico.

We are here!

Italian Dora and Boots welcome us to town.

Happy to see Calvanico.

Even happier to see Giovanni and his wife Enza in Salerno!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Salve Salerno

Salve Salerno, or hello Salerno!

After consulting with the man who runs the B&B I'm staying in and making arrangements to visit both of my grandparents' towns in a single day, I had an extra day to explore Salerno and so I did.

It's much less touristy than the rest of the Amalfi coast, which is lovely. It also means not as many people speak English and I've been using all of my Span-tal-ish to get my point across. Though, I could not convey to the woman at the cafe this morning that my B&B is not one of the ones that has an arrangement with them and I was happy to pay 3.50 euros for a cappuccino and croissant filled with a gallon of Nutella.

Last night after an early bird special dinner at 8:45pm, I went down to the waterfront to check out the scene. It was still 80 degrees at 10pm and people were out and about! There was an old school puppet show that involved one puppet repeatedly hitting another, pedestrians out for a stroll and, what appeared to be mostly African immigrants, laying out "designer" bags, shirts and shoes for sale then quickly packing them up and chilling on the benches when the police strolled by. Fascinating people watching!

This morning I walked through the city center and over to the Duomo. Admittedly, I'm reaching my max on churches but glad I went in this one and saw the giant organ and elaborately decorated crypt of San Matteo.

I took a walk back to the water and dipped my toes in. I left my bathing suit back at the B&B and wasn't prepared for a beach day. That said, the water was lovely and I hung out at the beach for awhile.

At lunch, the restaurant owner took an interest in me and, when I tried to order off the menu, had me come inside to see what was available and made recommendations. I ended up having some pasta salad with tomatoes, cheese, ham and melon and grilled vegetables. A good counterbalance to all that Nutella!

I came back home to escape the heat and have a nap and a shower - yay! Will head out to find dinner in awhile. I mean it's only 7pm right now.

Was reading that a Trenitalia train derailed on Friday (no one hurt) and that's causing delays on the line I will take Wednesday. Today, the 90 min ride back to Rome took 3 hours. Glad I bought a ticket for Wednesday morning to give me plenty of time to get back before my flight home Thursday morning. Hard to believe it's almost been four weeks! 

Time to make the most of my last few days. Ciao!

I love the art on the streets.

10pm puppet show along the water.

"Designer" bags for sale.

Much less crowded than Amalfi and the beach has sand, not rocks.

Tempted to climb the hill and visit the castle but not without my group.

Duomo of Salerno.

Not another church!


That's a mighty big organ.

In the crypt of San Matteo.

Missing group dinners.

Definite Oaktown vibes. Wonder how the Ultras would fare against the 38th Ave Locos.

Thank goodness this place has an elevator, I'm on the fifth floor!

Friday, June 3, 2022

Feel Good Friday Flashback #4 - Skateistan

Happy Feel Good Friday! I'm traveling for the next few weeks and will be tapping in to the FGF archives for stories. Join me as we look back at some favorites from the last 9 and a half years. 


Friday, August 17, 2018

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, Skateistan, from a friend. Not only is skateboarding not a crime, it's a great way to inspire children around the globe!

Skateistan, Sanskrit for "land of skate", started in Afghanistan as a way to empower children. As explained on their website. "Through the hook of skateboarding, we engage with children, especially girls and youth from low-income backgrounds, giving them access to safe spaces and education and provide valuable life skills that go beyond the skatepark and the classroom." 
Since their earliest days in 2007, Skateistan has expanded to include programs in Cambodia and South Africa. The four core programs are designed for ages 5 to 17, offered free of charge and focus on keeping the youth involved for the long term. 

Outreach involves educators and youth leaders bringing skateboards and equipment into the communities for an hour of recreational activity. Skate and Create is a combo of one hour in the skate park and one hour in the classroom. Back-to-School varies by country. In Afghanistan it's an accelerated learning program covering the national curriculum for children who are not in school. They spend 5 days a week in class and are enrolled in public school after graduating. In Cambodia and South Africa it's a drop in program after school that provides homework help and further education and career planning. The final program, which must be applied for, is Youth Leadership. Youth leaders assist educators, mentor younger students and help plan events.

If you've got 13 minutes, I highly recommend you watch the documentary, "Land of Skate" here. Children involved in the program share how skateboarding has changed their lives and you can see how happy they are when they're skateboarding.

The best way to support this work is by making a donation and becoming a Citizen of Skateistan. You can also represent by shopping for merchandise to wear and showing your support by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Skateistan.

Ambling in Amalfi

We are not actually ambling in Amalfi we are speed hiking but I'm a fan of alliteration.

As I mentioned in my Facebook posts, since I've joined this tour group there has been a lot of togetherness and I haven't found time to blog. Until today... only because I decided to skip the morning hike and rejoin the group to kayak in the afternoon.

To recap what's been happening, Wednesday we hiked on the Path of the Gods from Agerola to Positano. Technically there was a path but it was rocky and at times the steps were extremely steep. That's why I was so excited to learn there was a bus I could take from the rest stop down to Positano. Three other people in the group followed my lead and the people who did spend the next hour walking down 880 stairs told me I made a smart choice. 

Yesterday we took a ferry to the island of Capri. Beautiful as you approach, like the rest of the Amalfi coast it's packed (PACKED) full of tourists even though it's only early June.

Our group hiked up to the main piazza and then continued to Villa Jovis (Jupiter), the ruins of Emperor Tiberius' palace. The ancient ruins are all starting to blur together for me but this had a great view from the top - once you hiked up more stairs.

Group lunch on the way back to the piazza was at a restaurant where the pasta was freshly made. I had a pasta called paccheri, which you can see in the picture below. So delicious!

On our own, some of us took the funicular back down to the beach (something others wish they did after walking down more stairs) and spent the remainder of our time in the water.

As my friend Rick Steves explains, "Amalfi Coast towns are pretty but they're also touristy, congested, and overpriced. Most beaches here are private, pebbly and expensive." This applies to Capri too but it was fun for 90 minutes. That's why I'm glad I'm on a tour where hike away from the touristy bits and we will kayak later today.

That said, I am not the only person who needs a time out from the hiking. Three other people have opted out this morning.

This weekend there will be a regatta, the 66th annual race between the formerly warring cities of Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice. There is a concert tonight and the fireworks have already started last night. I feel like I'm back in Oakland. Though Oakland doesn't start every morning with a barrage of church bells.

Going to take advantage of my morning off with a true amble about town and will be back here and on Facebook again in a few days. Ciao!

This ferry to Capri has plenty of life vests

No smoking - unless you are driving the boat


Beautiful flower, beautiful bugs

Mary and baby Jesus on top of Villa Jovis

Bay of Naples with Mt. Vesuvius is the peak in the middle, Sorrento on the right

Cutting the fresh pasta as it comes out

Which turns into this - paccheri (the type of pasta) with sausage, mushrooms and cheese

These couples spent over 30 minutes taking selfies on the church steps...

Which inspired is to do the same