Tag Archives: Pongo

Give Small? No. GiveBig! ;)


GiveBIG is a one-day, online charitable giving event, inspiring people to give generously to the nonprofit organizations (like Seattle Public Library!!) that make our region a healthier and more vital place to live.

Each donation up to $5,000 per donor, per organization, made to the 1,600 nonprofit organizations profiled on The Seattle Foundation’s website between midnight and midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, will receive a prorated portion of The Seattle Foundation’s matching funds, or “stretch pool.” The amount of the “stretch” depends on how much is raised in total donations on GiveBIG day.  As long as you have access to the web and a credit card, you can participate!

You can also narrow your search to organizations that are geared to, staffed by, or serving teens…  Nonprofit orgs 4 teens.  This list includes many organizations near ‘n dear to our library ❤ including (but not limited to):

If you can GiveBig.  If you can’t then give small.  If you still can’t, check out this list of ways to give back to your community!

Cracking the Hub: Annie Sullivan, The Round House & Juvenile in Justice

I finished The Hub Challenge just before the deadline.  The nineteenth book I read for the Challenge was Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert.

No doubt we all have heard about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.  They made education history when Annie Sullivan was able to break through into Helen Keller’s world, introduce her to language, and help her communicate with others.  As one of the Great Graphic Novels of the year we see this transformation, in pictures with few words, from the perspective of Annie Sullivan.
It’s been awhile since I learned about Helen Keller and her teacher.  Most of what I have learned until this point was about Helen Keller herself.  This graphic novel puts more emphasis on who Annie Sullivan was, her challenges growing up, her forthright personality that made living in the South difficult, and her attachment to her student and companion Helen Keller.  This was a fascinating read and thoroughly explores what it must have felt like for them both along their journey. Continue reading

Poetry, Pongo & You: Resiliency: The Golden Thread

PongoIn the previous three blogs about the Pongo Teen Writing Project, I discussed major themes our young poets tend to write about – loss, family, and trauma.  In this last blog I want to discuss the golden thread, a precious commonality that connects all the difficult experiences teens write about.  This golden thread is the beauty that adorns what was lost with what was gained, mends memories of sorrow with patches of hope, and binds terrible experiences with powerful truths that unfold from hearts of writers, to pens and paper, to readers everywhere.  This golden thread is resilience.  In its most basic form, resilience is our will to live despite our hardships.  Resilience is our natural and healthy drive to advocate for ourselves, and others, something young poets are exceptionally gifted at doing because they know they have things to say, and they say it. (Have you ever been to a slam poetry night?!)  Anyone who writes from their heart is listening to and honoring their unique experiences, perspectives, and voice.  Anyone who writes from the heart is resilient. 

The Pongo Teen Writing Project is dedicated to teaching youth how to continue to advocate for themselves with the transportable tools of pen and paper, encouraging them to write whenever and wherever, especially  when life is difficult.  And now through the Pongo website we are reaching teens all over the world.  Each poem we receive, whether unsolicited through the website or face-to-face with teens at our many project sites, is an invitation to connect through real stories of confusion, joy, anger, and sadness.  They write because they are compelled to share, and they share because they are resilient.

Two Pongo poems about resilience are “Different Levels” and “Changing My Life Around”.   I mentored both of these poets in the process of writing these poems and I remember the very moment a light turned on in them, just before the last stanzas, when they decided their poem was about seeing the silver lining, deciding who they are and who they aren’t, and empowering others despite their personal hardship. Continue reading

Four on a Theme: Poetry

icon-books Here we are at the end of National Poetry Month, and we haven’t said a word about poetry, unless you count our guest posts from Pongo, the folks who help teens in trouble write their way out of the tight emotional spaces that keep them in trouble. More power to them!

If you’re in the mood for a novel though, you might want to try one of these four books written in verse. Continue reading

Poetry, Pongo & You: Trauma and the Power of New Ink

PongoMany of us have had terrible things happen in our lives.  This trauma leaves an imprint on us like a tattoo, the ink of which holds all the intricate details of what happened.  The ink may fade in time but the tattoo never disappears.  Hopefully we discover an outlet that empowers us to redesign this ink.  At the Pongo Teen Writing Project we empower teens to write poetry about many experiences, including the terrible ones.  As the young poet reexamines thoughts and emotions about a traumatic event, they often find new perspectives that help them move forward differently.  The courageous new ink on the page somehow alters the ink of that old tattoo, providing a sense of relief and even hope.

Beyond the mighty influence that new ink has on one’s self, there is also something very powerful that happens when people share their writing with others.  Another effect of trauma is that often we wad-up the thoughts and emotions associated with terrible events into a tight ball, then bury it somewhere deep inside, only to find there is no place deep enough.  Often our poets feel the tight ball of trauma loosen as their words float from their mouth to someone’s ears.  Often our poets connect to a community of others who have also been hurt.  Often our poets discover empathy in others.  Often our poets clarify right and wrong – who they want to be and who they don’t – and find cheerleaders for their new direction.  Often our poets feel they can make a difference in the world, and help others break out of their own isolating pain.  The power of this unfolding reaches far beyond healing ourselves, because the readers and listeners can’t help but have their own honest response to a poet’s truth.    Continue reading

Poetry, Pongo & You: Family

pongo_logo_jesterFamily: A Hand-Woven Tapestry of Memories

I am a writing mentor with the Pongo Teen Writing Project, and also a psychotherapist. Often young people write with Pongo about their family in a way that reminds me of a complicated tapestry, one that includes remembered and unremembered experiences, all of which can affect a person’s current feelings and questions about life.

We are defined by many things throughout our lives, as our brain ceaselessly accumulates snapshots of people and events that influence us.  We might say we “can’t remember” certain things but our brains are incredible devices, and often what we can’t consciously recall (remember) is subtly encoded in us — in our preferences (our choice of hairstyle or career aspirations), our reactions to sensory stimuli (loving the smell of Shalimar but not Patchouli), and even in our muscles (sudden shoulder tension or butterflies in your stomach).  Our brains are writing all the time whether we know it or not!

In the brain’s meticulous catalogue of snapshots lies the family album, things we remember about the people we call family, and things we may have a hard time remembering at times, including our thoughts and feelings affiliated with them.  Continue reading

Poetry, Pongo & You: Loss

pongo_logo_jester Loss: A Shape-shifter

In my role as a writing mentor with Pongo Teen Writing, and in my psychotherapy practice, loss is a common denominator in most stories I have heard.  I think this is because loss is a shape shifter, appearing as one emotion (shock, sadness, etc.), then suddenly changing into something else (guilt, anger, etc.), shifting in a multitude of ways over and over again.  Literally and metaphorically loss is a death, a dismemberment that often surges with moments of confusion and moments of clarity.  Loss compels us to write because it naturally develops questions that can rattle the core of who we believe ourselves to be.  Who am I without that thing I lost?  How has my life story changed forever?

I’ve mentored teen poets in shelters, detention centers, and through the Pongo website where we have writing activities like Questions for an Empty Sky and This Is What You Meant to Me that provide a format for teens to create poetry about loss.  Continue reading