Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Half the Sky (guest blogger Nancy Dudwick)

It was my challenge to lead a community discussion of this gripping book at the Beachwood branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library on Monday, June 21. Nancy Dudwick, a member of Writers Circle (a Beachwood-based writers' group) offers a summary of her thoughts following that discussion. She calls her meditation, "Half the World."

This past Monday Maria reviewed one of the most interesting books I have ever read. Half the Sky, by husband-wife writing team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, describes how women in Third World countries are mistreated. During wars, such as those in Darfur, women of all ages are the victims of rape, assault and even murders. In addition, they are subjected to horrendous torture by members of their own families. They are often forced into marriage at a very young age, and their husbands are free to beat them, force them to have sex, and in some instances have them killed when they refused to comply. In fact, they have no rights at all. Moreover, many families often sell their little girls into prostitution because they are desperately poor and need the money to feed their families.

However, today many individuals and organizations--like Women for Women International, Grameen Bank, and American Jewish World Service--have set up programs where they train women and provide loans to help them start their own businesses, thus enabling them to become independent. Moreover, many of those women have been quite successful--and when the woman is a breadwinner, her whole family benefits. According to one report, "'when women are given the opportunity to earn a livelihood, their children are fed, families are supported, and communities thrive.'" Consequently, when their husbands realize that their wives are making a major contribution to the family income, they begin to respect them and no longer beat them.

In addition, women who have their own businesses are now sending their daughters as well as their sons to school.

Yet, millions of people (including women) do not realize that even in the modern, non-Third World nations like the United States and Canada, women don't receive completely equal treatment. No! Mutilation of little girls is completely unheard of and women don't suffer from the horrendous and debilitating injuries caused due to lack of medical care and sanitary surroundings in childbirth; women and girls who go to the local store to purchase food aren't in danger of being raped and assaulted as they often are in Darfur. However, many women in the United States still don't receive equal pay for equal work and over 20% of all women are girls are still subjected to domestic violence. Moreover, poor women often don't have access to effective family-planning methods or adequate pre-natal care.

Yet, women are beginning to become more assertive and standing up for their rights. They have established shelters for victims of domestic violence and in many areas men are arrested for committing acts of domestic violence because it is being treated as a crime. More and more women are entering the professions previously open to men only--law, medicine, engineering, architecture, etc. In addition, they often own lucrative businesses.

Even in the religious arena women are making great strides. They are entering the clergy and becoming ministers, rabbis and cantors. In addition, they are participating in previously all-male ceremonies which, due to their gender, were once forbidden to them. A prime example of that was our own Ethel Adler, a lively senior citizen, who became a Bat Mitzvah one week ago at Montefiore--an example to both women and seniors.

So, while women of the world still have a long way to go before achieving equality, women have already made progress, even in the Third World countries, and some very close to home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Clara Fritzsche Library Co-sponsors "Half the Sky" Book Discussion | Notre Dame College

Clara Fritzsche Library Co-sponsors "Half the Sky" Book Discussion Notre Dame College

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Return to the Wild

Getting the simple postcard in the mail made my day. It was from the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center, part of the Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland, Ohio.

“Dear Friend:

This . . . is to inform you that the American Robin brought in for rehabilitation has been released. The time taken to bring this animal to the Wildlife Center was the first step to its return to the wild. . . .”

This was certainly not the first time I had seen an injured bird, but it is the first time that my emergency action led to its actual rehabilitation.

Trying to save a tiny, injured creature--to some--might seem insignificant in the grand scheme. Some reading this might accuse me of being sentimental. Or wasting time. Or even upsetting nature's balance. Survival of the fittest, the biggest, the least injured -- that's the way of the world, right? And don't birds carry West Nile?

But this could happen to any of us. A sudden jolt of fate. A wind too fierce for our structures. And those we rely on can't help. Then what...

A fledgling was stranded in my driveway after very heavy winds. It chirped. And chirped. One would have to be tone-deaf not to hear “help me” in the call.

Just one bird.

Maybe it's because I sometimes feel helpless to push for change on a grand scale that the little details matter to me. I avoid stepping on ants. Even if they make their way to the kitchen, they are airlifted out. I once attempted an all-holistic mouse catching campaign. If you want to chuckle (or get shivers), click on "A House Mouse Speaks."

That day, two onlookers, whom I took to be the robin's parents, chattered at me from the power lines above. Other birds seemed to also be witnessing my deliberation. They seemed to wait expectantly.

As I walked close to it, this hungry fledgling opened its gaping, golden, trusting mouth. This was an action that I felt showed not mere instinct but, rather, its will to live. Further incentive for me to do something.

I lined a small box with soft towels, put holes in the top, and called the Wildlife Center. I was told they had room. I prepared for the delicate “pick up” and then transported “Robin” safely there. A broken wing was diagnosed.

I was told that if it was set and began to heal, the bird would not be euthanized. They would give it about five days to see if the bird had the strength to go on.

And as I headed back home, I thought about birds that hadn’t made it. As a camp counselor many years ago, precious “Tweety,” a house sparrow, died despite the ministrations of my first grade campers and me. I had hoped to impart to my campers the joy of helping to heal. Instead, we learned to grieve together.

Several years ago, my son awakened me when a thrush lay knocked out on our air conditioner; it had flown into the picture window. “Do something, Mom. Do something,” he urged. I did not want to fail then. It was the week that a beloved student had died and I thought: “Now this.” An omen.

But then, with the wonder of the internet, I became familiar with the Wildlife Center at Penitentiary Glen and called. I was informed of a watch-and-wait protocol for birds knocked out by dives into windows. I was given instructions on how to transport that thrush if it did not regain consciousness or mobility.

That time, the thrush recovered on its own – amazing to behold – and offered an unbidden message of hope to me while grieving my student's death.

This past week of Mother’s Day, I stalled calling back to find out how my robin was doing. I finally mustered the courage and was relieved to learn that Robin had a chance, and had—in fact—“just been fed along with a lot of the other birds.”

That appetite.

The skilled hands of the wildlife care specialists impress me. They know how much to intervene, and they have the wisdom to watch and wait. They also know, I suspect, that we are not only stewards of nature. We are interconnected.

If my American robin made it, that would be one more song in the world. One more splash of color. And even, a continued lineage of that particular creature's DNA. Who knows who that bird might grow up to be?

Will it remember the trauma and the mercy: thrown out of the nest by the wind…laying flat and helpless on a bumpy driveway … approached by a foreign creature on two clunky legs … transported by that alien in a noisy vehicle on four wheels?

A second chance at life in a wildlife center.

Reborn free.

May this robin--and all those tossed by rough winds—somehow find their way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For Paula, My Cherished Student

I thought of Paula vividly today. So often she would say, "Maria--when are you going to write about us?" I waited too long, Paula -- but your example of creativity and service has stayed with me.

She was a long-time member of my memoir writing class, and -- I learned at her memorial service -- a tireless community volunteer.

For anyone reading: Don't put off writing the reminiscences that matter: whether they be yours or someone else's. Chances are you might always be a bit too busy, but don't let that deter you from spending time with someone who has a story to tell.

Carve out a little time, and return to that project regularly.

Even in a rushed day, pause to look around and listen to the birds. In their color and song, they just may inspire you.