Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
by Marlene Jezierski
"You can't do anything right."
That's a typical verbal abuse.
Marlene Jezierski has heard that and much more from women and men and children who are victims of domestic violence. Not all the bruises of domestic abuse show on the outside of the body.
As she put it, "I wrote the book because I saw a knowledge gap in the area of violence in the home. While beatings and sexual assaults are understood and recognized, the subtleties of psychological abuse are not."
Her little book is just 36 pages, but it's plenty to touch your heart.
Life as a prisoner
Open "Beyond the Mirror" to any page as I did when this little tome arrived and you'll know the hurt, the diminution of spirit, the sadness and the fear of those who don't see any way out of a life that has become a prison.
One page had me.
Jezierski has turned what could be prose stories of victims of physical and emotional abuse into mostly brief, one-page poems that tug at your heart. It's beautiful poetry about a dreadful reality.
What she enlightens readers about is psychological torture:
Looks that kill the spirit.
Checking of the car odometer when the spouse leaves on an errand and returns home.
Isolation from friends, often from the rest of the world.
Tentacles reach out
A wake-up call may be in how the meanness and belittling is passed on to the children and to the extended families as well. Another may be the revelation that abusers perpetrate acts of cruelty and violence on family pets to instill fear in the people they live with. One poem quotes the spouse who killed and mutilated the family dog: "If you ever leave, that is what will happen to you, and they will never find the pieces."
And there's a great piece titled "Why on Earth Does She Stay?"
It's a collage of all the bad advice offered from family, clergy and co-workers, all the threats from the abusers, all the fears of the victims.
Yet sprinkled here and there throughout are glimmers of hope:
- The 6th grade boy who doesn't like himself when he realizes he's imitating the abusive father he's coming to hate.
- The peace for mother and child when a friend is able to secret them away to a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
- The school counselor who is helping the love-misled teen to understand balance in relationships, healthy love, boundaries and obsessive control.
Being part of the solution
A final ray of hope shines in examples Jezierski gives of the support and good advice that comes from true friends, caring health care professionals, enlightened policies at medical facilities, even strangers who witness or overhear abuse and have the courage to speak up and intervene.
Not to be forgotten are clergy who do real pastoring by letting victims know, "Your husband broke the marriage covenant the first time he abused you. God doesn't want anyone to be abused." -- bz
N.B. -- Marlene Jezierski, a retired emergency nurse who lives in Blaine, MN, is an educator and consultant on family violence prevention. As an advocate for victims she has testified before Congress on the impact of violence on women's health. She conducts seminars on physical and emotional domestic abuse, speaks to church groups and teaches classes to interested groups. She expressed the hope that readers of "Beyond the Mirror" will be energized to volunteer or somehow be involved in the cause about which she is so passionate. "My mission," she noted, "is to help raise awareness and engage the community to become part of the solution." Although donations are accepted, copies of "Beyond the Mirror" are available at no cost through the author at beyondTmirror@aol.com.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
If you rue the abuse and misuse of the English language, you have a friend and an advocate for making a difference
by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
Humankind's ability to use words to express, describe and explain is a gift from God, ergo humans should practice stewardship with language in much the same way we are challenged to care for the Creator's gifts of water, earth and other resources.
"Like any other life-source," McEntyre posits, "language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded and filled with artificial stimulants."
If we are good stewards of language, we'll recognize its value and commit ourselves to protect and preserve it, use it well and battle those who would use language for ill ends. Caring for words, this California college professor states, is a moral issue; conversation is "a life-sustaining practice, a blessing, and a craft to be cultivated for the common good."
- ad hominen arguments;
- smear campaigns; distortion;
And many more.
Better solutions than "whatever"
For some years "Valley girls" were mocked for initiating sentences with the word "like," yet the angst that "like" creates for stewards of language may be small beer compared with the aggravation that follows the current non-response that supposedly answers all difficulties: "Whatever."
McEntyre offers three prescriptions against the disease that afflicts the English language: 1) Deepen and sharpen our reading skills; 2)Cultivate habits of speaking and listening that foster precision and clarity; and 3), Be makers and doers of the word, which she describes as "to indulge in word play, to delight in metaphor, to practice specificity and accuracy, to listen critically and refuse cliches and sound bites that substitute for authentic analysis."
She blames text messaging for rapidly eroding spelling and punctuation skills while training users to trade precision for speed.
In much the same way the earth's resources are being depleted, so too she charges "the rich soil of lively discourse is being depleted."
You only need to have what you thought was a relevant discussion be concluded by a "whatever" to find you agree.
Love words, challenge lies
To counter the erosion, if not the near criminal loss of vocabulary, McEntyre presents a dozen strategies for those who would be stewards of words. "Love words" is the first.
Her text itself makes that easy to do and inspires one to follow her suggestion to look at words -- not through them -- and to search for ones that are "intriguing, complex, haunting, curious, interestingly ambiguous, troubling or delightful."
"Tell the truth" is another strategy, and anyone who ever heard the deaths of innocent civilians described as "collateral damage" understands the moral implication behind that misuse of words.
As McEntyre puts it, stewards of words need to be inquisitive about what they read or hear:
"The process by which things come to us are often deliberately hidden or left unmentioned so as not to draw attention to the less savory aspects of process like pollution, abusive labor practices, fuel consumption, dangerous pesticides, unfair treatment of animals, insider trading."
"Humbly inquiring what the user means, and then listening," then calling liars into account -- especially when their lies threaten the welfare of the community."
There is so much more in the 234-page Eerdmans paperback.
Take Professor McEntyre's advice. Read paragraphs and re-read them.
Chew on them.
You'll find you are satisfying a hunger you may not have known you had. - bz
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
by Scott Lasser
Baseball -- my first love -- is the setting that attracted me to this 10-year-old novel, but it's the people on the team -- their dreams, their lives, their loves and their losses -- that make "Battle Creek" a winner in the field -- the field of literature.
Author Lasser has the inside stuff of the diamond down pat -- the thinking of pitchers and hitters, the managerial strategy, the nuts and bolts of the game. But he's even better at the inside stuff of life, the moral dilemmas that real people face off the field, the decisions that we all have to make and the impact that they have on us and others.
"Battle Creek" walks us through a season in the lives of amateur players and their coaches, a group of once-weres, coulda-beens and wannabees, and a talented group at that. Can they capture that elusive national championship? Can they do it without resorting to spitballs? Can they do it while finding satisfying relationships off the field?
What are they willing to do to get where they want to go -- both on the field and off?
It's a guy's book, to be sure, a baseball-loving guy's book. And, if you ever played the game beyond tee-ball, there's an interesting insight into just why it is we love this game. -- bz
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
by Jerry Moriarity
The subtitle of Jerry Moriarity's self-published collection of notes and anecdotes identifies it as a work "By a Journalist with Presidential Credentials."
That's both the good news and the bad.
Working for and editing small-town newspapers like the Star-Courier in Kewanee, Ill., Moriarity was able to get press credentials to cover presidential events -- including White House press conferences. Over a 40-year newspaper career, that gave him the ability to collect a double-handful of interesting stories about U.S. presidents from Truman through Bush II.
You got to hand it to the guy, a self-proclaimed Irish Catholic Democrat who lives half the year on Little Pine Lake near Perham, Minn.: He was there, he was paying attention, and he kept great notes. Along with those interesting anecdotes, Moriarity pulled together a fun and insightful bit which he called "creating an ideal president." Naming each of the 11 presidents he interviewed, he offered his opinion about the characteristic of each that he valued.
- Truman -- feisty decisiveness;
- Eisenhower -- popularity;
- Reagan -- intuition.
Too close to the newsmakers?
As good reading and as insightful as "Picking the Bones" is, I couldn't help but get the sense that at some point Moriarity's "covering" the presidents wasn't more about his own being near the seat of power than about reporting. I'm not sure what the editor of the Kewanee, Ill., Star-Courier gets for his readers by being at a presidential press conference.
I have a hard time with all the posed photos of a newsman and the person he is supposed to be writing objectively about.
And some of the questions that Moriarity writes that he asked those presidents made the journalist in me squirm.
There's a wonderful little story about the author being in the right place at the right time to show Sen. John F. Kennedy -- campaigning for the presidency in Peoria, Ill., in 1959 -- the way to the men's room! Moriarity says he'll direct him if Kennedy will answer a question for him. The future president comes out of the restroom and makes good on his promise to answer a question in return for the favor.
So what does Moriarity ask? "What is Peter Lawford really like?"
Balance, for the most part
Moriarity doesn't pull punches for the most part, telling it like he saw it. He calls Lyndon Baines Johnson "a dangerous egotistical hypocrite," but one who knew how to wield power and did some good by pushing civil rights legislation through Congress.
Moriarity himself became a bit of a celebrity by writing an editorial that called for reasonableness in judging a disgraced Richard M. Nixon. The piece was carried -- by Moriarity's count -- in 573 newspapers across the country.
The chapter on Nixon is where a touch of hypocrisy blooms. Moriarity acknowledges that he "supported Nixon," but them is critical of the folks at National Public Radio when, touring NPR studios, he sees a sign that reads "Impeach Nixon." Pretty hard to charge others with being biased when you are, too.
On balance, though, by publishing this memoir Moriarity has preserved some great anecdotes and given a glimpse of a world of reporting that is no more, for better and for worse. I'm glad he did. -- bz
Monday, June 22, 2009
- When it comes to things that make you really happy, what five things would you rank at the very top?
- Suppose you were told that you could have one wish come true -- but the wish you make would have to be for someone else, not for yourself. What would you wish for, and for whom would you wish it?
- If you could have 100 of anything right now, what would you choose?
"Food for Family Thought" -- the parenting/faith formation aids -- comes on the flip side of each card. For the three examples above, the alternate side of the cards suggest:
- When asked what it would take to get to heaven, Jesus said, "Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked." That's what parents do each day. It's a paradox that our greatest happiness comes when we freely give of ourselves. Think about that the next time you're fixing supper or folding laundry.
- Empathy is a fundamental building block for all moral growth. Make it a family value to frequently consider how your behavior and choices affect others. When your child talks about other children's experiences, gently ask, "And how do you think he/she felt about that?" This will nurture your child's capacity for compassion.
- One task of parents is to help their children develop the skills of discernment -- that is, to make wise choices. This is better taught through example and be establishing limits than by coercion and criticism.
The opposite of 'bowling alone'
"The Meal Box" questions are such a painless way for parents to connect with their children, to enrich family-time, and to counteract the tendency for family members to do their own thing and go off into their own little worlds.
The younger ones may even forget about whose turn it is to play Wii. Teens may pull the iPod earphones out for a few minutes to chime in with their thoughts.
And, if you're empty nesters like my wife and I, you may find "The Meal Box" questions adding an engaging new feature into your day. Think about talking over dinner about "What is one seemingly impossible goal that you would like to see the world achieve during your lifetime?"
You may even skip watching "Wheel of Fortune" some nights to ponder questions like that! - bz
For purchase information, go to www.loyolapress.com.