Entries categorized "On Writing"

Bad Things Happen When Good People Are Silent

Last week I wrote about 234 Nigerian girls who had been kidnaped from their boarding school in Chibok by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The mainstream media was slow to cover the story, but with pressure from the forces of social media (#BringBackOurGirls) and alternate news outlets, the world continues to get more information about the plight of these 234 school girls.

Abubakar Shekau, the supposed leader of Boko Haram, released a video today in which he laughs as he announces, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah...There is a market for selling humans...I sell women." The video was originally released by Agence France-Presse. Watch the clip with the link below. It's only about a minute. Be prepared to look at the face of evil as you note the leader's horrifying smile. 



The girls were kidnapped April 14, and as we sit three weeks later, the Nigerian government, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, is no closer to bringing them home. It has been reported that the girls are being held deep within the dense Simbisa forest, making a rescue mission extremely difficult. 

But who is Boko Haram? Boko Haram is a muderous terrorist organization. Literally translated, their name means "Western education is a sin." They want to overthrow the Nigerian government and make Nigeria a "pure Islamist state" governed by Sharia law.

Boko Haram members forbid interaction with the Western World and are radically anti-education. They believe education should be limited to reading the Qur'an. As a result, they target symbols of western ideology with their violence. They bomb and attack people associated with churches, police stations and schools. 

Bring Back Our GirlsIf you haven't heard of Boko Haram  before, you're not alone. They came onto the world radar screen about five years ago. In November 2013, the U.S. State Department classified Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. Their violence has escalated since their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody.  Since his death, Boko Haram has been responsible for countless bombings of churches and police stations in northern Nigeria which led to the current state of emergency in the region.

The violence escalated last July, when Boko Haram attacked and killed 42 students at the Yobe State School. In  Septmeber 2013, Boko Haram attacked the College of Agriculture in Gujba and killed 40 students and in February, 2014, 29 teen boys were executed at the Federal Governement College Buni Yadi. The kidnaping of 234 girls last month could indicate Boko Haram is becoming more brazen and organized.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry happens to be visiting Africa and was quoted as saying, "The U.S. will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes." Talks continue as to how the U.S. can best help rescue these young women. Since the #BringBackOurGirls campaign began, people are wearing red and hosting rallies all over the world to bring attention to the girls' situation.

Thomas Jeff quoteEveryone I've spoken with agrees the kidnapping of these girls is beyond horrific. But what can we actually do besides read the articles and watch the coverage?  Thanks to social media, we can do a lot. By tweeting or writing Facebook posts with #BringBackOurGirls, we create solidarity. We let the world (Nigerians, our American leaders and more) know we are watching and we care. By tweeting messages of hope using #BringBackOurDaughters, mothers in Nigeria will know parents and good people across the world empathize with their pain. 

Often people tell me they don't have time for social media.  I have real friends. I'm out doing real things. I don't spend my life online. I understand. I'm busy, too. Or I hear, social media is so narcissistic. No one is asking you to give up anything or become a tin-foil cap-wearing hermit. No one needs to ignore the job, kids, or grooming habits to become an active citizen of the world. I just want to encourage good people to speak up. Your phone/ laptop is a world stage. Use it for good. Conversations are happening and the world needs your voice.

P.S. By liking a post on Facebook about a distressing topic, you are not signalling to the world you "like" what is happening. A "like" means hey, I read this and I find it important, intriguing, etc. When posts receive little interaction from readers, FB stops showing those posts.

P.S.S. Hey, are you a Hairpin Turns Ahead subscriber yet? Get the latest post delivered to your inbox in the event you miss it in your FB or Twitter feed. Simply add your email address in the box in the lefthand column that says "subscribe."





Back Where I Belong

Today I returned to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in Dayton, OH. I came to the three-day conference in 2012 before I started writing Hairpin Turns Ahead. Two years ago, sitting in that first session, I remember thinking, This is where I belong. 

Today I arrived in Dayton, two years later, tired and stressed. It takes so much work to prepare for a trip without kids, I don't even call it a vacation anymore. Halfway through the drive, I realized I forgot the one thing I didn't want to forget -- my business cards.  And while dressing for dinner, I realized I forgot one other thing-- my right shoe -- and unfortunately I had the gaul to take it out on my left shoe.  Feeling fat in my Eileen Fisher, and uncomfortable in my back-up shoes, I finally left the safe haven behind my laptop and headed to dinner to meet my online writer friends in real life.

During the seven-hour drive to Ohio, I reflected on my writing and Hairpin Turns Ahead. In nineteen months, I've written thousands of words, was cast in a Listen To Your Mother show, finished fourth in Blogger Idol and built a loyal following through social media. In addition, I've made a lot of mistakes. And to be perfectly honest, since the new year, I've had trouble finding the funny. I've worried so much about readers liking my posts, that it's paralyzed my writing.   

Quotation-Erma-Bombeck-laughter-courage-humor-tragedy-Meetville-Quotes-34090Lately the most common question I'm asked is, "All this writing you do....so, what's it all for?" Is the writing for me? Is the writing for my readers? Is it for mere entertainment? Is it for some greater good? I'm not sure.

However, there are two things I do know for sure. I need to write. There are words and stories and ideas and just plain kooky thoughts that I need to get out of my head and onto paper. And most importantly, humor is my coping mechanism. When things are uncomfortable, painful, scary, unknown, or upsetting, I rely on humor -- not as a diversion, but as a path to accepting certain truths

Tonight at dinner, our keynote speaker Phil Donohue spoke about his good friend and former Ohio neighbor, Erma Bombeck. He reminded us that Erma wrote the truth about topics that were often full of pretense. She opened the door for American women to be honest about their roles by using humor. And tonight I think Phil Donohue reignited the writing spark in me when he said, "The opportunities to skewer balloons of pretense are everywhere." Thanks, Phil. That was just what I needed to hear. And once again, I found myself thinking, This is where I belong.



My Dad Led Me Out On A Limb

Dad and me little
My dad and me in 1968.

My dad likes to live on the edge, and he raised me to feel comfortable out on a limb, too.

 My dad always says, "Rules are meant to be broken."  It drove my mom a little crazy, but I know what he meant. If someone tells you no, find another way.  Think out of the box. Don't let others tell you something can't be done. 

My dad always says, "C students rule the world." That didn't go over well with my mom either, but I know what he meant. Be a well-rounded person who can carry herself in the real world. Meet people. Know people. Don't spend your life in a carrel at the library studying theories. Get out there, experience life and do stuff.

My dad always says, "Do your own thing. Don't follow the crowd." That was a hard one for me. I wish I woud have followed this advice earlier in my life. But I wanted to fit in, while my dad urged me to stand out. Thankfully as an adult, I have come around and found it's a lot more exhilarating and fulfilling to forge a fresh path.

My dad always says, "The early bird gets the worm."  I still tune that one out. I don't want a worm - not even laced with tequila. 

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