All posts by Meryl Selig

About Meryl Selig

I'm an anthropologist at heart, intrigued and engaged by observing how we live: what we do, what we think, what we say (you get the idea)... all of the "stuff" that defines our lives. I've been amusing or boring people with my opinions and observations in person or by writing (too) long narratives in not-the-best-places: emails, texts and Facebook comments. These word-weary fans asked me to go public, and to stop clogging their inboxes. As you can see, I am not quite blonde. Not convinced that the universe needs another blogger, but with consideration for friends' sensibilities, I've turned to blogging as a place to report on what's going on in that space between my ears.

The Girl Effect in Action: “Trust in Education” at work in Afghanistan

I’m reposting this blog, nearly a year later — in support of “The Girl Effect” campaign that is now residing (in part) at this site:

PLEASE scroll on down and read this post, watch the video and yes, visit Tara’s site to see what others are doing and saying in support of The Girl Effect.

You don’t need to be a girl to support the premise of The Girl Effect!

This post is about as serious as Blonde can get. Too many girls and young women are living under inexcusable circumstances… but these can be fixed. Attention must be paid. Action can be taken. Find your way to make a difference. Thanks.

It’s a fact that all over the world, women are the “keepers of their culture.” Ironically and tragically, in many countries — some of the most populous on Earth — the very culture in which women raise their kids denigrates them. The stories of individual girls and young women are movingly told by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their new book, “Half the Sky.” I just finished reading it and urge you to read it, too.

I’ve also read Nick Kristof’s op-eds in the New York Times for the past ten years. He tells hauntingly vivid stories of the tragic plight of girls who’ve been victims of sex trafficking, stoning, torture and maiming. Kristof names the girls. Places them in their cultural contexts. And he allows them to speak for themselves. “Half the Sky” and his op-eds offer narratives of specific girls’ and womens’ lives and demonstrate how very simple steps can measurably improve outcomes in education and health care. Helping one girl or a dozen stay in school longer has been proven to help their entire families. We used to call it the “ripple effect.” It works.

Every day, millions of girls and young women are exploited sexually, economically and socially. “Human rights” simply don’t apply to them. In some very populous countries, cattle are more highly valued than women. This can change, and we can be active in this change.

On November 16, 2010, life coach and author Tara Sophia Mohr invited 30 influential women to write about “The Girl Effect” and post to her blog, Wise Living, as well as on their own blogs. Just a few days later, over 130 people have added their posts. This is beyond what we used to call “consciousness raising.” This is motivation to act — in whatever way works for you… and me.

Some of the most oppressed and repressed and brutalized girls in the world live in Afghanistan. You don’t have to fly there yourself to help them.
. You don’t even have to start your own 501(c)(3). There are many organizations already up and running, and you can add your strength, skills and resources to one that appeals to you. Here’s one that with five years of accomplishment and it’s getting stronger every month:

A few years ago, I met a retired lawyer named Budd MacKenzie who lives in the San Francisco area. He was initially inspired by reading Greg Mortensen’s “Three Cups of Tea.” The book changed Budd’s life. He decided he could make a difference. Consequently, he and his supporters have improved the lives of hundreds of families in Afghanistan. It all started with expanding access to education in rural villages.

In 2003, Budd founded “Trust in Education.” TIE started by building a secular school in Lalander, Afghanistan, three hours from Kabul. It opened in March, 2005. As Budd states, “Education is the long-term solution to everything and they love to learn.”

TIE’s schools are open to boys and girls, but it’s been the girls who benefit most. For these village girls, TIE offers the only way out from being married by age 12. They are eager to learn to read and write and think for themselves. Despite the pressures imposed by a tradition-bound community, girls do not want forced marriages, serial pregnancies, and lives spent in household confinement.

Building Zohra's School for Girls
The beginning of "Zohra's School for Girls"

Afghan girls going to school
Girls Going to Their School!

Could be our daughters...
The Girl Effect starts with them

“We have been tallying up the numbers, preparing for next years budget. We now sponsor classes attended by 1297 students, 751 of which are girls. Five years ago there were 90 boys and 40 girls.

That’s one thing about becoming involved in supporting education. The fourth grader expects there to be a fifth grade next year. Our commitment can’t be any less than theirs. Help!!! We don’t have an exit strategy!!”
Trust in Education email, November 17, 2010

(please ignore the obligatory opening “ad” from Smilebox…the video is worth it!)

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To Pee Wee or Not

When my daughter was a pre-schooler, her dad and I were pretty picky about what we allowed her to watch on TV.  Especially on Saturday mornings, when kids’ programs were mainly poorly-produced cartoons that didn’t even pretend to be anything other than pitches for the cartoons’ licensed toys.  As a creative director at an ad agency and media producer,  Julie’s dad had especially high standards for what he called “production value.” In his view, production value included the quality of content. (This also applied to books, so minimally artistic, cheaply produced books … e.g., the Berenstain Bears series, Disney-derived paperbacks… were off limits).

Dad’s intent was straightforward: he wanted our daughter to grow up with an appreciation for quality creative work. He believed in encouraging an expansive imagination, especially during childrens’ early years …. before school teachers introduced and rewarded logical, pragmatic thinking at the expense of fantasy.

On Saturday mornings, Pee Wee’s Playhouse reigned supreme. Great production value! Humor for kids and parents! Creative sets! Real actors, not sketchily drawn cartoons! Skits that played to kids’ still-loosely-defined ideas of “the real world.”

Pee Wee’s Playhouse’s run ended at about the same time Julie lost interest in Saturday morning television. But over the years when we watched it together, I became a crazed fan.

A few days ago, the Pee Wee Herman Show opened on Broadway. I’ve been thinking about buying tickets ever since I first heard about it last spring.  Now, I’m wondering whether the TV show will succeed as a live musical. It’s an unabashed trip back in time for hard-core Pee Wee’s fans, but in a very different medium and context.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse was innovative and wacky. Its “production value” stood out in relief from other kids programs in the eighties. The live-on-stage Pee Wee Herman Show  may have revived the wackiness, but on Broadway, the production value is nothing new.

I always jump on a reason to go to New York, but this time, I’m not sure it’s worth the trip.

We’re Alive Until We’re Not

I don’t usually write posts of this length, but once I started, I had to keep on writing. This is dedicated to the unique gentleman who allowed me to share the last 18 months of his life. I will carry his memory forward with me. And here’s a loving shout-out to the dedicated staff at “famous 4A,” the hospice unit where I volunteer.  Please share this with anyone who doubts the value of hospice care.  Hospice offers a gift of time to those who chose this experience at the end of their lives.

Mr. S and I met eighteen months ago when he moved to the hospice where I work as a volunteer. At the time, he was a robust man whose appearance was initially intimidating. His pointedly-arched, bristly white eyebrows; piercing blue eyes; white hair swept back from his receding hairline…revealing a brow and forehead whose shape indicated that a sharp mind was operating within.

Those first days, he kept the door to his room closed, but thanks to the glass paneled top-half of the door, I could see him sitting by the wide window, looking out at the main entrance and driveways of the hospital, watching the comings and goings of people, the assortment of vehicles (buses, vans, ambulances, passenger cars, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, scooters and wheelchairs), and the landscape of hospital grounds and rolling hills beyond.

Continue reading We’re Alive Until We’re Not

Looking for My Voice

When I was in elementary school, I was placed towards the back of the girls’ alto section when we had chorus or practice for  school performances. At that stage in my singing life, height was the determining factor in where you were placed. Progressing through junior high and high school, my height stayed pretty much average, but I found myself standing in the no-man’s land of vocal outcasts, a mix of lip-synchers and earnest-but-tone-deaf crooners. (People in this music-loving group grow up to be the people who belt out hymns in church, testing the charitable spirits of people in adjacent pews.)  When public singing is called for, I’m an enthusiastic lip-syncher, mouthing the words to nearly every song I love.

Maybe that’s why the topic of “voice”  fills me with a hobbling mix of insecurity and longing. I long to be a freely expressive singer, but I self-limit to solo car travel, road bike rides on windy days and shower-time. Now, I’m faced with finding my “voice” in writing.  For me, the idea of voice, sung or written, is fraught with anxiety. Continue reading Looking for My Voice

Sleeping with Dogs

Six years ago we bought our first miniature dachshund puppy. Nobody warned us (until it was too late) that this breed is genetically wired to burrow into their owners’ beds at night. Now, we stop everyone we see at the human end of a leashed dachshund, asking where their dog sleeps. The results of extensive intercept-research: doxies in owners’ beds, 99%. The other 1% must be too ashamed to tell the truth

Moxie at rest, looking innocent

Continue reading Sleeping with Dogs