The Girl Who Escaped ISIS

I didn’t expect this book to hit me between the eyes and challenge my status quo, but it did.

It starts off slow, but gradually lifts up a standard of courage, and somberly reminds that the Universe will come to the aid of the brave.

Only nineteen, but stubborn enough to reject defeat, Farida said, “Fear blinds us to possibilities.” 

Locked in a container in the middle of an ISIS war camp for many hopeless months (and vain escape attempts ending in brutal beatings), Farida discovered a hidden door they had previously overlooked. Then, using that door, executed a risky plan that saved her life and that of five other tortured and malnourished girls.

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Now, anytime I am tempted to chicken out or make excuses, I will remember her example.

Dark Messages from the Night

I wake peacefully in an orderly room.

Yet, here, in the dazzling new light

Myriads of dark voices speak from the night

Of sirens, terror, and trouble

Obliterated rooms in cities of rubble

I throw off the cover and move fluidly to my feet

Hearing pained whispers of those incomplete

With missing limbs, children, and necessary things

My face wet with water while the desktop dings

Then, I choose my breakfast from a chilled collection

While feeble voices moan for help and protection

It is there I digest the message, You are not quite safe

Perched here, precariously, on the edge of fate 


This poem is not about fear, it is about awareness of the troubles millions experience on this planet right now, and about how easy it is to be oblivious to, and surprised by, the imminence of change.

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What Pearl Harbor Day Can Do For Me Today

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  1. Remind me that life is much larger than my own drama.
  2. Confront me with my need for historical knowledge.
  3. Challenge me to care about the millions everywhere who suffer in the wake of war.
  4. Confirm the fragile nature of life as I know it.
  5. Give me a sense of urgency to contribute good to the world.

Those of us who are younger than WWII most likely will think of the movie or give the day a passing nod. But, if we choose to give it more than that, we will be the beneficiary.

Our short lives are pleading for us

Begging for us to stop and care

Our mission here might simply be

To be aware

Even When I Thought I Knew

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what happened at Pearl Harbor until I was confronted with the stories of a family who never received the remains of their son, missing in action from the USS Oklahoma, and from survivors who were stuck in the upturned hull of the USS Arizona for thirty hours, watching hundreds of their shipmates drown while desperately waiting for rescue.

As in this sad case, I have often assumed I knew more than I did, and so offended those who really knew.

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When I reach for a broader knowledge of things I have not experienced (instead of assuming I understand), I honor the suffering of those who really know. When the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor comes on Dec 7th, I’ll be prepared to learn.

Honorable Question

Is there anything I can do to help?

After Earl Morse, a Veterans Hospital PA realized that many of his patients wanted to see the new war memorial in D.C. but would never make it there, he offered to fly with two veterans to the capital. Then he started recruiting pilots and volunteers to help with others. Today, joining groups with similar goals, Honor Flight has given honor and closure to well over 160,000 vets.

logo_headerWhat amazes me is that Honor Flight (as most other service organizations) started with the humble desire to do something, anything.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Criticizing or despairing could never unlock the magic this question does.

Always good to remember when the need around us breaks our hearts.

Pearl Harbor and Other Tragedies

One doesn’t have to be a pessimist to believe that unfortunate, tragic events will continue to plague us. No president, no authority, no edict can prevent the assault. The lessons of experience might help us deter some of them, but no realist can say they are done for good.

Rational (and optimistic) living is about accepting the worst and moving on without allowing fear to call the shots or torture our freedoms (as Obama mentioned in his recent address).

Pearl Harbor Day is best commemorated by people who look courageously to the future and hold themselves accountable for being part of the solution to our world’s challenges.


Who’s To Blame for War?

A Facebook post claiming war is instigated by greedy bankers and exploitive politicians may contain some truth. A nasty fact the post failed to mention was that the “exploiting and greed seeds” are not the exclusive property of the rich and powerful.

We can go ahead and paste the blame on a despicable few while war brews in each and every one of us, while we fight over property with exes and relatives, while fear of scarcity motivates racial, neighborhood, and border “wars,” while siblings threaten each other, while rage leads to murder, and while we wage private wars with the weapons of hateful thoughts and words.

Maybe it is easier on our pride not to share the blame for greed, fear, cruelty, and selfishness.

It certainly doesn’t fix anything.



“So Called Enemies”

I heard Helen Benedict speak yesterday at the Mayborn Literary Conference. I really appreciated this phrase she casually used when discussing the suffering of The Lonely Soldier on both sides of war.

If you have ever wondered what the first step toward noble living is…this may be it: that moment when we see each other, just see each other.

No defense. No tactics. No name calling. Before anything else, humanity. Equanimity. Equality.

In whatever arena you find yourself today, I hope you will put down your weapons long enough to live, to live nobly, to live free of malice.

It’s the first step.

Helen benedict The Lonely Soldier

High Tolerance for Despair and Disappointment

I’ve never been known for either. But, just returning from Washington D.C., I am again inspired by someone who had admirably high tolerance for both: Lincoln. If he hadn’t, much about our lives (particularly in the U.S.) would be altered.

This reminder of the long-term implications of perseverance, hope, and the relentless pursuit of right in the face of opposition and failure has often given me the inspiration to hold on.

There was no light at the end of the tunnel for Lincoln when:

  • the terrible war trudged on, brutally killing and wounding over 0ne million people
  • public opinion was against him for his stand for equality and against secession
  • he faced death, illness, and depression in his own family
  • his own generals disregarded his orders

But, he didn’t quit.



Two Minute Tune-up 3.10.11 There’s More than Meets our Eye

I woke today from a disturbing and frightening dream. Someone had made a wrong decision, costing the life of someone in my family.

Journalist, Janine de Giovanni wrote Madness Visible, A Memoir of War about this nightmare for millions during the Balkan wars.

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, tells the painful story of a girl watching  her murderer and her family from heaven, deciding between revenge or a broader view.

Life is often brutal and nonsensical. There will be times when each of us have to choose between bitterness, numbness or an acceptance that life is much more than meets our eye.

Today I want to be: 1) aware of suffering 2) active as a healer, and 3) assured of a longer story that solves the puzzle.