Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When I Am a Grownup I Will Do Something

Barbara's decades of work as a peace advocate is featured in author Kay Kennedy's new anthology-- a compilation of stories about events in history as seen through the eyes of those who lived it.

The START II Treaty (cooperative threat reduction) targeted a site near our sister city for the building of a decommissioning plant to render weaponry harmless. When a previous site in Russia had attempted to build such a facility, Russian citizens who didn’t understand the plan and were afraid of the project successfully protested and closed down the plant. (It was great to see fledgling democracy at work, but the efforts in the case of stalling a bilateral mutual weapons elimination plan were misguided due to lack of information, education and misunderstandings.)

By the time START II came along, our sister city organization already had a decade of cooperative Russian-American relationship building experience. Mutually cooperative partnerships already existed between our municipal organizations—police and firefighters, mayor and city leaders. We already had healthcare, educational, social and business bridges with frequent personnel exchanges in the oblast (section) where the plant was scheduled to be built. USAID funded our project for $250,000.

As Executive Secretary with the Sister Cities program, Barbara wrote the grant and became the grant administrator for funding the foundational social infrastructure for a cooperative effort between cities that supported building a chemical weapons decommissioning plant in her sister city region in Russia. USAID funded the project as an adjunct to the Cooperative Threat Reduction START II Treaty between the United States and Russia. Her story appears in Kay Kennedy's new anthology Looking Back.

You may read the entire story here...


“What will it feel like to be vaporized? Will it hurt? Will I know right away that I am dead? My family will be dead too. Will we all go to heaven together? What about Jody, my dog? Will she come too?” The never-ending cycle of uninvited thoughts and the heart pounding fear was a nightly ritual. I tried to shift my focus to the coolness of summer sheets and pulled the comforter up to my chin. Even in summer I insisted on a blanket or comforter. Maybe in my young mind, the extra cover or extra weight would somehow protect me. An illusion can save you sometimes, even when you’re dealing with insanity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Confession Letter to Friends.. I Am an Addict

Hi my friend,

This is a difficult letter to write but I have decided to come clean.

After a great deal of anguish and soul searching, I have accepted that the only way to overcome this problem is to admit to myself and others that the problem exists..

I think I have an addiction and I am asking for your help.... It's like a monkey on your back alright-- that stalking compulsion that demands that you get the next fix, and soon. I'll admit it, I am addicted. But I can't help myself, really I can't. I've tried to kick the habit but haven't had any luck. I quit smoking several years ago. They say smoking cessation is the hardest; don't you believe it. That was a snap compared to this urge, this gotta-have-it-now compulsion. It grabs you hard and doesn't let go. Oh and I'll have to admit I do get satisfaction from even just the licking; I mean, how can you resist? I am hopelessly hooked. I've been known to call friends all hours of the day and night if I need to feel that huge whole-body rush, the tingle, the delirious stupor from having even just one because I don't have one right now.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Death At The Window

I heard the dull sickening thud,
swallowed hard that last sip
as “Oh no!” involuntarily hissed
through the opening in my lips.
I rose slowly from the bed,
slow motion to the window
to see if injury was waiting.

But I couldn’t see from there
so I stepped outside
surveyed the stones and bushes
and almost missed you…
a speckle of feathers,
a trickle of blood,
but still warm
now in my gloved hands.

I willed the Reiki
through your body,
said a prayer
and held you for awhile
cursing death
as if that could hold it back
or stem the tide
of life force leaking.

Retrieved the Rescue Remedy
and the stethoscope
holding it to your breast
only to hear nothing
but the moan
that leaked from me.

As if I needed another reminder
that death can come knocking
at the window
silent and uninvited
arrive between sips,
turn instantly bitter the taste,
the cup so innocent--
a simple hope of morning coffee.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I Heard Grandma in the Tea

I wonder where that teapot is
the wedding gift
god awful olive green
circa 1970
like my marriage
also circa seventies
eventually lost its steam.

In the back of my mind
that green whistle shrill
mimicking grandma’s pot
and bringing back
a capsule in time
her two room flat
train whistle in the dark
the tick of the clock
the new pendulum grandpa made
when that timekeeper lost its tock.

The sound of sirens
from down in the street
the squeak of the springs
climbing up on the bed
nestled in the corner
of the living room
and the plaintive wail
of the barely weaned puppy
she brought in from the cold
and kept.

The scratch of the squirrel
with claws on the glass
looking for nuts
through the window
she fed them from.
The sound of a waif
who finds sanctuary
and wishes life were easy as that
while sobs find their way
from a chest that hurts
and is too small
and too young
to contain them.

The squeal of the hinges on the oven door
as she takes out the pie to cool.
The ice box door clicking shut
as she pours cold milk for me
and sips her tea
while telling of the apple picking
rhubarb and sugar
and sensory stories
sweet and robust
much like the liquid
and to a sensitive child
drinking very much like love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

First Place in Curtis Brown Literary Short Story Contest Awarded to Barbara

First place in the Curtis Brown Literary Short Story Contest was awarded to Barbara last week for her story about Maddie, a handicapped little girl with a neuromuscular disease who is dependent on a ventilator to breathe. Contest entries were to address the subject of "Invention" or "Inventiveness." Barbara's entry was about the Tickle Monster who assists with Maddie's exercises, massage and rib mobilization. An offer to publish is being considered with Maddie's mom having the last word.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Are you one of the ones we have been waiting for? When we save humanity, save the world, and create peace on the planet, I am convinced the method will be surprisingly unconventional. Would you agree that the methods for destroying it are surprisingly unconventional? Terrorism? Chemical weapons? Nukes? Suicide bombers? Global Climate change? And do these things sound like the products of rational minds, rational actions?

The twentieth century fostered a collective consciousness born of fear and limitation. The perpetual threat and cold war caused us to ask not “how can we create a lasting global peace?” but rather: “how can we extend our survival, and for how long?” Feel the difference?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

When I Am a Grownup I Will Do Something- Excerpt from short story from "Looking Back"

Looking Back, an Anthology by Kay Kennedy that features stories from the 1940s forward, is a unique view of history-- through the lens of the contributors who lived those stories and who watched history unfold. Some knew they were watching history being made and some only learned it in retrospect and upon reflection.

My contribution was a short story......... When I Am a Grownup I Will Do Something-- a recounting of my work as an Executive Officer with Sister Cities building Russian-American medical, educational and social exchanges, that chronicles my trip to Siberia to build social infrastructure for a local decommissioning facility for weapons of mass destruction as the writer and administrator of a grant from USAID (United States Agency for International Development.)

Two of my poems also appear in Looking Back......... The Wall: Viet Nam War Memorial; Missle Silo in North Dakota

Here is one...


Lonely, cold, deserted,
empty road goes nowhere
through empty fields
some farmer’s land
leased for doom,
the nearest house
ten miles away.

We stop the car
near frosty wheat fields
golden in summer,
Dakota glory—
barren now
like this feeling
in my belly.

Eerie silence
surrounds a chain-link fence,
narrow access lane
parts frozen earth,
leads to cold gray steel
fifty yards from sanity.

I wrap my courage round me,
pull tight my coat
as if I could keep out this cold
or the fear.
Tell my friend to wait,
must do this alone.

Take a step toward ominous,
this inconceivable object
from inconceivable minds.
There is nothing human here,
only icy wind that shrieks
monuments to failure.

Chain-link security,
barbed wire madness,
locks a dome-like structure,
cold-steel-nightmare under ground,
one of countless others
poised to kill half a planet—
people without faces,
humans without names.

I try to rein an insane mind
that begins to wander
toward the unthinkable.
Imagination not in check
replays archival footage,
rears a metal monster
from this darkened hole
that must end close to hell.

An unfamiliar feeling
shakes my body violent
not from cold
or Dakota winters.
My hand reaches toward the sky
as if one hand could stop it
pull it back to earth
or muffle the rising scream.

For a copy of the book see... http://boomersrememberhistory.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TELLULAH- A dog saved by a hand from heaven

I was starting to panic. Flipping on the flashers, I got out of the van. Not satisfied with honking at her, traffic began to honk at me. One couple smiled sweetly as they passed through the danger zone. Perhaps they thought this was funny. I was not amused

I had spent the last few minutes trying to herd this strangely behaving German Shepherd out of the center of the highway. She wouldn’t move off the road, trotting toward me instead, oblivious to the dangers. She was in pretty bad shape—ribs protruding, bony prominences on her hips jutting up out of her pelvic girdle. I could have spanned her hind quarters with my hands, the thumbs touching, she was so thin.

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...