Watch! They Can Do It!

As a mother and grandmother, I’m completely bereft as the result of the continuing murders of our nation’s children. I’ve seen a lot of battles throughout my life, but I have never experienced what these kids and their families are going through at this moment in time. As our young ones go out the door to school every morning we wonder if they are safe from the brutality that has begun to smother our nation. This is not a political crisis. It is a moral crisis.

My own kids and grandkids are the most important people in my life. They are the future. I want to protect them. But so far my vote hasn’t helped the situation. Every school shooting only brings more stubborness on the part of our government and the folks at the NRA who line the pockets of those who are supposedly in power. During the Viet Nam Era, it was the youth that kept our eyes open. They did sit-ins. They marched. They got shot at and some were killed. They kept telling us that things were not right with our world and that we were losing ourselves and our nation to a war that we could not win. I don’t want to see a generation of young people massacred for the sake of an immoral nation that supposes itself Holy and Christian.

After last weeks tragic school shootings in Florida, it is the children who are picking up the pieces and are attempting to open the eyes of all of those who refuse to see the horrible mess we adults have allowed to happen. The children of this country are under seige by those whose only interest is is to keep their pockets lined so that they can continue to live the pointless life-styles they so treasure. In this country we are at war with ourselves and the victims of this battle are the children. Despite their fear, these future leaders of America are stepping up and taking over for the blind adults who refuse to bring change to our world.

This past week I have heard well meaning adults say that what these children are doing is useless. They will be dissapointed. They will fail to change anything. But we have handed them the responsibility for their lives by not protecting them from trigger happy, insane individuals who can easily buy assault weapons that are meant only for killing people. They cannot wait for those in power to wake up. They don’t have time to sit back and pray that this unconscionable war against themselves will stop on its own.

If the current leaders of our country cannot protect our children, give these young ones a chance. They will prevail. They have been left to protect themselves. I am behind them and support their efforts to bring change to this shameless, hypocritical world.

They Can Do It!

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass, A Review

We can grow anywhere if we never give up.

We can grow anywhere if we never give up.

Last month at Book Expo America in Chicago, I met a number of fellow She Writes Press authors. We took turns greeting passersby and promoting our books in the SWP booth. During my first session there I was accompanied by Linda Kass, author of Tasa’s Song, a novel set in Eastern Poland, about a young Jewish girl, caught in the cross-hairs between Communist Russia and Nazi Germany, during WWII. This book was awarded the 2016 Bronze Medal in Historical Fiction by the Independent Publisher Book awards.

Having spent two years living in Germany just after the war as a young child, and seeing the destruction of that country, I have always been interested in the Holocaust; searching for answers as to why it happened and how the survivors who were targeted by Hitler’s horrific regime came through such an unspeakable time. As the daughter of an American soldier who fought and liberated a number of concentration camps, the focus of my interest has always been on Germany itself. But I have been mostly unaware of how the people of Poland lived through the upheaval and mass destruction of innocent lives as a result of the war. And being of Polish descent myself, I have felt remiss in my ignorance.

Kass’ beautifully written story, inspired by her mother’s life and how she came to America, has filled in many of the blanks for me. I now understand the intensity of the sudden invasion of Poland by Russia, making everyday life a challenge because of the many changes that the Russians forced upon the Poles. When the Nazis drove the Russian occupation back, and started rounding up the Jews to be taken away, Tasa’s family hid underneath a friend’s barn, away from the light of day for an extended period of time. This is a story filled with loss, love, and the grace it takes to keep going in a shattered world.

For me, what is most engaging about this story is how Kass, weaves in the music that Tasa, an aspiring violinist, always carries with her in her head. Through her constant moves and the unending months when she cannot play her violin for fear that any sound she makes could give away her family’s hiding place, it sings in her heart. Using exquisite, lyrical narrative, Kass explores the way a life filled with music can bring us through life extreme adversity, helping the human spirit to shine and endure. Filled with detailed descriptions of daily life in war-torn Poland, this book should not be missed.


As often as I can, I plan to read and review books by authors already published or is in the process of being published by She Writes Press. I feel extremely fortunate to be included in such a group of talented women writers. Brooke Warner and all of the women at She Writes Press have given me unending attention during the sometimes difficult process of getting my book off the ground. From the editors to the publicists they recommend, I feel well supported and grateful that they are there to answer the simplest questions and help as my book moves toward publication.  To learn more about She Writes Press go here.

On Fear and the Growing Call to Wake Up

IMG_0124In 1946, when I was four years old, I went to Germany with my mother to join my father. He was an intelligence officer for the occupation forces after WWII. He had been one of those who liberated a number of concentration camps to free those who had been held for years in torturous conditions because of their religious beliefs and genetic makeup. At a young age I saw the remains of bombed out buildings and standing walls pocked with bullet holes. I spent time with other children my age and their families, who had lived through the Holocaust, and were happy to have Americans in their midst. I learned to speak German and was my mother’s interpreter. Of course I don’t remember any of the conversations I had with my friends, but I must have been curious about the destruction I witnessed, and surely asked questions.

My parents hired a housekeeper who also took care of me when they were otherwise engaged. I have blocked her from my memory. My mother told me about her when I was older and could understand. The housekeeper was apparently a fine person, but when she heard airplanes overhead, she became hysterical. Even though the war was over, she was terrorized by her memories of the bombings that had taken place all around her. She would grab my arm and scream as she dragged me in terror to the basement of our home where we would be safe. I became afraid of the sound of airplanes myself. One day when I heard a plane overhead I suggested to my mother that we hide in the basement. The housekeeper was subsequently fired and I was left with my nightmares.

When I was in third grade, I discovered a packet of photographs that my father had taken at the camps that he and his company had liberated. I can still see the stacks of dead bodies piled one on top of another. There were images of walking skeletons making their way through the gates to freedom. When my mother found me looking at them she grabbed the photos and burned them. I don’t remember any conversations that might have followed, but those photos have been seared into my brain ever since.

I still have a deep interest in World War II and the Holocaust. As I grew up I read as much as I could, seeking answers to the burning question of how this could have happened. I even read, Andersonville, a novel by McKinley Kantor, about the 45,000 union soldiers that were held during the Civil War. And to this day I am ashamed that this country put Japanese-American citizens in interment camps during WWII.

My early education in the matters of war have clearly been something I’ve needed to learn about and have played a significant part in my diagnosis with PTSD. Though I have done much work to free myself from its grip, it can still trigger fear and anxiety. The pit of my stomach feels like it’s filled with gravel that churns like a cement mixer. “Fight or flight” sets in quickly, and I easily become paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.

For months now I have felt an icy terror growing inside of me. When I watch the news and hear Donald Trump urging his fans to “take out” protesters or anyone who looks like they might not agree with him during his rallies, I am beside myself. During one campaign rally, Trump said of one protestor: “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out in a stretcher, folks. I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”

Now, urged on as if by a call to war, Trump supporters and protestors alike are physically fighting it out at his rallies. Trump’s behavior and his unwillingness to stop the violence brings to mind my early experiences in Germany and what I have learned since. My concern for the future and for my children and grandchildren grows like a patch of kudzu that quickly overtakes acres of land and any buildings in its way.

I am not political by nature here on my blog, on my Facebook page or on Twitter. I try to look at the world with compassion and positivity — Surely things aren’t as bad as they seem. I believe in living in peace. Negativity only seems to make matters worse and can spread like the contents of a broken jar of molasses, seeping slowly into every nook and cranny of the world. But THIS IS A MORAL ISSUE and I must speak out and ask myself and all of those around me, how can we let this happen again? Doesn’t Trump’s hatred of Mexicans, Muslims, and anyone else who doesn’t follow his rhetoric bring us reminders of the past?

It’s the Donald Trumps of the world and their followers who bring on the violence we are seeing here in our own country. As reported by the Washington Post, John McGraw of Linden, NC said in an interview after he attacked Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, “You bet I liked it. We don’t know if he’s ISIS.” He ended the interview by saying, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

We all of course, have the right to gather together and express our views. And we also have the right to peacefully protest against those with whom we do not agree. We do NOT, however, have the right to hurt those with whom we disagree. Remember the Holocaust when 6 million Jews were murdered along with anyone who resisted Hitler’s planned genocide?

Remembering My Dad As A Hero

IMG_0009I considered saving this post for Father’s Day next month, but after much thought decided this post was most apt for Memorial Day, because it was my dad’s participation in the First Special Service Force, during WWII that shaped his life more than anything else. Called the Devil’s Brigade, by the Nazi’s because of their dare-devil bravery and skills, this American-Canadian commando unit was organized in 1942. You can learn more about them here.

1st  Special Service Force Patch.

1st Special Service Force Patch.

The day after marrying my mother on February 14, 1942, Dad enlisted and was sent to Helena, Montana, where he trained as a paratrooper, learned to ski, and fight in winter conditions. On completing training in 1943, his unit was sent to Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands, where he and his comrades were to take down the Japanese forces gathering there. But finding that the Japanese had evacuated the island in anticipation of their arrival, the force was sent to Italy. Dad was dropped over Anzio, and worked his way up the boot of Italy into Southern France and eventually to Germany, where he and his men opened up the gates of German concentration camps, to set those who had survived the Holocaust free. He remained in Germany after the war, working in intelligence for the army. Mom and I joined him there in 1946 and my brother, Zed, was born in Munich, Germany, in November of 1947.

As Dad worked his way up to the rank of Major, he was part of numerous catastrophic battles and traumatic events. After his drop over Italy, he became aware that the plane scheduled to drop troops in the same spot after his, tragically dropped them into the Mediterranean, due to the same bad weather conditions my father’s plane had encountered. The entire load of soldiers drowned.

Never physically wounded himself,  Dad found himself to be the last man standing, as his unit worked at taking out a nest of Nazi’s. After another battle, he saw his best buddy’s head blown off as they stood together overlooking an area they believed they’d cleared of German troops.

Dad rarely talked about his experiences or his medals for bravery, but it was evident that the war had brought about huge changes in him. Mom always said he wasn’t the man she had married when he returned home after the war.

At the time, a returning soldier’s constant mood swings and violent behaviors were blown off as Shell Shock, something he and others in his position would grow out of. If they didn’t, they were thought to be lacking resilience and were poor soldier material, despite their heroic acts during the war.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is the result of participating in war, being a victim of abuse, or being witness to, or affected by a traumatic event. It came to everyone’s attention during the war in Viet Nam, and as our knowledge in the field of psychiatry has expanded, troops returning from the Middle-East are checked for this debilitating syndrome that can take down families if left untreated.

Throughout his life, Dad fought a war within himself. He ran our family as a military unit, inspecting the way we polished our shoes, made our beds, and kept ourselves. Finger nails had to be clean and trimmed, and our ears were to be without wax or dirt.

Our rooms had to be organized and spotless. If he observed a book out of place on a bureau he would sweep the book and everything else onto the floor, demanding that we clean up the mess he made.

He could be very silly.

He could be very silly.

He was big on punishment and beat my brothers and me with a horse crop. We never knew what to expect from him and rarely felt completely safe when he was at home.When my parents fought, which they did frequently, I feared Mom would leave and I’d spend the rest of life living alone with Dad.

When he died in 1982, I began working through my inner turmoil and recovery from my own PTSD. Yes, the children and spouses of those with that disorder often have it, too.

Writing a memoir and keeping a journal have helped me to recall even the special moments I spent with with my father. That when I was small he’d collect a big bowl of snow after a storm, drizzling it with maple syrup and orange rind as a special treat to celebrate a day when we could all stay at home.

Without yelling at me, he taught me how to ride a bike, water ski, and drive a car. He sadly gave me away to my husband, Bill, at our wedding, and when my own kids arrived, he became my friend, as I watched him soften and play with his grandchildren.

I remember the last time I saw him alive in the final stages of bladder cancer. He told me he didn’t want to live any longer. Upon advice from his doctor, I told him that he could make his exit by simply pulling out the IVs and lines keeping him alive. Several nights later he died, having pulled his own plug.

Dad and Mom with Zed and me.

Dad and Mom with Zed and me.


Though I’ll never forget how he abused me, forgiveness and love have taken the place of hatred and fear. He did the best that he could with what was available to him at the time. For that alone I see him as a hero. Unless you’ve been in the shoes of someone who suffers from flashbacks, panic attacks, and all the rest that goes along with PTSD, it is impossible to understand the pain and fear of living in world where trauma and stress seem to be around every corner.

Recovery and forgiveness are possible. The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel A.Van der Kolk, MD, and Michele Rosenthal’s, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity, are two books that have helped me gain an understanding of how trauma changes the way our brains operate and how to begin the road to recovery. If you or a loved one suffers post-trauma, give them a read.

Has trauma shaped your life?

You’ll find out more about my own journey through trauma and PTSD in my upcoming memoir, ME, MYSELF AND MOM, My Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing.

Satire, Black Comedy, and Terrorism

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

Yellowstone National Park, February, 2007.

The past week’s abhorrent shootings in Paris are said to be the beginning of a new age of terrorism that some say cannot be stopped. Cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles are prime targets for insane fundamentalist activity, and there are new terror alerts posted everywhere. We’re told to be vigilant and be aware of everything that is going on around us.  On my last trip on Amtrak, there were signs all over place saying, “If You See Something, Say Something,” encouraging travelers like myself to speak up about any unsettling activity they notice as we move from place to place.

I do not support or defend those who killed the French cartoonists and the hostages and I strongly believe in freedom of speech. But I’m forced to wonder that if we stopped lambasting other people’s religions, spirituality, and those who are different from us, things might change just a little bit.

I believe that much of today’s humor, like the “jokes” I heard at the Golden Globe’s on Sunday night, is shamefully distasteful. Was it really necessary to roast Bill Cosby, for his detestable behavior toward women on a program that is supposed to be celebrating creativity and brilliance? Cosby is already being punished for his acts of uninvited sexual advances, even though it hasn’t yet been proven in a court of law.

I personally do not find humor based on anger to be funny. It is hurtful.

In satire or black humor, people aren’t maimed or gunned down in hate crimes like those in Paris, but they can be hurt none-the-less. Consider the number of gay men and women, young and old, who have committed suicide because others have had “fun” calling them monsters of one sort or another.

Our country, “The Land of The Free and home of the brave,” has always had terrorists among us. There are hate crimes committed every day here, and those who commit them are not usually Muslims.

Remember the Civil Rights Movement, and the number of innocent African Americans who suffered at the hands of “upstanding, Christian” white people?

I recently spent a few days with a person who is not an American citizen. His satirical rants about “you Americans,” set my generally positive attitude towards everyone on edge. By the end of his visit I was more than a bit offended.

There are “Ugly Americans” among us, as William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, coined them in their book by that same title in 1958. We are just as hateful as anybody else and often behave miserably when we visit other countries. But we’re also responsible for doing great things around the world for people who are different from us.

Other countries also do great things for the world. Sometimes their people make the headlines like, Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate ever, who works on behalf of girls and women and their right to be educated. Others humbly struggle to make things right, without recognition. But those who get the most recognition, are the haters and fundamentalists who shoot and blow innocent people up.

The gathering of people and officials from all over the world, who rallied in Paris on Sunday, heartened me. What a wonderful way of bringing people of all ethnicities together in support of free speech and peace. I am ashamed, however, that our administration chose not to send a higher official to participate with the other world leaders who felt it was their duty to be there. It has been reported that Attorney General, Eric Holder, was in Paris at the time, but did not to attend.

Some of us complain about needing to be politically correct all of the time. But I believe that doing so is an act of kindness, and that we’d go a long way in diminishing some the hatred we’re witnessing in our world today, if we just a bit more careful.

If we can be kind and helpful to those around us, rather than put them down because they believe in a different God than we do, maybe we can make a difference in what happens in our world. It probably won’t stop terrorists from blowing up innocent people, but it’s a step in the right direction. By doing so, we can mend the hearts of many and take the first step in bringing peace and unity to all of the people we share our beautiful planet with.