finding a more authentic, playful life --- finding your story

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Story Diary

With everything happening these days in Iraq. I am reminded of the small book I wrote 2 years ago called, Story Diary. It was published as part of the Veterans Book Project.

It speaks to my experience in the Middle East in the fall of 2009 meeting with hundreds of Iraqi refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It was a life changing experience and created in me a need to advocate for refugees. I am currently writing a larger book, a memoir, about the experience of falling in love with one particular refugee. The book is called Three Days in Damascus, hopefully published soon.

But in the meantime, here is an excerpt from Story Diary.

The next house had eight people living in one small apartment and they were all fighting to talk, to tell me their story. I couldn’t keep up and my head was pounding, spinning. So many voices and translations and stories.

When will this stop? I’m so tired. 

An uncle died. Someone worked for US. Want to see my papers? They killed the child. Neighbor kidnapped. We need help! We have nothing. I realize I must have stopped listening because suddenly someone starts to sing and laugh and then the father rises to dance and the brother and the children join him and then the mother rises and before I know it all the family members are up dancing, doing the traditional Iraqi dance, the Debke and then I am dancing. We are all laughing and singing and dancing. What happened? How am I dancing right now? All I feel is joy and release and happiness. And then I accidentally knock over my teacup. It shatters and I stop dancing, horrified. Everything stops. But then the mother grabs my arm, looks me square in the eyes 

"No! Dance!" 

And so we did.

Full book available via my website or via me personally, $20 if you are interested or free online at

Also, here is an Op-Ed in tomorrows New York Times about the situation in Iraq for refugees, written by my colleague Kirk W. Johnson. It's clear and concise and brutally reminds us how we have abandoned are Iraqi friends.

For more, follow me on Twitter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Things to do on World Refugee Day

So, it's WORLD REFUGEE DAY. What does that even mean, you may ask. It is a day set aside to at least remember and think about the 50 million displaced persons worldwide and more than 15 million refugees. 15 million. But there's more that you can do if you want. Here's some ideas. 

1. Volunteer with a refugee organization in your neighborhood. Work with recently resettled refugees on language, culture or public transport! or volunteer to work in the office or to tutor a refugee or countless other things you could volunteer to do to help. Just ask!

2. Donate lightly used kitchenware or furniture or books  to a local refugee agency. They are always in need to help new refugees get settled in their new home.

3. Give money to any number of refugee agencies: UNHCR, World Relief, Refugee One, Heartland, Catholic Charities etc. Or google and find your own smaller favorite (Contact me for mine!)

4. Attend an event today in your town to show your support of refugees.

5. Write your congresspeople to encourage them to continue funding refugee bills. Needed more than ever with Iraq and Syria.

6. Befriend a recently resettled person in your community. Help them get acclimated.

7. Or just be friendly and talk to someone who maybe speaks a different language or looks lost or sad or scared in your day today. Try to help someone in need with kindness today. That would be a great way to honor WRD.

No one ever expects to become a refugee. Ask three million Syrians. Anyone can become a refugee.

Add your own ideas how to help refugees in the comment section below.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Artist Residency in Mexico!

Are you interested in a creative escape? Interested in paradise? Applications are now being accepted for the AKUMAL INTERNATIONAL ARTIST RESIDENCY in Akumal, Mexico for the fall. It is a 5-week session. Artists of all stripes encouraged to apply. It is bliss. Hope to see you there!

The Akumal International Artists Residency was a transformative experience. I found the physical and culture environment incredibly stimulating. I was able to realize a number of projects that I had been thinking about for some time. It was also fantastic being with other international artists working with a variety of media and subject matter. The ideas formed during this residency continue to inform and impact my work and process. Aaron Putt, visual artist, U.S.

@akumalresidency on twitter

Akumal International Artist Residency on facebook

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Life Lived

Author Dawna Markova wrote a book entitled "I will not die a life unlived." Love it. Love that phrase. That is also my philosophy and perhaps yours. Live life fully, because it is brief, a mere blip in the whole scheme of things and we never know when it is going to end.

A friend of mine from Minneapolis recently died. I didn't see her often, and not for quite a while, but she was best friends with a very dear friend of mine. She was always around and certainly in my life's periphery: Mary, Mary, Mary. She had a dry sense of humor, was a generous and kind human being and a wicked costume designer. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, she died.

I mourn her loss of life, her missing essence in this world, but there's something else. Her death shook me.  She died suddenly and without reason, really. How did this happen? That must be what her family and close friends are asking, as well. But this is what happens, right? This is what happens. 


I know it's a cliche, but a cliche because it's true: Life is short. Take yours by the horns. I will too. We never know when it ends.

Rest in peace, Mary. Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for your spirit. Thank you for your art.

You did not die a life unlived.