BOOK: “Tongue-Tied” Singled Out by Reviewer

The_Chalk_CircleSo, here’s something cool: A book reviewer singled out my essay in The Chalk Circle — an award-winning anthology of award-winning essays — as one that particularly touched her.

(That’s me on the cover! No, not the old woman, the one eating the ice cream…natch…) Book Review

Download an mp3 of me reading the essay by signing up on this page at the right. It’s a 4-minute reading about a beggar girl I met in Iraq and shared an ice cream with!

HOUSESITTING: “One Woman’s Never Ending Story”

An interview that started out about tips for people considering retiring in Mexico morphed into a profile about me as a housesitter! How cool is that?!

California’s Kelly Hayes-Raitt has heeded a distinctive rhythm by financing a political activist’s life as a house sitter in Lake Chapala, London, Paris, Copenhagen and the outskirts of Amsterdam.

Her nomadic existence has offered the opportunity to write and edit about Iraqi and Palestinian refugees at and by blogging for Violating Sanctions [ -- my old blog].

Hayes-Raitt is a lifelong political activist and spokesperson for campaigns championing women’s rights, environmental cleanup, consumers’ rights and other social justice causes.

She has house sat in Chapala, Mexico since 2010, her away home from mid-September to mid-February and from April to June.

Read the brief blog at

SYRIA: US Caught between Iraq and a Hard Spot

I’ve incorporated a new phrase into my sparse Arabic vocabulary: Ana aasfe. I’m sorry.

Seems I’m apologizing a lot of late to Lebanese who (usually loudly and forcefully) insist the Syrian civil war is the US’s fault. “Obama is a murderer!” bellowed one Lebanese friend. “This is all the fault of the US!” a local Lebanese politician exclaimed as he swept his arm over a field of Syrian refugees’ tents.

Not that I am sorry for my country’s response to the Syrian civil war, I just don’t want to press the point when I’m sitting in a refugee camp inches from the Syrian border or accepting a host’s gracious hospitality.

But, really, what are the choices here? Should we arm the rebels?

“The idea that there’s a difference between the rebels and the terrorists is ridiculous,” says one Syrian pastor I speak with. “Two brothers go fight with the Free Syrian Army and another goes to fight with al-Nusra [an al-Qaida affiliate]. There’s no distinction.” Who knows in whose hands US-supplied weapons could end up? Guns know no sides.

Should we “take out” Bashar Assad, as one Lebanese friend suggested? Read more »