August 2021

August 30, 2021

Another month is almost in the rearview mirror. Louisiana is reeling from the impact of Ida. The storm was devastating, fueled by the waters of the Gulf that are warmer than in the past thanks to climate change. Some of the lessons learned from Katrina made a difference. The levees in New Orleans held. The power grid failed totally, though. All 8 of the major transmission lines failed. It reminded me of the catastrophic power failures in Texas during the ice storm earlier this year.  

Today also marked the end of our longest war. Twenty years. Thousands of lives lost. And we’re back where we began with the Taliban in control. Was it worth it? That debate will continue for months if not years. We’ll look for someone to blame because we’ve become exceptionally good at the blame game. I’m not sure it serves us particularly well, but it is what it is.

Meanwhile there have been 204,000 new pediatric cases of COVID in just a week. And kids in many places have only just started school today. Our grandkids started last week. By week’s end each of their schools, and the one where our daughter teaches as well, reported COVID infections. I have to wonder where this is going to end. 

I won’t pretend I know the answers to this challenge. I don’t believe, though, that making masks optional moves us in the right direction no matter how stupid some of the political leaders can be.

I worry about how this is all going to end. For the kids. For all of us. 

I think back to January. The year began with hope. And some of it has been realized. I won’t pretend that our politics have miraculously found a path back to civility, but at the same time the daily ugliness seems less dangerous (even if still reprehensible).  And the vaccines have been another plus. They have given us reason to hope that ultimately we’ll overcome the pandemic. But for now we’ll continue to tough it out, and I hope that it won’t be the children who bear the worst of the burden in the days ahead.

That’s not much of a note to end the day on, but there are days like that. Hell… there have been months like that. So there you go.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 29, 2021

It is nice at times when we can keep the world from intruding. But ultimately it’s still out there.

Much of today was about family… getting ready for Tjiama, Joe, and the three grandkids to come over, and then we all joined in on a ZOOM call with Joe and Jessica, and Tony, Nat, and Gus. Leija’s birthday is just around the corner and today seemed like a good day to celebrate. And it was.

I know that no two families are exactly alike and that family dynamics can range from deeply gratifying to harshly bitter exchanges. We’re so fortunate that with our family we’re at the positive end of the scale. At least that’s how it feels to us. I think the kids would agree. I came to realize over the years that Leija is the heart of the family and the love flows from her to us all. We couldn’t ask for more and so it was with joy that we came together as a family to celebrate her birthday.

There were a few too many calories and with six dogs, four adults and the three grandkids ranging from a kindergartener to a pre-teen middle schooler, there was never a dull moment. It was one of those days that felt full of warmth — a rainbow wouldn’t have been out of place. It was nice.

But there was another side to the day, too. As I was prepping for dinner (an easy fajitas and taco bar kind of meal) I had the news on. They were showing the President and First Lady and other senior administration officials at Dover Air Force Base as the remains of the 13 service members killed in the terrorist bombing in Kabul were returned home. You could see the pain and the sorrow on the faces of all in attendance.

Most of those who gave their lives were just kids. Five were only 20 years old. They were just babies when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001. And they were still just kids when they died. Kids who stepped up, assumed demanding tasks and who, in committing to serve our nation, assumed the risks that can come with service. But they were still kids. And it breaks my heart to think about all the dreams that will never come true. And as we took such joy from our day with family, the news was a bitter counterpoint reminding us of the 13 families that are suffering tonight.

To lose them just days before our time in Afghanistan comes to an end is particularly gut-wrenching. But that’s the ugly reality of wars. We want to find meaning in their deaths but sometimes it is hard. But we couldn’t just walk away without at least trying to help as many as we could at the end. That’s what the mission has been about for years. After we had eliminated the Al Qaeda threat in the aftermath of 9/11 we wanted to help create an Afghanistan that would not be safe haven for terrorists and killers in the future. 

We had hoped that we could help Afghanistan help itself to create a brighter future. One where people’s voices were heard, women and girls respected, and all citizens could work together to shape their destiny. That was the essence of our mission for much of our time in Afghanistan, but it feels as though the Afghan leaders and their own military did not believe in that possible future nearly as much as we did. So, at the end, we are still trying to help the most vulnerable even though it exposed our own men and women to danger. THAT is who we are and I hope these young service members understood that their efforts mattered.

It’s not always about geopolitical wins or losses. Sometimes it’s just about trying to do what is right. Sometimes it’s just about being true to our values. 

I listened to the talking heads, many of them former military, trying to explain how they felt and to offer a context of some sort for what we witnessed as the honor guard carefully placed each transit box with the remains into the waiting transport. Their word felt artificial. I don’t blame them. How do you explain, how do you contextualize, and what are the words you can offer that will bring clarity, or peace, or give meaning to the loss felt by the families of these American patriots. 

When we commit to serve our nation we accept that there can be risk and danger. Our foreign affairs community knows it too well. We have served alongside the military in active war zones. We served in provincial reconstruction teams in active war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, side by side with our military partners. And we have served with only the smallest of safety nets in countries where our military may not be actively present but the terrorist threats and dangers are. We know the risks, and I know what it is to worry that someone could die on your watch, under your leadership.

So tonight all of us share in the pain of the loss. At least we should. But some are already trying to score political points, suggesting that we should have left folks behind, that maybe we’re actually bringing in terrorists, or that those whom we were happy to have serve alongside us when we needed them should be sent to some “willing third country” — they aren’t good enough to bring to the US apparently.

Their bullshit (and that’s what it is in my book) dishonors the very reason our young heroes gave their lives. Shame on them. 

Remember the thirteen with pride and gratitude for their service. And hold your kids and grandkids and those you love even closer in your heart tonight. It helps. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 28, 2021

I’m watching the clouds darken as the day wanes. The soupy weather is spawning storms but maybe that will ease the heat.  I can’t complain, in any event, when I think about what poor Louisiana is going to get when Ida arrives.  It sounds like it could be pretty bad. Very bad. 

I know there are times when it feels like the media overhypes these things, but this sounds bad. 

It’s one thing after another. The pandemic that won’t quit. Devastating fires and heat that won’t quit. The challenges in Afghanistan. And the fact that many of our citizens are still struggling with the economic crisis posed by the pandemic can’t be forgotten nor can we ignore the polarization that continues to plague us. And now a massive new storm. In the midst of a COVID surge hitting a part of the nation that has already been battered. 

This is why no one in their right mind should ever want to be president. Set aside the partisanship, if you can, and just appreciate the challenges our national leadership faces. Now, if only many of them would set aside the partisanship. 

Most of these issues aren’t about politics, unless and until we MAKE them about politics. The public health and public safety threats and challenges before us aren’t really ideological. How you respond to a record storm surge, how you prep first responders, really doesn’t look much different if you’re Republican or a Democrat. At least they shouldn’t.

But even setting aside our labels, the problems still require commitment, vision, the ability to see the big picture while addressing the little details. That’s what we struggled with initially in Afghanistan when the timeline for evacuation accelerated. But we’ve been figuring it out and it’s now the largest airlift evacuation in history, I believe. Sadly, though, we now have the new complications of ISIS-K’s terror attack and the threat of more. 

We’ve figured out a lot about COVID, too. But as we all know by now, politics keeps getting in the way of taking the actions that would mitigate risks for all. And so we have a continuing disaster. Here, in the face of one of the greatest public health threats in our lifetime, too many play political games that have kept us from doing all that we should.  

And now a storm threatens. Set aside the commentary about whether the frequency and severity of these storms is a function of climate change. That doesn’t matter right now as we wait for Ida to hit. Maybe, just maybe, it will work out okay. The Biden administration has said the right things in terms of its plan. Let’s see how they do in the execution. But with all that’s on their plate right now, let’s hope that this is not the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Not sure how much more any of us… or our nation… can take. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 27, 2021

I’d like to end the week on a light note. And what better way than to share something beautiful. This is a photo that Leija took this morning. The gladiolus so wonderfully captured was part of the wild garden we’ve encouraged in the past few years. We were surprised to see it, actually, but it’s so nice. I wanted to share.

It has been a long and busy week and next week will be even more so. But this afternoon I happened across some old photos. And perhaps some of you can understand how one photo leads to another… and another. The memories, though, were sweet. And they reminded me of how very fortunate I am. 

So I’ll end my week with just this very short note. Besides, what is there to say about the world tonight? Remember the old adage about if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all?


Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 26, 2021

I hate to even write today. The suicide bombings in Kabul are heartbreaking. I can’t understand what the ISIS-K leaders hoped to gain. They killed a few Americans and with them so many Afghan civilians. Why? It was cowardly, it was hateful, and it served no purpose. I won’t belabor the heinous stupidity of this attack. 

This time is wasn’t the Taliban. They are the ones who failed in their responsibility. But that was not a surprise in the craziness that is Kabul. And it is not a failure of our troops. There is so much that we can’t control. We have evacuated more than 100,000 people, though. Not just Americans but Afghans as well. It is the largest humanitarian airlift in history. Our soldiers are doing what needs to be done with honor and courage in the face of an impossible task. 

Every one of those evacuees has had to be screened by our soldiers. I watched images of US soldiers holding babies and taking children by the hand. A vision of hope in an impossible situation.

Some critics will say this is our fault. Bullshit. We were going to leave at some point. And no matter what we did, we were never going to make Afghanistan safe. It just isn’t in the cards.  But it’s tragic no matter what. And today 13 brave US servicemen are dead. And my heart aches, as I know is true for so many of us. 

Let’s pray for those who remain and for the men and women of the State Department who serve right alongside them.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is growing worse… again. Hospitals in Florida are running out of morgue space. They are seeing more cases than at ANY time since the pandemic began. The experts fear we’ll see another 100,000 deaths in the next three months. By year’s end we could be at close to three-quarters of a million deaths here, and globally we’re already creeping up on five million. Most of us have lost the will to track the grim toll on daily basis as we once did, but that hasn’t kept the deaths from happening. 

And as the deaths rise, the COVIDIOTS out there are touting Ivermectin, a livestock dewormer, as a cure for COVID. So, cases surge as Texas farm stores are selling out of high dose Ivermectin. Really? Honest to God? Yes. And, oh, by the way, there has been a 550% increase in the volume of calls to poison control. What can you possibly say other than cite the Food and Drug Administration’s press release: 

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously y’all.  Stop it.”

Meanwhile, wildfires continue out of control, air quality in six states may make mask wearing an essential for reasons other than COVID, and there is another tropical storm taking shape and turning its “eye” towards the US.

There were lots of reasons to hate to write today. But I did. Sorry.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 25, 2021

OK. I’m all about social consciousness.

I’m right there with you in fighting for human rights, protecting the vulnerable, deploring exploitation, and standing up for the little guy. 

But there are times when I  have to just shake my head and ask “what the hell?” when some things are a bit too much to swallow. Today is one of those days. 

The story that has me bemused is about Nirvana. Now, I’ve never been a Nirvana fan. No offense to them, but they came along in the late 80’s when I was focused on family and career and not on the latest bands on the music scene. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was, I know, an iconic song for many in 1991 but not for a 38 year-old getting ready to head to Pakistan with my family. 

So, when Nirvana’s album “Nevermind,” which featured that song, came out it never even registered on my consciousness. But it did for many, and the cover was, in it’s own way, iconic I guess. Certainly fans of Nirvana would recognize it in a heartbeat. It features a naked baby boy swimming under water gazing at a dollar bill that floated before him.

Today that little baby, Spencer Elden, now 30 years old, is suing anyone associated with the production for “child sexual exploitation” arguing that the cover is akin to child pornography.  He is seeking $150,000 from each defendant.

The lawsuit alleges that Elden was sexualized because the dollar bill used in the image made the baby resemble “a sex worker.” Again I say, “really?” 

Elden says he was very uncomfortable with the album cover, and that he finds it “kind of creepy that many people have seen me naked… I feel like the world’s biggest porn star.” 

Apparently, it wasn’t creepy enough, though, that it kept him from recreating the image as an adult (wearing a swimsuit) and garnering more photos and media attention in the process. So please excuse me if I don’t feel that this is just a bit… odd. 

I wonder if his folks got paid by the record label for the photo, which was taken by a friend of Elden’s father. Did they think it was great fun? Did Elden get paid at the events where he was asked to appear at as the “Nirvana” baby? Is this really lawsuit material? (OK… I guess in today’s world ANYTHING is lawsuit material.)

The cover was supposedly meant to be a commentary on our pursuit of money as a society. My gut tells me that this wasn’t meant as child porn and I doubt that Nirvana fans, or even non-fans, saw it that way. Amazon, Walmart, and other online retailers selling the album haven’t rushed to remove it or to hide the cover image. Should they be sued too? If his parents are still alive is he suing them too?  I wonder.

I really don’t care, I guess, about the suit itself. There’s a lot more worth worrying about.  Maybe this guy IS really upset. Who knows? It certainly is not my place to try to judge whether Elden was exploited or if he’s exploiting the situation now or if it is both. I’ll leave it to the courts to decide. 

My worry, though, is that this is going to be seen as trivializing very real issues of sexual exploitation. Some will flock to the cause and try to use this to show how they are fighting the good fight. And, if this is more than a brief blip in the news, it will draw in others as well sparking an inevitable backlash from others who will mock the suit as another example, in their view, of a society that has gone off the deep end in an excess of moral righteousness and political correctness. Can’t you just hear Trump riffing on this story? It makes my skin crawl to imagine it.

Sadly, so many serious issues from sexual exploitation, misogyny, and race baiting have been become skirmishes in the culture wars instead of matters for serious debate. And both sides then take their arguments to crazy extremes, trivializing the real issues. (Who can forget the argument that saying “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” is an assault on christian values in white America?)

This story may just go away or it may turn into something more. Stranger things have happened. But for today, I’ll stick with “what the hell?” and get on with my life. Hopefully, we all will.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 24, 2021

My purpose in writing these daily entries was — and remains — a personal journey. An effort to bring to bear the discipline required to write every day, but all an effort to try to honestly chronicle some of the things unfolding in the world around us during this unprecedented (in our lifetimes) pandemic. 

I realize as time has gone on it also becomes to a degree a chronicle about aging in America and, if I continue to write, I’m sure that inevitably I’ll be writing more about that journey. I remember that my mother wanted to have a few choice words with whoever declared these to be the “golden years.” I can already appreciate her skepticism but time will tell.

When I started writing though, I didn’t necessarily intend it to be for an audience. I opted to post my daily musings on Facebook, true, but it wasn’t with a plan to make a “statement” about much of anything. I didn’t realize that it would become such a nice way to stay in touch with folks or to start a conversation or explore ideas. But it makes me feel all the more like trying to write something that is at least thoughtful.

But… when you write for yourself… it doesn’t matter if some days you just don’t have much to say. And that would be me, today. It’s not that there’s nothing to talk about…I just don’t want to. 

I could talk about our latest efforts to help folks in Nepal. That is what is truly front of mind, and we’re very focused on the art show we’ll host next week.  It’s a lot of work but it truly matters. It would be great if we could inspire some to donate, or buy art, or help in other ways. But I know from experience that posts like that have but limited appeal so I try not to use this forum much to talk about such things.

There are lots of subjects that do get folks jazzed up, of course, but I don’t want to even BEGIN to talk about Lindsay Graham declaring he wants to impeach Joe Biden over the Afghan withdrawal. This from a man who could pretend that Trump trying to strong arm foreign leaders to keep himself in power or orchestrating the January 6 insurrection effort was not a concern for us to worry about. Naw… not going down THAT rabbit hole today.

Nor am I going to try and makes sense of a political environment in which moderates and progressives can’t set aside their ideological debates long enough just to try and accomplish something positive. And I’m certainly not going to start taking shots at all the rabid far right crazies who perpetuate every insane conspiracy theory that comes down the road. They’re just too easy a target.

And, tonight, it’s too late to belabor the whole COVID debate. Biden and DeSantis are sniping, numbers are surging, worries about the combination of COVID and flu could make for a rough winter, and kids are at greater risk. It’s not new — which is frustrating in and of itself — and it sadly will still be with us the next time I want to write a bit more cogently about the issues of the day.

The debates on all of these issues will go on. And on. And on. But tonight I’m putting my feet up, kicking back, and letting the rest of the night pass me by. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 23, 2021

Today our youngest grandson, Gus, turned six months old. That, by itself, is blog-worthy. He’s such an adorable little guy. We love him immensely. As we do Sofie, Leo and Luca, all of whom started their new school year today. For Sofie and Leo, it was a return to what we once always thought of as the norm — sitting IN a classroom with other kids. The masks are a new addition but the kids will manage. I have no doubt. For Luca this was not only new, but after a year of being at home, he was a bit uncertain whether the whole school thing was right for him. By the end of the day, however, he had come to conclude, at least for today, that it could have its merits. The jury is out, though. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m finally sitting and taking the time to write. It’s been a busy day. I just made a big pot of vegan chili to go with the vegan cornbread we picked up yesterday. It’s soooo good. I start with the onions, garlic and pepper, slow cooking them til they start to caramelize, bringing out the smoky sweetness. Two other critical ingredients? Fennel and cocoa. Our dear friends Katelyn Choe and Peter Shin shared this with us when we visited them in New Zealand a few years ago. It’s Peter’s recipe but, as always, I tweak and adjust little by little.

Taking the time to caramelize the onions and peppers might be tedious for some but it’s part of the process. Good things can take time. Patience is as important in the kitchen as fresh ingredients, creative spicing, and, of course, onions and garlic. You can never go wrong with onions and garlic.

Patience is important outside the kitchen too. I try to exercise it in my engagement with the world as well but I feel like the past few years have tried that patience sorely. It it was hard not to become angry, frustrated and impatient during the Trump days with the casual cruelty, the self-satisfied arrogance, the misogyny, and thinly veiled racism. Then the COVID pandemic came into play on top of it.  Foolish decisions — dangerous decisions — fueled more often by politics than science, followed. It was easy to lose your “center” — and your patience.  It still can be. A lot of the idiocy is still with us

But today, as Gus turns 6 months and our other grandkids start a new school year, I want to believe that things will come right in the end, that there is hope in new beginnings, and that patience will be rewarded. Tonight it’s rewarding me with some mighty fine chili. For today I’ll be content with that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 22, 2021

It’s a muggy Sunday but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t fit in two walks this morning. The first, was a PT walk for Lo Khyi. Today it was maybe a third of a mile. He wants to go farther but I keep reminding him that recovery is a day at a time. We’ve progressed, though, from walks to the corner and back to walks that are now about two and half blocks and a return. Not bad for a pup who isn’t even three weeks post surgery. 

When we returned, Gyptse Jane was watching through the front screen door… longingly, it seemed. So I dropped Lo Khyi off and she and I did a quick mile and a half. She’s a single-minded walker. Lo Khyi will stop to sniff everything, but for Gyptse it has be a truly compelling scent to divert her focus from striding determinedly forward by my side. I’m pretty sure she thinks she’s walking me but she does her best not to show it. 

After we got home, I did my stretching and now I’m set for the day. That will include a few hours with the grandkids today while Tjiama and Joe go off to a play. It’s the day before their school year starts. I wonder if we’ll encounter any pre-school jitters or if video games and you tube videos will divert their focus. Who knows. We’ll see.

I was thinking this morning that I hoped tomorrow Tjiama will get a pic of them ready to go off to school as she has for so many years. Still, it could be trickier with Sofie in middle school now and operating on a different schedule and as Tjiama and Joe adapt to a new routine in general, and Tjiama to the longer commute (maybe eleven minutes vs six, LOL) to the new school where she’ll be teaching this year.

My greatest wish as the school year begins is that the kids will be well. This damn pandemic that doesn’t let go and that is fueled all the more by irresponsible fools amongst us frightens me. We’ve been very fortunate — and careful — as a family, but who knows what can happen.  I wish the two boys were vaccinated and, even though Sofie does have the advantage of having been vaccinated, you still worry. At least I do. 

There are a lot of things I might have worried about earlier in my life that no longer trouble me. But worry about our kids and our grandkids seems to be one of those things that never goes away.  

Meanwhile, we got our high dose flu vaccines on Friday so that we won’t have that shot interfering with our ability to get our COVID booster later in September/October. It’s all about doing our best to stay well

Now I’d best give Lo Khyi one more whirl around the block to give him a chance to relieve himself before we head to our babysitting “job.” Anyway, it’s Sunday.  It’s not a day to worry about the news or the issues of the day… just a day to quietly enjoy.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 21, 2021

We’re on a mini road trip this morning with the Prince of the Mountains.  He LOVES his road trips. Especially when he gets to be the star of the show.  

We’re heading down to Fredericksburg, about an hour’s drive when traffic is decent (which I hope it will be). We’re going down to drop ten copies of “The Ambassador’s Dog” at the PONSHOP Studio and Gallery run by Gabriel and Scarlett Pons.  

Scarlett is an active participant in the Fredericksburg-Nepal Sister City Exchange and she’s helping to organize the Nepal Fair which will be on October 23. Engage Nepal is going to be participating and Lo Khyi will be a featured guest. We may do a reading from the book, and I hope that if you’re going to be in the area you’ll come by and say hello.

Lo Khyi’s not worrying about things like that. He’s just enjoying the ride. You can tell. If dogs smile — and they do, of course — he’s smiling broadly and is in his element. We had a short walk earlier — we’re still taking the walks slow as he continues to recover (like a champ) from his surgery. And when we get to Fredericksburg he’ll accept the attention that will be showered on him at the gallery as his due, and he’ll pose for the photos without complaint. He humors me.

Once there was a time when we wondered if the wild pup that I met on a high trail of the Himalayas in Upper Mustang in Nepal would ever become a companion. There was a wild streak that ran deep despite his gentle manner with kids who’d inevitably want to pet the blue-eyed pup.

He had a restless spirit and an independent nature that was prominently on display. He and I always had a connection, but it wasn’t certain that he was ready to extend his paw in partnership to anyone else. 

But, over the years, he has taken on his role at the heart of our family. We love all four of the pups who share their lives with us, but there’s no denying the special spell that Lo Khyi has cast. He is still independent and strong-willed, but he is comfortable knowing that the partnership we share will always endure. There’s an ease in that shared understanding that took time to build, but it was worth it. 

Once he never would come for treats as if it would compromise his independence but today he knows that a treat is just a small token of affection — not an attempt to suborn his will. And now, when we give him a good deep scratching of his jowls he’ll tip his head and push himself into our hand, signaling that he’s happy to accept the little things we are able to offer him.

For those who aren’t dog people, I imagine that this all could seem foreign — perhaps over the top. “After all,” they might say, “He’s just a dog.” But he isn’t.

The mark of ‘four eyes’ that the villagers of Saukre pointed out to me on the day I met the pup who was to become Lo Khyi, “Prince of the Mountains,” truly did portend a dog of special wisdom. An old soul, a dog of character and courage and strength.

As I said, I love all our pups but Lo Khyi is unlike any dog I’ve even known. He’s mine and I’m his, and that’s the way it was meant to be. The adventure continues.  

Here’s to pups and road trips on a sunny Saturday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 20, 2021

Our bodies are pretty complex — and pretty impressive — machines.  But like any complex organism where one piece connects to and depends on the function of another, when one piece goes wonky, then the whole body starts to suffer. Today I went for PT on my neck, which has been pretty badly arthritic for years. I’ve been so busy managing my lower back issues, that I haven’t ever done much for my neck other than pain management injections every few years.

But I probably should have done more. The neck and the traps, the shoulders, the chest, and the biceps all depend on each other. And I have a feeling I’ll be keenly aware of each of those muscle groups when I get up tomorrow after the workout they got today at PT.

Societies are just as complicated, and god knows we can see how all the interconnected parts of our own society begin to come apart when the ability of different groups to work together break down. We see the evidence of that here at home all the time. From the major news stories about the polarization that leads to heated confrontations over masks and vaccines to the racism and division that leads white workers at a Kraft factory to harass black workmates with racial abuse and death threats. 

What we don’t always appreciate, though, is how connected the planet as a whole is. We don’t live in isolation pods, and no matter how much we might want to think that we don’t have to worry about the problems of Africa or Asia or the rest of the world, we do. Or at least we should. Because often times we’re contributing to them. A case in point? A recent study identified 33 nations that will face some of the most extreme consequences of climate change (and if you’re a climate change denier, you may as well stop reading now… you’ll just get irritated).  

Those 33 nations are home to 1.1 billion children who the report identifies as among the most vulnerable to the impact of a growing climate crisis. The 10 nations most at risk are all in Africa. The sad thing is that these 33 nations collectively emit only about 9% of global carbon emissions. We are one of the 10 nations that collectively account for 70% of all global carbon emissions.  

The kids are at significantly heightened risk from pollution, coastal flooding, cyclones, heatwaves, water shortages, food shortages, and all the many health issues, from respiratory illness to malnutrition, that are part of this grim package. And every day the risks seem to grow greater. Here in the US we have seen a million more acres of forest burned to cinders this year than last and over 1,000 more wildfires (6,000+ total) more than last year. In Greenland, it rained for the first time ever in recorded history at the nation’s summit where precipitation in the past had only been snow. 

In one of the most dramatic melting events on record, the Greenland ice sheet lost more than 8.5 billion tons of surface mass in a single day, which according to the report I was reading is enough to submerge Florida in two inches of water.

A hot spring coupled with a July heat wave caused the ice sheet to lose roughly 532 billion tons of ice into the sea. Global sea levels rose permanently by 1.5 millimeters as a result

“We are crossing thresholds not seen in millennia and, frankly, this is not going to change until we adjust what we’re doing to the air,” said one climate expert. And that’s on us. Not on those countries that will suffer from our choices. And the kids? They certainly aren’t the driving force behind carbon emissions… but they will bear the brunt of the costs.  

It’s all connected. One body part acts up and other parts feel the pain too. One part of a society shirks its role and the body politic starts to break apart. And one country – or ten – fail to shift a dangerous course and the planet pays the price.  

That’s the way it goes. Food for thought on a Friday afternoon.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.\

August 19, 2021

Little things can be a big deal. They can cause problems out of proportion to their size.

I was reminded of this today. My left eye had been hurting, over the past few days and it was getting worse. Yesterday it felt gritty and uncomfortable. This morning I added throbbing pain to the list. I was not amused. So a visit to the eye doctor was added to the equation for the day.

It turned out that the answer was indeed a small thing. A suture, from my partial thickness cornea transplant decided to break. That was no big deal in terms of the transplant which was almost five years ago. The doctor had left the suture in to hold the graft in place at the time as the surgery healed. But that healing was complete about six months after the surgery. The suture became a tiny… very tiny… superfluous add-on that was along for the ride in my eye. And it was pretty well-behaved. Until this week.

That tiny little ruptured suture became a “foreign body” as far as my eye was concerned. It caused swelling in the cornea and it hurt… a lot. My eye’s xenophobia did not seem unreasonable. This was a foreigner that truly did not belong. A few numbing and antibiotic drops — and a moment of holding very still — and the suture was out.

My eye is already improved, now it’s just a matter of keeping infection at bay.
It made me think, though, about the impact of little things. And god knows, over the past many months there has been so much to cause distress. COVID, Trump, January 6, battles over the big lie, battles over masks, police abuses, gun violence, it goes on and on. I don’t mean to suggest that all of these are little things… they’re not. They’re a big deal. A huge deal. I can’t help but think, however, that the tensions and anxiety have at time become so overwhelming that they threaten to erupt unexpectedly. We’ve reached a point where the little things, sometimes even the smallest things, threaten to create big problems much like the broken suture.

The suture was an easy fix. I don’t have an equally simple one for the anger sparked by lies and idiocy and willful self-delusion. But tonight I feel hopeful anyway. I was reminded by a show I watched that, even if we can’t make all the little irritants go away, love can make them hurt a lot less. So here’s to love, to life, and to sutures that don’t break.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 18. 2021

Today’s blog will be short. It’s been a busy day and I’ll confess to being too tired to write much. It was another early morning. Today Leo and Luca were back over for the day. Sofie had other, middle school kid kind of things, to attend to so we didn’t have her company as well.

Leo kept busy almost the entire day playing Minecraft, often in remote partnership with a friend. The way kids play and interact is so different these days. Still, he was happy and enjoyed himself and he still seems to like time at Nana and Papa’s. And the hugs are as warm as any grandparents could hope. How can you not love that.

Luca meanwhile, is for the first time spending time at our home without Mom and Dad around. He settled into his groove so easily. He’s a chatterbox and his mind works a mile a minute. He’s very quick to put two and two together. I feel like he’s a bit of a sponge. Keenly observant and quick to see connections.  

At one point I was playing my guitar and he was using the “bongos” — a tribal drum we had brought home from Uganda. He has a real sense of rhythm. He’s a toe tapping, drum playing beat master. Then he joined me for one of Lo Khyi’s therapy walks. He held Lo Khyi’s leash for a good part of the time as we walked and was, I think, somewhat pleased. Lo Khyi is such a good boy and he has always been good to walk with and he was particularly on his best behavior with Luca.

It was a nice day. There wasn’t one of those unforgettable moments… there didn’t need to be. It’s not always about those. It’s about the pleasure of knowing that the kids feel at home. It’s about the bonds you build that last a lifetime. It’s about being together. And we’re fortunate to have the chance.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 17, 2021

Yesterday, Lo Khyi, known to many of you as the Prince of the Mountains, had the sutures removed from the surgical incision. He is doing so very well. We are now able to do multiple short walks each day and he can forego the e-collar. The latter wasn’t such a burden. He even made it look more dignified than goofy. But still, it’s nice to not have to clear a path and carefully weigh the logistics of passing through doorways when a big dog with a bigger elizabethan collar is on the move. I think Lo Khyi is happy to set it aside too.

He’s healing remarkably well, I think. Fingers crossed that all stays on course.

To me that’s the truly big news, but I suppose others might point to the decision to do a third covid shot. Not a new vaccine but just a third dose of what many of us have already had (not sure what they’ll do about J&J recipients yet). They say we should get it at the eight month mark after your last vaccination.

My guess is that is a somewhat arbitrary marker to facilitate planning, the logistics of distribution etc. But that seems OK. We’ll see. For us, that means October 23. Wonder by how much we’ll have to separate flu shots from the third COVID shot. As the magic eight ball would assure us, “all will be revealed.”

It makes sense to try to get — and stay — ahead of the disease curve. But I’m sure that we’ll hear moaning and groaning and conspiracy nonsense from the same yahoos who are driving the most recent surge that puts many, including our grandkids who can’t be vaccinated yet, at risk. (Did you see what I did there? I used the word “yahoos” instead of the many far more descriptive and far less polite ones that went through my mind as I typed.)

I do want to use those words, though. And more. I realize that I’m angry and that it’s not just me. There’s so much anger out there and the more of it we see the more anger it seems to breed. Where’s the breaking point, I wonder.

The other day I heard a woman talking about some of the issues of the day. She was frustrated by the idea that unemployment aid being offered during the pandemic was a disincentive to work and she was upset by all the people who are choosing not to take the jobs being offered. There is, of course, another side to that coin and the issue is far more complex than she articulated.

The woman was probably my age, give or take a few years, and she didn’t sound angry and her comments weren’t part of a political screed. She was just worried by things she saw, she was puzzled by a changing world, and she just wanted something to hold onto I think. I disagreed with almost every assertion and assumption she made. But she didn’t strike me as the “enemy.”

I was reminded that there are a lot viewpoints in our country. We have different experiences of childhood, and of education, and the workplace, etc. And, just like the woman I was listening to, the fact that we may see things differently is a reason to talk to each other, not wall each other out. But the walls have grown pretty high. Anger will do that.

All of us believe our anger is righteous. We point to all the things that justify it. But, even IF we’re right, it is still not the most productive emotion. It is more likely to lead to conflict than resolution. Of course, there are some who hope for just that. I don’t. It’s just hard to see where the solution will come from.

So, today at PT, while I sat with heat packs on my back and neck and as electrical currents flowed through carefully placed electrodes, I didn’t pick up my iPad or my phone. Instead I spent 15 minutes breathing. Letting go of some of the anger. Letting go of the anxieties of the day. It was good. It was calming. And it made me think of the days when I’d say to my Embassy team, “We will now cultivate an aura of zen-like tranquility.” I’m not sure how many Ambassadors seek zen-like tranquility and I don’t know that I found my version on any kind of regular basis while working. But it was worth a shot. And today, I found a bit of it.

I may not know where to find answers to the divisions that roil us, but I found a moment to search for my own peace and that’s a good day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 16, 2021

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was swift. It wasn’t unexpected. But the speed of the collapse of the government and the security forces was. Or so it seems to me. But at the moment you can find 100 experts to tell you their version of reality. I’ve already lost the ability to listen to more from the pundits. 

As for me, I am less inclined to ask why Biden decided the time had come for us to pull out than I am to ask what we thought we were achieving over most of the past twenty years. After 9/11 I understood the desire to go in and deny Al Qaeda and their ilk a base of operations.  And I get that we thought we could somehow create a functional nation that might be an alternative to a nation in which warlords and extremists were the ones to hold sway. We hoped that there would be a nation in which decent governance, a trained and equipped military, and an empowered citizenry might lead to a more positive future and free of the dictates imposed by guys with guns and beards and a deeply conservative/radical vision of Islam in the modern world. 

We thought wrong. And I think that most of us have come to feel that way as year after year passed, as more young American soldiers died, and as feckless, self-serving, and corrupt Afghan leaders accepted our aid but never found a way to counter the Taliban. 

We’ll debate endlessly about this. Who is to blame, what happened and why? We’ll point fingers and the chattering class on the airwaves will pontificate, assess and judge. There will, no doubt, be human tragedy, and it will be painful to watch, and they will be eager to assign blame. And the chaos that is unfolding and the speed of the collapse will lead to charges that we didn’t think it through and miscalculated horribly. 

That may be true. I don’t know all the ins and outs. But, even if it is, it doesn’t change the fundamental question of whether we should have stayed for another five years or ten or twenty.  Would we be any closer then to building a nation that works? The British and the Russians and now the US have all learned that Afghanistan is… Afghanistan. The time had come to accept the fact that we had more to lose than to gain and Afghanistan’s seemingly endless cycle of violence will continue no matter what. 

There are those who will probably disagree, but this 20 year war, this legacy of Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden, needed to end and I am glad we made the choice to do so. And if it’s “an abject failure of US policy” or an “unmitigated disaster” as some of the journalists and talking heads seem almost pleased to declare, it’s a something that they all can share. I think there’s a need to look at this with a bit of a broader perspective. It’s easy to focus on the rapidity of the fall or the chaos at the airport. Personally, I think that there’s more to consider. 

And, at the end of the day, although I’m not happy with the pain we see unfolding and I’m not happy that we appear (and perhaps are) inept, I’m too tired to find yet another issue to feel indignant about. 

A month from now the dust will have settled. We’ll have gotten as many of those who deserve our help out as we can. The pundits can then tote up the score and offer their further judgment. I can’t wait. 

Meanwhile, I hope we’ll do all we can to get folks out safely — to help those who helped us. But I don’t know that our “moral obligation” extends to continuing a battle that has been lost for years, especially when there are many in Afghanistan who do not have the stomach for the fight. And I’m not convinced by those, including General McMasters, who suggest that that too is our fault; that our talk of withdrawal was why Afghans lost the will to fight. I don’t buy it.

Anyway, it’s disheartening as hell — but so is COVID, so is the climate crisis, so are shootings in classrooms as kids just start to return to school. In other words, it feels every bit like a Monday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 15, 2021

There’s some interesting commentary this morning on various sites. There was one piece in particular that talked about the census data. The non-white population in the U.S. has risen from 37% to 43% of the total population while the non-Hispanic white population has dropped from 63% to 57%. We are also more urban than ever. A discussion followed about how Trump positioned himself to become the spokesman for a segment of America — of white America — who felt that the social and cultural America that they knew was disappearing. For those who lived in rural America in particular Trump seized on their concerns of being forgotten and abandoned in a nation that was being reshaped by rapidly shifting demographic realities. Along with the Tucker Carlsons of the world he implicitly, and explicitly, told them that the white, christian, conservative America that they had known was somehow being stolen from them by the urban elites and immigrants who were not only darker skinned but followed other faiths. The “others” were to be feared as purveyors of terror and thugs, criminals and rapists. 

We’ve watched it unfold and, if anything, these divides have became starker and deeper. 

The demographic trends will continue to shift political power and lead to a redefinition of our cultural norms. Trump and Carlson and the far right know that. This, then, has to be their moment. No wonder Trump’s desperate attempt to cling to power. No wonder he encouraged the attack on the Capitol. No wonder his supports clutch at fools’ dreams of his reinstatement. If they are going to fight back the hordes of the ungodly, the black and brown and the liberal and progressive left, they have to take control soon… before it’s too late.

The battle is joined, whether we recognize it or not. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Enough though. I’ve already written more about this than I had planned today. What’s really on my mind are faucets. Or a faucet to be more precise. Yesterday, while working in the kitchen, our motion-sensing faucet, which had been getting increasingly finicky, decided to give up the ghost. We went off to the hardware store and I installed a new touch sensitive faucet that is very cool. It works great and the installation was fairly painless (except for those of us with bad backs and arthritic necks — squeezing under the sink is not a ‘natural” function).

While at the store, however, we were bemused to see one faucet, that can talk to Alexa and Google. Want a tablespoon of water? Just ask Alexa. Want to fill the baby bottle?  Google can tell the faucet to give you 8 oz of water heated to the temp of your choice. It’s pretty amazing. For us, unnecessary, but still it was interesting and kind of cool.

But, of course, it is just a sign of how much our world, and our lives, are changing. Connected faucets, thermostats, refrigerators and ovens. The internet controls our alarm systems, security cameras and door locks. Our wearable devices can measure our heart rates, blood sugar, and alert us to arrhythmias and tell first responders if we’ve fallen. The “internet of things” grows every larger. One estimate suggests 35 billion IOT devices connected globally, and that number may double in the next four years. The average number of connected devices per household is growing too. We have light bulbs, and smart plugs, connected. We have gaming platforms, phones and iPads and computers.  We have Alexa Echos and Google.

We don’t have a Alexa connected faucet yet, or a connected refrigerator, or other kitchen appliances, but it’s probably only a matter of time. But, of course, the more devices means more vulnerabilities to hackers. Hackers have demonstrated their ability to access and link together tens of thousands of Internet of Things devices and use them to create a network capable of directing extraordinary volumes of traffic against a chosen target and knock it off the web. We’ve seen the ransomware attacks that have become ever more common and cyber warfare and cyber terrorism are the cutting edge national security battlegrounds.

It’s crazy in some ways. But it’s here to stay. Whether we understand it, or we are or aren’t comfortable with it, doesn’t really matter. We aren’t going to turn back the clock. 

Just as our shifting demographics are transforming our society, culture, and politics, so too is technology changing our lives in fundamental ways. But that’s what revolutions do — they transform the world.   And make no mistake, we’re in the midst of a revolution in it’s still early days. From the internet of things, to 3D printing of human organs, to amazing biotech advances and dramatic advances in artificial intelligence capabilities, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. It’s overwhelming, but fascinating. 

Although COVID and political discord garner the headlines, there’s so much that is moving inexorably forward behind the scenes. So hold on, there’s plenty more to come. Keep up if you can.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 14, 2021

It’s another hot sticky morning, but it’s August, so what can I expect? By 8AM I had taken Lo Khyi out the front door to do his business. He’d love to walk around the neighborhood, but the restrictions on his movement are still in place despite his progress. Poor boy. He gave me a soulful look as I leashed up Gyptse and took her for a good hike. It was just the tolerable side of steamy. Just. Glad we got a walk in though. I’ve felt sorry for her that in this heat we’ve not been able to walk her more, so going this morning felt right. 

When we got back I went downstairs to do my stretching. I know that if I don’t keep up with stretching I’ll only get tighter and tighter. With the fusion in my back I know I’m never again going to enjoy the flexibility of my youth, but I also know that if I don’t work at it everything will become harder. I’ve got grandkids to keep up with and pups to walk and trips to take, so I’m trying to make sure that stretching doesn’t fall totally by the wayside.  

With the walk and stretching behind me I can now plan the rest of the day. I want to cook. I’ve been remiss of late on that front but there have been too many other things to do. Today, however, I want to set those things aside. I really do enjoy the simple pleasure of time in the kitchen and we’re loaded with fresh veggies and other goodies that I can’t let go to waste. I just have to decide what I’ll make.

Meanwhile, the news is on in the background as I sit here and so much of it is about covid. It is crazy that after a year and a half we’re still looking at the graphics tracking new infections, vaccinations and more. 

There are very few bright spots here. I’m worried, in particular, about our grandkids going back to school and our daughter back to teaching. Leo will be going into fourth grade, Luca into kindergarten and unlike their sister, Sofie, who will be starting middle school, both are too young to be vaccinated. It makes me worry.

And even if you are vaccinated, it doesn’t mean there are no risks. Just more manageable risks. But the threat is still there as the virus spreads again at a breakneck pace. We’re starting to see signs of waning immunity from the vaccines and new variants that are posing greater risks and we’re back up to an average of 128,000 cases a day. 

There are many communities and businesses that made decisions — based on where we were a month or two ago — about getting back to normal. But boy, you have to wonder if their choices makes sense given where we are now.

Broadway plans to reopen but only for those who are fully vaccinated. But does that make sense? Movie theaters, comedy clubs, restaurants, and others are doing the same. But who is going to guarantee that the folks really are vaccinated? How will all this work in a time of surging infections? Are we getting ahead of the curve, yet again? 

God knows we all want kids to be able to go back to school, but will we still feel that way if kids fall ill or die? What will it take to at least insist on mask mandates or… how’s this for an idea… insist that the teachers we entrust our children to are vaccinated?

The three educators who died this past week in Florida were all unvaccinated. How many kids under their care, in a state that won’t allow mask mandates, would they have infected? I know that there may be reasons some folks can’t get vaccinated and I know that there are legitimate discussions about personal choice. But I can’t understand how we can have folks working in hospitals or health care facilities who aren’t vaccinated and who put sick patients at risk. And I can’t understand how we can tolerate teachers, who will be in extended daily contact with our unvaccinated children, to not be vaccinated themselves.

Now, if you’re a teacher or a health care worker who demands that I respect your right to choose whether to be vaccinated or not, I’ll be happy to do so. But choices aren’t made in a vacuum and, if you choose not be vaccinated, our society can choose not to let you work in health care delivery or in educating vulnerable unvaccinated kids.

Quite frankly, I’m sick of those who scream about their rights but don’t want to accept that there are also responsibilities that go with living in a society. I’m sick of those who think they can do whatever they want and that we should all stand by as they irresponsibly prolong a pandemic that threatens us all. If you feel that strongly about not getting vaccinated, by all means, put yourself at risk. Skip the vaccination.

But don’t come crying when you can’t attend a concert where vaccinated people don’t want to associate with you. Don’t whine about how you can’t join vaccinated folks at a restaurant, or a movie theater. Don’t tell us how unfair it is. Suck it up and live with your choice.

And please, spare me your misplaced indignation if you’re told you can’t work in a hospital where our vulnerable family members are seeking care or in a school where our grandkids want to get an education without being put at risk of contracting a life-threatening disease from you.

Yes, I’m drawing a bright and sharp line between those who choose vaccination and those who don’t. That’s the way life is. There are times when hard choices have to be made if a society is going to function. We are not a collection of 330 million independent actors, each carving out our own lives in an unforgiving world. We’re a society. We chose to live together, to be part of the whole and to give to government a degree of power to make decisions for the greater good of all. And implicit in that social contract is a willingness to accept those decisions and abide by them even when you don’t agree. That’s the way it works. Get over it.

When did we become so self-centered, so unwilling to care for each other, so unable or unwilling to understand what it means to care for each other. 

I didn’t mean to belabor this issue. But it’s front of mind as I think about the kids shouldering their backpacks and standing outside the front door for their annual “back to school” photo. I just want them, and all the kids across the nation, to be protected and not pawns for politicians to play with. So I’ll worry. 

Time again for kitchen therapy.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 13, 2021

Friday the 13th. I really hadn’t focussed on that until I just sat down to write. It hasn’t really been a Friday the 13th kind of day, but I remember as a kid being aware of all the superstitions and old wives tales that I was exposed to and I’ll admit that I took care not to flaunt them. 

Do we really need to keep going forward when that black cat crosses our path? Maybe not. Don’t spill the salt, for god’s sake, but, if you do, make sure a pinch get’s thrown over your shoulder (the left one, of course).

What about knocking on wood? Supposedly, in the days when folks thought the gods lived in the trees they’d knock on the wood to ask a favor, and then again to offer thanks when the favor was granted. 

A mirror was once thought to be a reflection of the soul so breaking it inevitably foretold troubles ahead — that is, of course, unless you buried the pieces outside under the light of the moon (I didn’t know that one).

How about the ladder? Its shape, along with the building against which it rested and the ground below, was that of a triangle — a mystical symbol in many cultures. Walking under it, or through the triangle tempted the fates. But if you remember to hold your thumb between your index and middle finger you might just escape the worst of what they had in store for you.

Saying ‘god bless you’ when someone sneezes has its roots in the world of superstition and, to this day, the number 13 is mysteriously missing on the elevator panel as we ride upwards. 

If you drop a fork company is coming. if your palm itches, wealth is coming your way, if it’s your nose that itches you’re going to kiss a fool. 

As a kid I had no hope of finding a horseshoe lying loose on the streets of St. Paul, but I still had a shot at finding a four-leaf clover in the yard. I looked often and had occasional success. 

Maybe there’s nothing to them, but why push your luck? A tip of the hat to the gods of fortune can never hurt. So far, at least, I feel that fortune has favored me over the years, so I’ll stay the course. Why not?

I know this may all seem silly, but it’s a good antidote to the often grim news we’ve seen this week. It’s a good way to end the week.

There is one serious note, however. The news is full of stories today about the drawdown and perhaps ultimate evacuation (it seems damn likely) of the diplomats and other professionals serving our nation in Afghanistan. Reports are coming in that they’ve started the destruction drills we all know but hope we never have to use. And as dangerous as Afghanistan has been for years, it has become even more so. Yet the men and women staffing our Embassy do so despite the risks and the dangers.

I recall the worries I felt when I was the Director for Career Development and Assignments and we were recruiting colleagues to serve there and in Iraq and other particularly dangerous posts. It was enough to compel some of us to travel to Afghanistan and Iraq to see at first hand the risks our people would face so we could offer honest assessments and advice. I was proud of every one of them that stepped up when duty called . They served despite hardship and danger because that is what they committed to — to be “worldwide available” in service to our country. 

They don’t get much attention day in and day out. They don’t wear a uniform that is a visual reminder that elicits a “thank you for your service” from strangers at a coffee shop. They aren’t invited to board aircraft early. The vast majority of them will never be in the public eye. But every day, in nations around the world, they serve. They suffer from Havana Syndrome (we still haven’t figured it our but there are more and more cases being uncovered). They get dengue fever, they get tear gassed, threatened by security agents who want to hide the abuses of their government. They are followed and bugged, surveilled and threatened, and, even when they aren’t the target, they often live in countries in chaos where violence threatens to spill over and touch them or their families. 

That’s what service looks like for them. But still they do it. They are patriots, and tonight my prayers are for them. Perhaps yours might be too. So, fingers crossed. Maybe that will offset the challenges of Friday the 13th for us all. 

Have a good weekend. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 12, 2021

It’s another hellishly hot day. In Italy, they may have recorded the hottest day ever in Europe. A temperature of 119.8 degrees was recorded in Sicily as anti-cyclone Lucifer continues to move north from Africa bringing record-shattering hot air with it. Wildfires are flaring up in unprecedented numbers in Italy, too, as in Greece and Turkey.

It IS more than a bit disconcerting. It feels like each day promises to deliver news that is just a bit more unsettling, whether it is about climate or COVID or the uncivil war that is brewing here at home. 

Our daughter-in-law Natalie talked about feeling that we’re being pushed back to 2020 anxiety levels and I can’t help but think that she’s right. The fact that she lives in Texas compounds things, but it’s more than geography. No matter where you may live there’s just a growing sense of unease.

I find myself trying to understand where things started to break down and where the country in which I grew up started to disappear. There’s a new book out that may offer food for thoughts. “Reign of Terror” by Spencer Ackerman. I just bought it and want to look at his assumptions and arguments. 

I often said that around the turn of the century things started to change in our nation and that the past two decades have seen a huge shift in how politics and governance work (or not) in America. Ackerman, according to the reviews at least, takes that kind of thinking farther positing that 9/11 was a turning point that made the rise and election of Donald Trump possible and opened the door for the discord and division that sadly seems to define us now. 

He explores the impact that the War on Terror had in pushing American politics and society in an authoritarian direction and the line from heightened anti-muslim sentiment to anti-immigrant, anti-“the other” has to be considered. So much of the culture war seems to revolve around themes of race and white supremacy and white fear. The book seems like it will be worth a look.

Ironically, two other major headlines have tangential links to the discussion. One was about the census data.  Although the information is just coming out, and despite the fact the news outlets are focusing on which states will gain or lose political clout, what struck me is the headline that shows we are more diverse and multiracial than ever and the change may be coming faster than some have anticipated. 

So, how will THAT play out amongst those for whom continued white dominance is considered critical for America? 

And then there’s the continued collapse of Afghanistan. Certainly, if nothing else, the sense of pending doom in Afghanistan fits right in with all the other stories of the day. The human tragedy is, and continues to be, heartbreaking. 

You can debate whether we should have pulled our troops out or not. These are horribly tough calls and I’m I not an expert whose voice matters on the question of should we stay or go. But I do wonder whether the Taliban’s surge will further fuel the angst, anxiety and antagonism of those who have ridden the authoritarian wave since 9-11. I wonder if it will lead them to feel vindicated in their attacks on muslims, and immigrants, and any whose skin isn’t as white as theirs. 

Those of us who lived through the horrors of 9-11 know that it was a seminal event in our nation’s history.  But as Ackerman suggests, it may have been a turning point with consequences we’re only coming to appreciate. I’m interested to read the book.

Looking back on what I’ve written recently I feel as though the picture looks darker and more ominous each day. The anxiety levels are, as Nat suggested, kicking up. That’s for sure. And it all comes out when I sit down to write. I’m hoping that something will come along to kickstart a different modality. 

I’m not a doom and gloom kind of guy, but I think I need some new material to work with.  Come on world, get it together. We all could use a break.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 11, 2021

The camera pans the cataclysmic flames that leap inexorably from tree to tree.

Cut to the weather map — glowing orange and red with the markers showing scorching heat.  It’s almost everywhere. 

Cut again to another set of maps, equally orange and red as they offer dramatic testimony about the rising level of COVID infections across the nation.

The silence is shattered as the camera cuts abruptly. A series of images. Heated exchanges in one community after another. People red in the face, impassioned, shouting. Accusing. Threatening “we’ll track you down.” The anger is unsettling.  Disturbing.


We’ve seen movies that begin that way and they don’t end well. Perhaps there will be hint of promise at the end or a victorious outcome — perhaps there won’t. But in any version of this storyline, pain and suffering abound first.  

This isn’t a movie, of course. It’s our lives. We shake our heads and know it’s bad, but is it really as dire as it looks on the evening news? Can’t be, we tell ourselves. But isn’t it just a bit disturbing that we ask ourselves that question?

And, when you think about it, you have to wonder if those who live through times of dramatic upheaval and change recognize it for what it is.

I’m not saying we’re on a course for disaster — either as a nation or as a planet. But watching the news is like watching the trailer for the mother of all disaster movies. 

And speaking of disasters, you can’t help but look at the latest news on the COVID front and worry that disaster is just lurking around the corner. I’ve now seen several reports about the diminishing effectiveness of the vaccines against the delta variant. Perhaps the vaccines’ efficacy is diminishing with the passage of time. Perhaps it’s just that the variant is that challenging. Either way, it’s not good news.

And then there’s the delta plus variant and the lambda variant. One of those (I can’t recall which) has mutations in the spike protein that makes it more resistant to the vaccines. Great… just great.

Meanwhile, the numbers are dizzying again. In some places even worse than any other surge we’ve seen and this is in summer. What will happen when weather drives folks indoors. Sure, we’ve made progress on vaccinations, but even if the vaccines worked perfectly in every case we still have more than 30% of the nation… more than 100,000,000 people, who aren’t vaccinated. 

Texas is once again in crisis. So are other states, but Tony and Nat and baby Gus are in Texas. So I pay even more attention, and all I can say is pray to god that you don’t need an ICU bed in the state of Texas. A human tragedy of incredible proportions unfolding once again and the governor won’t allow mask mandates.  

Seemingly blinded to science and facts by ideological conviction his policies have to be blamed for much of the current crisis, yet now he has the hutzpah to ask health care workers from other states to come to Texas to help. Folks will, because they are good and decent and caring. And the people of Texas need help. But the governor should be ashamed. He isn’t, of course.

I wonder if he will ever feel the burden of his decisions. Or DeSantis. Or many others. 

One thing seems clear after 18 months of this craziness. There are some who choose their politics over principles. Who choose fiction over science. Who refuse to learn lessons. Who repeat the same mistakes again and again while others pay the price. 

Maybe we ARE seeing the start of a disaster movie of our own making. Now there’s a thought to end a Wednesday with.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 10, 2021

I’m sitting here with Gracie, one of our senior dogs, glued to my hip in the chair while the other three are scattered about the room. There are rumbles of thunder and I know that Lo Khyi, in particular, still considers this an unnatural turn of events. No matter how many times we’ve been through this, he’s not a fan. Max, our oldest, is coping better… but his hearing is going, so that helps I guess.

As I look out the window at the moment I see the trees are throwing their limbs around like a child having a tantrum. The skies are getting darker. So the pups are going to be sticking close by, I imagine, for the next little bit.

Not, of course, that Lo Khyi has been particularly active in the past week as he is recovering from his surgery. On that front, I have to say, our Prince of the Mountains is doing better than we might have hoped.  

The incision was a long one but it’s healing cleanly and looks good. His hair is starting to grow back on his hip and leg, and his mobility is not half bad. He seems to be managing the pain well and I have to say he has impressed me with the good grace he has shown in wearing his Elizabethan collar. The innate dignity that makes him such a special boy is on full display. Have to say… I love that dog.  

So, as the afternoon slips into evening, I’ve been taking care of business, I fit in a workout, sent a box of books off for sale on Amazon and am now trying to clear the decks for a night spent working on fundraising for the pediatric intensive care unit we hope to make a reality in Nepal. 

It’s a worthwhile thing to do… I just wish I had gotten to it during the day.  Meanwhile, the news is on in the background. There’s a school board meeting in nearby Loudon County and there’s extra security because tempers are running high over the issue of pronouns. Not just any pronouns, of course, but the pronouns preferred by kids.

Recently, a teacher there felt called to make this an issue. He refuses to use the preferred gender pronouns that the kids identify with. Sexual identity is a very personal thing. As a young person I never thought about sexual identity. I wouldn’t have known that there was an option or something to question. But we learn and we grow as individuals and as a society.

This isn’t just a trans issue, though the voices of trans adults and kids were essential in shifting our awareness. Whether we’re straight or trans or non-binary or gender non-conforming, we all want to be seen for who we are. What does it hurt us, or the teacher, to respect the choices that people make about their identity. 

Whether we understand it or not, whether it conforms or not to what we learned at our parents knees or in our churches – it doesn’t matter.  I was thrown a bit when I first saw signature blocs in emails where folks added in their preferred pronouns. Was this something I needed to do? Was I out of step? Was I offending without intending to?  

The bottom line was just that I needed to understand. To be aware. And I had to ask myself, what does it hurt us to think about our own preferences or engage a school kid and accept his, her, their or hirs choice?  

It’s not about being “woke.” It’s not about being politically correct or fighting a battle in the culture wars. It’s simply about respect — or so it seems to me. So, next time someone asks us to truly see him, her, them or hir, and when he, she, they or ze asks us to use their preferred gender pronoun (pgp), just do it. It’s not a hard thing to do.

(And if I don’t have it all right, forgive me. I’m trying and I’m learning. And that’s a good thing to do, I think.)

My preferred pronouns are he/him/his. What are yours?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 9, 2021

Today has been busy. We’re hoping to help fund, or find donors willing to help fund, a pediatric intensive care unit at one of our partner hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley. Getting companies or individuals to move past an instinctive “no” when they have grown tired of pleas for help is never easy, but I try. I’ve learned that you have to at least try. If you don’t, nothing changes. If you do, something just might. 

I’m hoping for the “something might” because the kids who would benefit are kids who deserve a break and for whom a bit of hope when they fall ill might just tip the scale. Here in the US, 20% of new COVID cases in Louisiana are children. Overall we’ve got 94,000 pediatric cases across the nation and kids are going back to school. Kids are going into the hospital at a 4X greater rate than just a month ago. If things are going in this direction, what do you think it is like in Nepal where the third wave of the pandemic in Nepal seems to be on the verge of gearing up and where the number of kids affected is growing rapidly. 

Trying to help matters, but it reminds me of how hard it can be to get the balance right. I’m starting a few months of physical therapy for my back and neck. Nothing new about that, these are problems that we just have to manage and the older we get the more of them there are… at least in my experience. But I recognize that if I had brought the same discipline to stretching and working out that I do to writing daily or keeping Engage Nepal going, then maybe I wouldn’t have to be doing more intensive PT and chiropractic care now. Balance. It’s always about balance.

I haven’t cooked as much lately. Balance. 

I haven’t played music as much lately. Balance.

I guess I have some work to do in my time management.

Meanwhile, there’s so much more to think about that challenges our understanding of our values, our priorities, and our futures. 

How about Andrew Cuomo? For many he was “America’s Governor” during the pandemic. But, while we all believe (I think) in the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” I have to ask whether he can hold onto a position of power and trust in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming body of accusations of sexual misconduct and assault. We deserve more from our leaders. And yes…Trump got away with it, and his supporters were happy to turn a blind eye… but that doesn’t make it right. If this was Trump I’d be excoriating him and calling for his resignation. Cuomo deserves the same condemnation, no matter what. It’s not about our political allegiances. It’s about doing what is right.

That’s one headline. Here’s another. We may actually have 70 members of the Senate providing support for passage of the 1.35 trillion infrastructure bill. There are plenty of political fights to come, but can we take a moment to celebrate this moment of bipartisanship. It stirs the embers of hope that I have to admit always linger. Let’s see where it leads.

And we’re going to need to find a degree of bipartisanship to deal with the Code Red for Humanity that the UN Secretary General warned of with the issuance of the updated climate change report I talked about the other day. It warns that the planet is warming even faster than we thought and may experience a 2.4 degree increase in the average temperature by 2040… a decade earlier than estimated and THAT was a frightening projection when you looked at the potential for extreme weather events, floods, droughts, and more. 

Lots of folks don’t want to believe it. But look at the wildfires raging across the world. It’s like a hell-scape. An out of control inferno taking advantage of parched landscapes, high winds, and bone dry forests. The Dixie fire in California has grown to be the second largest ever in California’s history. After a month it has expanded to half a million acres and it is still out of control. And it’s not just here. 586 fires rage in Greece. Turkey is seeing intense fires as well Tourists are boarding ferries to escape the flames. Never in my almost seven decades do I remember stories of fires so wildly out of control year after year. It’s just one manifestation of the climate crisis but the idea that this is Code Red is spot on.

More are listening than before but why have so many ignored the reality for so long? 

That’s a lot to think about for today. Think I’ll look for that elusive balance and just let it go for the rest of the night.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 8, 2021

I’m sitting on the deck keeping Lo Khyi company this morning. It’s still cool and not very humid. A nice peaceful way to start the day. I was watching a chipmunk scurry along under the pergola. Hummingbirds and other feathered friends are dallying with the sunflowers. I’d like to freeze the moment to savor.

I know what I’d find if I open up a news site. So I won’t. The same concerns about COVID and politics. The same attempts to divide us for political gain. It seems these politicians can’t raise money unless they are demonizing the other side. The rhetoric becomes more inflammatory and there are far too many ready to seize upon even the most contemptible stories to reaffirm the “validity” of their anger and hate.

It’s so troubling to hear the regular and repeated comparisons of the effort to fight the pandemic to the holocaust and Gestapo tactics. Rational folks shake their heads at how ludicrous it is, but there are those — far too many, I fear — who buy into it and throw such accusations out over a drink at the bar or at the dinner table. It’s a bit scary, especially given that those who spread such nonsense, and those with whom it originates, are the same neo-fascists who flocked to Donald Trump’s banner.

This isn’t hyperbole. It isn’t just me being a curmudgeon. Facts are facts. Trumpism has offered a home to the haters, the racists, the “America for whites only” crowd. Just look at Steven Miller and others of his ilk. Look at their writings, their public statements and the policies they advocate. How ironic that those most likely to rely on heavy-handed police state tactics (look at Trumps “law and order response” to the Black Lives Matter movement) and you’ll see the kind of America that they would be happy to live in. One in which security officials with no visible ID whisk protestors away in black SUVs.  

It would be easier just to turn away from the news completely — live in a bubble and let others worry about it. And god knows, it’s easy to feel helpless and throw up our hands in the face of irrational hatred and prejudice. It would be easy to say “a pox on both your houses” and walk away from it all, and it’s true that the left can be irresponsible too in their claims and attacks and fear mongering. But we make a mistake if we say this is “just politics.” That’s what the Trumps and the Bannons and Millers and all the rest want. We have to be able to distinguish between political rhetoric and gamesmanship and a deeper and more fundamental ugliness. 

I truly believe that there is something dangerous at work and that the combination of white supremacists, q anon conspiracy theorists, and neofascist schemers pose a real and present danger to our nation. And then there are the guns… way too many guns. 

My back yard feels like such a haven of peace and tranquility that it would be easy just to tune all the rest out. But we can’t. Whether it’s the pandemic, or climate change, or gun violence, or social and economic injustice, the problems are real, and I have to ask if I have done enough to spare our grandkids from the specter of a dysfunctional nation and planet. When I was a kid, the future seemed full of promise and possibility. Is that what our grandkids will feel? I wonder.

Individually we may not tip the scale. But collectively we have a chance. Our nation, and our planet, is at a crossroads. I want to add my voice and my support to those who reach for the light rather than those so eager to embrace the darkness.

Where will you stand?

And so begins the 32nd week of 2021. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 7, 2021

It’s one of those Saturdays. Last night it was my turn to stay downstairs with Lo Khyi and I had to get up at 3 AM to give him his tramadol. The time between doses is getting longer, but it happened to come due in the middle of the night and so of course I had to get up and get him his meds. He can’t do it himself. And he’s my boy. So I got up.

Then at 6am I heard him whimper a bit. He struggled to his feet and came over to the couch as if to check that I was there. I reached and rubbed his jowls and all was fine. He settled down again. But man… it was 6 AM on a Saturday. 9 AM would definitely have been better.  

I decided, foolishly perhaps, to take advantage of a reasonably cool morning to go out and finish weeding the yard. While we were in California the weeds thrived. I’m pretty sure at least a few of them may pose a threat to humanity.  They needed vanquishing. I started on Thursday. Got the front yard. Today it was the side of the house and the backyard. Weeding, trimming, and general maintenance followed. Two hours of it. 

On a short night’s sleep, a few hours in the garden wasn’t exactly how I’d have chosen to begin my weekend but it is what it is. Then I worked on a grant proposal for a community hospital in Nepal that is a model of what a community hospital can be. The pandemic presents an immediate threat and we have to help in the response but, in the process, we can’t fail to plan for the future as well. That’s what we hope to do. The pandemic has reminded us of how critical is is to build capacity. But we have to have funds to do it, so part of my day was spent working on that too.

Then I went to sit down. Time to relax. But then the stupid starts. I saw a video of Marjorie Taylor Greene seemingly applauding Alabamans for their low vaccination rate and essentially urging folks to greet folks knocking on the door (to urge them to get vaccinated ) with guns.  Joe Biden’s “secret police friends” is how she characterized public health workers trying to address a crisis. Listen to her. Tell me there’s any other way to characterize it. And it’s not just Greene. There are plenty of fools out there who have gone so far as to threaten health officials across the nation. I don’’t care if you’re anti-vaccine. That is wrong. Very wrong. 

Like I said. One of those Saturdays. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 6, 2021

I don’t know what to write about today. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation? Or the President’s plan to ensure that at least half of all US vehicle production will be electric powered by 2030. They’re the opposite sides of the same coin.  

Wait, you might say. Just what IS this Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. A short explanation would be that it helps maintain the energy balance in the Atlantic Ocean. It is often described as a “conveyor belt” that takes warm surface water from the tropics and distributes it to the north Atlantic. The colder, saltier water then sinks and flows south. And if it fails, if that current weakens or destabilizes sufficiently, what we’ve seen so far in terms of climate disruption will seem like nothing. 

Remember the film, “The Day After Tomorrow” where we saw the world fall before a climate disaster of biblical proportions? That was based on a scenario involving the failure of the  … yep… you got it… the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

No one can tell us for sure that the AMOC will fail to a catastrophic extent, but there’s no question that it is becoming more disrupted. And the news comes just before the release next week of the report of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. Meanwhile, California’s second largest hydro-electric plant has been closed down because Lake Oroville is drying up. But then so is the Great Salt Lake. The number of days of unhealthful air in Denver is growing each year and the particulates from wildfire smoke are becoming a summer feature that is far from welcome. 

That’s what a 20-year mega-drought can do.

And, of course, it is the fossil fuel particulates that are driving us over the climate cliff. That is why the Biden Administration’s decision to push electric vehicles is so critically important. Traditional fossil fuel burning vehicles are the largest single source of greenhouse gases produced in the United States, accounting for 28 percent of the country’s total carbon emissions. The US, under Biden, is now following the example of China and Europe, and almost certainly this will accelerate a global push to transform the automobile industry. 

It will create jobs, it will have significant economic impact and it will be a vitally important step if Biden is going to keep the US on track to to dramatically reduce emission of greenhouse gasses by the end of the decade. The three major automakers in the US as well as the UAW joined the conversation pledging their support. It is going to be huge shift. It was going to happen anyway, I would argue, but having the US government throwing its weight into this effort will accelerate it as well. 

Mitigation and transformation. God knows we have to act now. With urgency. Mega-droughts.  Monster storms. Massive and deadly wildfires in the US, in Europe, in Africa. Please. Let’s not kid ourselves about the challenge. Some of us don’t like wearing masks? Too bad. In Denver it’s not just about COVID. It’s ozone and pollution that are creating record numbers of unhealthy days.

We’re freaked out about the challenges and changes that COVID has forced us to manage. This is just the warmup to the huge issues we’ll continue to confront. We will increasingly come to realize that the fire in Africa, the dried up lake in California, the crop failures in Asia, are all part of the world we’ve created by ignoring the reality of climate change for too long. For years we’ve paid lip service to the threat, but it’s never enough to force us to act, to make hard choices, or to truly sacrifice to protect the future for our kids and grandkids.  

Well, just like COVID, the climate crisis is going to keep slapping us in the face until we get it.  Until we get smart.

We keep ignoring the science on COVID and it keeps coming back. With a vengeance.  (We’re now up to 120,000 cases a day once again.) 

We keep ignoring the science on climate change too. All I can say is hold on to your masks.

Have a good weekend.

Stay strong. Stay safe, stay healthy.

August 5, 2021

Here’s a shocker. Florida leads the nation in new COVID cases. It also now leads the nation in the number of children hospitalized with COVID. But the governor is threatening to punish school districts that seek to require masks. And when one of those kids die, will he even notice? Because they will. 

There are no easy decisions on these issues, I know. But whether in Florida, or Texas, or Arkansas, or in any of the states where cases are surging, I struggle with these decisions that seem driven by politics rather than science. I know as well that I sound like a broken record. I’ve said this sort of thing again and again. But how can I not? Even in Virginia we are struggling again with a 600% increase in six weeks. Maryland is seeing an even bigger surge. We’ve gone from 12,000 hospitalizations to over 60,000 in no time. 

The same municipalities who so proudly, and prematurely, rushed to eliminate mask mandates are now reimposing them. It’s not a surprise that people are confused. 

Today I saw a heartbreaking series of Facebook posts from a Virginia man who has become ever sicker from COVID. He blames himself — he refused to get the vaccine. And now it is too late. In each report he was weaker, sicker, and ever more frightened — and filled with regret. It didn’t have to be this way.

On the plus side? Vaccinations in the states being hit so hard are on the increase. Seeing your neighbors die and hospitals once again overflowing with COVID patients seems to have achieved what all the science and pleas failed to do. 864,0000 new vaccinations yesterday alone. That, at least, is good.

I worry that more surprises await, but I’m optimistic enough that I was prepared today to put a deposit on a trip to the Galapagos at the end of next year. And the Iceland trip scheduled for next March is all set too. Let’s hope the optimism won’t have been misplaced.

We’ve spent 18 months balancing caution and hope. And my guess is that we’re going to have to keep those balancing scales handy for some time yet. And so it goes.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 4, 2021

The Prince of the Mountains is recovering at home today. He’s been laying outside on the deck for hours — with one of us in attendance of course — while he heals. It was a long night for everyone — the confusion caused by anesthesia coupled with the pain of the surgery had him vocal and uneasy for hours. He has settled now and is accepting strictly enforced inactivity with seeming good grace. And, in response to our constraints, he has chosen to do what he does best. Sleeping and resting. Resting and sleeping.  

Of course, the pain meds he’s on do help to encourage the more contemplative approach to life that he will have to adopt for a while. But gradually (full recovery could be four months) he’ll resume his full range of normal activity… to include patrolling the neighborhood like the Grand Marshal in a parade and terrorizing squirrels and any other cheeky backyard invader.

That unsettled night has left me tired today, but I’m glad I was able to be there for Lo Khyi when he needed us. Our pups count on us for care. We took on that responsibility and want to be worthy of the trust and love offered in return.

There are times, of course, when we can’t solve the problem. Can’t ease the pain, speed the recovery or stop the spread of disease or slow the passage of the years. But we can care and, perhaps most importantly — we can offer our presence. And that, whether for a parent or a child or a pup, may be the very best that we can do.

Sitting on the deck with Lo Khyi sleeping in the shade nearby, I’m tired but content. Happy Hump Day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

August 2, 2021

Please. Someone. Help me to understand. How can it be that the governor of Florida, considered to be one of the leading voices of the Republican Party, has really chosen to threaten the funding of public schools that opt to require masks. Really? And this comes in the state that accounts for 20% of all new COVID infections nationally and that saw horrific infection rates multiple times during the height of the pandemic.

Of course, he says he wants to protect the “right of parents to choose” whether their children should wear masks. It’s got a nice political ring for those who don’t like what they consider to be government intrusion into their lives. But when the choices these parents make can put other parents’ kids at risk, is that a sustainable argument? Aren’t we already seeing what happens when 30% of the population declines to get vaccinated or when folks disregard the guidelines for behavior if you’re unvaccinated? What do you think is going to happen in Florida’s schools if we leave all the choices about public health to individual choice?  

And the governor of a state that accounts for 20% of new infections does not want to allow local municipalities to make responsible choices regarding public health in their community.

We aren’t a nation of rugged pioneers who lived beyond the bounds of association.  We live within communities. We live as a society. And we have to accept that there are trade-offs between our individual rights and our responsibilities as citizens. We grant to our government the power and responsibility to make wise decisions in the public good. We want our governments to keep us safe and keep us healthy. That’s the way it works. We don’t all get to do our own thing especially when it comes to public health and safety. 

It’s all about politics, of course. But that comes with a hell of a price. COVID cases rose another 54% in just the past week. 80,000 new cases in the past week alone. Thank god for the vaccine but still we have huge challenges here — and across the world. Will this never end? 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

August 1, 2021

Welcome to the dog days of summer. At least that’s how, over the years, I’ve come to think of August. Technically, the “dog days” began in July. That’s when the sun shares the sky with Sirius, which is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog.

But to me it’s always signified that part of the summer when lawns are turning brown, when lawmakers flee Washington and federal workers are most likely to be out of the office. The traffic on the major freeways feeding the city eases and one hot sultry day is followed by another hot sultry day.  

The dogs lounge around with tongues hanging out as they try to keep cool in the shade. They know that if the walk doesn’t happen early in the day it isn’t going to happen at all… and that’s okay.

I look out the window at the garden, however, and it seems to relish the warmth and the moisture. While we were away in California, Garden Balsam exploded in the back garden growing dramatically among the mint and the basil. Sunflowers, now tower above my head and surround the bird feeders (I didn’t know that those seeds would germinate) and we even have corn growing from the kernels that we put out for the squirrels and blue jays. Cosmos and hydrangea and butterfly bushes, and tons more are in bloom. They’re colorful and verdant and refuse to let the summer heat get the best of them.

There are the invaders to tackle though. A weed called false daisy has surrounded the lemon grass and had to be dealt with. Other weeds have shot up too — not as high as the sunflowers but they’re making a statement.  And this year white mulberry appeared as well. It grows quickly and robustly and I’m thinking it may have to be tamed. I just have to work up the energy to go tackle the weeding (which I’ve been doing it small bits) in a more serious manner.

But that heat and humidity gives me pause and part of me says… what the heck. Weeds have got to live too, right? Ultimately, though, those weeds will learn that my tolerance for chaos is not without limit and out they will come. Soon. Yes, indeed. Soon.  

Not today though. There’s a new plant-based burger place that has vegan soft serve and how can I not go check that out? I even got an early workout in to allow myself a bit of a caloric splurge today. So weeds can wait. Soft serve is calling and it’s a perfect remedy for summer doldrums here in the dog days.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.