December 2021

December 31, 2021

How do these years keep on slipping by like this? It seems like only yesterday that we were looking at the dawn of 2021with such hope. We were going to have a new president (and by ANY measure I think that has been a blessing). The promise of vaccines was on the horizon and we were pretty sure that this pandemic couldn’t last forever. We had seen a lot of darkness during 2020, and 2021 offered promise and light.

So, how did it do? Where does 2021 fit in the hit parade of the years? 

I realize I haven’t spent much time over the years comparing one to another. I don’t really have a list of the top ten years. Each has been part of the journey and has its place. 

As for 2021, I will say that it beat its predecessor by a ton. For all the ongoing challenges and worries, I still remember the sense of hope that surrounded the Biden inauguration. We made it past the ugliness of January 6, and were turning a corner. And we HAVE had a President who is more concerned about making a difference for people than for feeding his ego and power. You can disagree if you want. But we ARE better off in that regard.

And 2021 may not have slain the pandemic, but it sure as hell has helped. Can you imagine where we’d be right now if so many of us were not vaccinated? I remember the almost giddy sense of relief with our first vaccination in January and then, even better, getting the second shot on the same day that little Gus was born. Two very special gifts in one day. I don’t recall anything comparable in 2020.

This year hasn’t been without challenges, of course, but we were able to travel three times to Texas to see Tony, Natalie and Gus, and we were twice to Minnesota to see Joe and Jess. We even had a vacation trip to California — time for us, and time to see friends. And a visit to the Himalayan Institute for a wellness retreat that gave us a chance to refocus our energies and priorities.

We’ve stayed healthy despite Delta and Omicron. We’ve lost weight. We’re staying engaged in the world. For me, I work, I write, and I walk. I cook, I learn, I meditate. I take time for music and for those I love. I can think of worse ways to have spent the year.  

2021 may not have been a year to treasure forever, but it could have been worse. Far worse. 

And 2022? Who knows. We’ll take it as it comes. I don’t want to burden it with too many expectations.

God knows, there will be challenges — that’s the nature of life. Some of them will continue to be pretty daunting — even existential. Climate change and pandemics are bad enough, and when we add in the fear and anger that are so pervasive, we know that the search for solutions will be harder than ever. 

I know though, that there will also be hope, and joy, and love and peace. There will. They will not be extinguished. Their endurance and strength, even in the face of adversity, is undeniable.  

We find them everywhere. In the birth of a child, in a grandchild’s laugh, and in the love of a partner. We find them in the warmth of a friend’s phone call and in the kindness of a stranger. We see them in a sunrise that takes our breath away, or the glory of a night sky. 

Those would be good enough for me and I know we’ll find them all in 2022.  So how bad can the year be? 

Tomorrow will start that journey. I’m ready for the adventure and, if the gods are kind, it will continue to be one that is rich in joy, rich in love, and rich in hope. And THAT is my wish for us all.

Happy New Year.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 30, 2021

Today kind of feels like you’d expect the (almost) last day of the year to feel like. It’s as if the year is weary and limping to a close. It wasn’t cold, but the dampness and the gray skies, and the periodic misting, just felt like the year was ready to give it up.

Days like that affect us all. I finally convinced myself to walk a couple of miles late in the day but it took effort. I think it was more a mental effort than a physical one, but it was an effort nonetheless.

The day has me feeling weary, I guess. I know it’s not just me, though. I think the world is weary. This pandemic is, quite simply put, insane. Could it get crazier? It very well may. We’re up to 316,000 cases a day. The number of kids being hospitalized is on a wild rise too.

With so many folks falling ill, or being exposed, or in quarantine, how can this not get crazier before it gets better? Everything has us bewildered and confused. People are frustrated and worried. That leads to further anger and division. Not a good year-end tale.

And all this craziness is forcing us to confront truly challenging questions. One huge debate is revolving around whether kids should be back in school over the next few weeks given the risks of hospitalization and the broader community spread that could follow. Should kids be tested before returning? Where would we even get the tests given that demand is spinning out of control. 

An equally jarring issue is the conversation about whether we should require vaccinations to fly. Should public health concerns be our primary concern? Personal freedom? Even the economic arguments cut different ways. Do we undercut the travel industry or, if we don’t try to control the spread, do we risk wider scale economic disruption? God knows, we’re seeing flights cancelled left and right because people who work on those planes are sick. What’s the best answer?  

In New York, over 30% of EMS personnel are out sick along with over 20% of police.

Some places are cancelling events for tomorrow night. But New York City is still planning the big ball drop. Sure, they’ve limited numbers to 15,000 instead of 50,000. Sure, they are insisting that those 15,000 need to be vaccinated. But… really? In a city that has made so many good, even bold, decisions in fighting COVID, does this one make sense? I don’t know. I don’t think any of us do. 

I decided, 660 days ago, to start writing this blog in part to chronicle my pandemic experience. It has become more than that for me since then. It is crazy, though, that on day 660 the pandemic is still so much a part of our lives and my writing. 

Still, we carry on. What else can we do?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 29, 2021

Another day of fleeing the news. 

I confess that I take a peek. I don’t want to miss something that may actually matter. I should know better. Record numbers of COVID cases. 273,000 a day. That’s insane, Over a quarter of a million new infections every day. At least the hospitalization rate is not keeping pace — though it’s bad enough. While the Omicron variant may be less virulent, it is incredibly effective in its contagion and the disruptive impact is crazy. 

I tried not to worry about that today. I had plenty of other things to keep me busy. That included the almost-daily hike with the dogs. On the occasions when Lo Khyi needs a rest day, I’l often walk with just Gyptse. She sets a good pace and brings tremendous focus. But when Lo Khyi is able to go, we see our pace slow. A mile that took Gyptse and me 20 minutes, is more likely to take us 28 minutes.

It would be easy to be frustrated. Lo Khyi, at times, will stop every ten feet (or so it seems) to stop and savor scents I’ll never be able to detect. I could insist that we carry on. I could pull him along — we are on a “walk” after all. Instead, I tell myself to take a breath. Does it really matter whether our walk lasts an extra quarter hour? 

Our walks are something to experience together. I may not experience it the same way that Lo Khyi does, and all that sniffing he does means nothing to me, but I’ve learned that, for him, it’s an important part of his pleasure. So I practice patience. I stand, I breath, and I let my walking partner set his pace. 

It’s much the same in life. A bit of patience means a lot — especially when we share the journey together. We may not always walk at the same pace, we may not share the same priorities at every stage, but we’re on the journey together and that is what counts. 

Lo Khyi reminds me of the need to be patient; that it’s not just about me. And that’s a good thing. We can learn a lot from our partners if we are willing to listen.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 28, 2021

In these days of remote working, the office I support at State asks us all to do a “logging on” message (and “logging off”) so that we can know who is online and available. It’s that many more messages to wade through, but I get it. I understand why that makes sense. 

This morning though, there was an unexpected and unintended twist. One of my colleagues, when attempting to type “logging on” accidentally typed, perhaps with one of those capricious auto-correct corrects, “loving on.” 

She’s a newlywed so perhaps there’s a reason loving was on her mind but she quickly corrected her message. I told her that her first version brought a smile and it seemed to me that it was a good message for the day. “Loving on.” Despite the craziness and the lack of love that so many sadly display, let’s dedicate a day to “loving on.” Nothing wrong with that.

Meanwhile, as we continue to be plagued by the challenges of the pandemic in it’s latest iterations, I’m going to add to my Storyworth collection tonight and I’ll share it here. Essentially killing two birds with one stone.

I was asked to reflect on my favorite playground game as a child. As I pondered, I realized that as a kid I probably was much more at home in the classroom than the playground. The playground wasn’t always a friendly place. I fit in well enough that I wasn’t a target for bullying and I was sufficiently athletic that I wasn’t totally inept at the games. Freeze tag, four square, red rover… they were all part of the playground ritual. But I don’t recall loving it. I wasn’t the player everyone sought after and these felt like mandatory rites of passage than moments of childhood enthusiasm. 

In Minnesota there was another rite of passage on the playground during the winter. I recall, as a first grader, being one of many who were lured into placing my tongue on one of the iron rails that corralled the heating vents on the ground. At ten degrees or so, the wet tip of my tongue was immediately sealed to the bar. It eventually came free, but not without moments of panic. I learned a lesson… and one of them was not to trust those smirking fourth graders!  

Nope, no matter the games that we played, the playground had the potential to be a testing ground. Surviving those rites of passage were part of growing up. I know I surprised myself some times with an unexpected four-square win against a particularly skilled opponent, but the real lesson was learning how to fit in when I wasn’t comfortable or didn’t feel like I really belonged. That lesson has served me throughout my life.

I can’t complain. The playground wasn’t traumatic, even though it wasn’t always fun. I just hope that my grandkids will find smoother sailing through their playground days and those even less-forgiving teenage years. And, if they don’t, perhaps they’ll read these words and know that they aren’t alone and know that It gets easier. It really does. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 27, 2021

It’s a cold and damp day. It does not inspire a desire to walk, though the dogs will go if I do, I know. We’ll see. Instead, here I am at midday writing a blog entry. It’s always good to write a bit earlier in the day like this if I can, so this is a bit of a treat.

I had two injections along my spine this AM. Uncomfortable but manageable. That too can be another excuse if I really do decide I’m too lazy to walk. We’ll see how the rest of the day unfolds.

In this last week of the year it always seems as though we spend more time reviewing the year that is past than we do creating new news. That’s OK, except I found 2021 to be a bit of a snooze as far as years go. 

It started with a bang with the violence-filled attack on the Capitol on January 6. But overall, it has felt like a somewhat gentler version of 2020. We have had far less of Trump’s demagoguery and dog whistles intended to divide, but we haven’t escaped the politics of division. COVID has been countered by vaccines and better treatments, but we haven’t escaped it’s clutches yet either. As I said, to me this year has seemed largely a pale reflection of the last. 

Gus was born, however, and the addition of a new grandchild is always a cause for joy. And we have had so much more time with family — in Virginia and Minnesota and Texas — and even time with friends along the way, that the year has certainly felt less sterile. Breaking free of the isolation we imposed on ourselves as we helped to fight the pandemic in its worst early surges, was liberating. We were careful, of course, but there were some good moments, so please, 2021, don’t feel offended by my earlier comment. You may be a pale reflection of 2020 in terms of drama and intensity, but I’ll take you over 2020 any day!

So, this week I may focus more on my answers to the second year’s worth of Storyworth questions I try to answer from time to time.  And today I’m taking an easy one about how I experienced Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.  

The honest answer, as dramatic as the moment was, I was NOT sitting mesmerized in front of the TV. It was a warm summer night in July, in Minnesota. I was 16 years old and, along with friends, was at the home of my first serious girlfriend. 

I recall that inside the house the TV was on but OUTSIDE there was music. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were playing on the… what?… I’m pretty sure it would have been a cassette tape player. “More Love” was a song that I recall hearing play more than once.  

As any red-blooded 16 year-old boy can tell you, sitting outside and trying to be cool for your girlfriend was far more compelling than watching a guy bouncing down from the lunar lander with a flag in hand.

It MAY be that we all took a break to go inside and watch the moment or it may be that it was just the background noise to our evening in the backyard. Quite simply I don’t remember whether we saw it live or not.  Perhaps the hundreds of times I’ve seen the film clip of that moment have created a “memory” of actually witnessing those steps as they occurred. 

Either way however, Neil Armstrong’s dramatic steps remain part of the history I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  It doesn’t matter where my attention was at the precise instant Armstrong set his foot on the moon. It still is a part of my life’s story just as the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK are. Just as the drama of Watergate or the searing trauma of 9-11 or the horror of George Floyd’s murder — shared on video across the nation — are. And now we can add January 6 to the list too. 

Events like these are noteworthy for the scope of their reach and impact. If you were alive when JFK was killed, or when the Twin Towers fell, those events became part of our consciousness with a universality that is seldom experienced. Events like that  become a shared point of reference in all our stories even thong we may have experienced those moments in wildly diverse ways.

For me, these powerful moments are framed with memories of who I was with and where I was. So, yes, I experienced Neil Armstrong’s historic steps on the moon through memories of the scent of a girl’s hair, the flavor of her lipgloss, and the melodies of Smokey Robinson singing on. And THAT is more than OK with me.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 26. 2021

The house seems incredibly quiet this afternoon. That’s not a bad thing. We’ve become accustomed to the peace that comes with just being two here at home. But it was so nice to have Tjiama and Joe and Sofie, Leo and Luca with us for the holiday. Especially after last year’s locked-down Christmas, this was nice.

There’s nothing earthshaking that follows holiday time together. I go in the morning for another injection in my back. It will be the third in the past few months. One helped. One didn’t. But there are multiple levels of my back that we’re working on and hope springs eternal. We’ll see how this one goes.

Then, on Tuesday, I’ve got my annual Medicare wellness physical. LOL. This has been an annual event since turning 65. I should be gratified that someone is looking out for us given the inevitable challenges that come with aging, but the yearly reminder that the medical profession is expecting me to fall apart at some point is a bit disconcerting.
I know that my spine has seen it’s better days and it’s easy to moan and groan about aches and pains that come along. And yes, there are some things that are a bit harder than they used to be. But the docs are going to have to wait a while before they have anything that challenges their skills. I’m pretty sure I’ll remember the three words the doc will give me at the start of the appointment (usually something like chair, sunrise and banana) and I am capable of still drawing an analog clock face and filling in a designated time (hint: the little hand points to the hour).
I’ll present the proper affect and the doctor will write up her notes and we’ll agree to do it again next year. It’s a bit of a kabuki dance in some ways. But I wonder how many older Americans are out there who didn’t have the joy of grandkids visiting at Christmas and who don’t really have someone. How many of them are, by all appearances, doing well, but actually being overwhelmed by loneliness, solitude, and the anxiety that if something were to happen to them, there’s no one to care.

I’m not personally worried about aging nor my health. Things will unfold as they will. But, recognizing that there are real challenges that so many face, I’m grateful to be healthy, grateful for Leija, and for a family that cares, and that I can count on.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 25, 2021

It has been a peaceful Christmas Day. There’s nothing like watching a little one’s face light up with excitement when he (or she) sees what Santa brought. We had that chance again this morning after having missed out last year thanks to the pandemic. Even those who have cracked the code about Santa still get a rush when it’s time to open those gifts. It IS pretty exciting.

Other than that, it has been a quiet day. We’ve enjoyed just being together with the family.  We’ve talked with the kids in Minnesota and have been following Gus’ first Xmas in Texas. It has been good. 

I hope though that Santa is vaccinated. It feels like Omicron is so widely contagious that all you have to do is look at someone who is infected and you join the club. Vaccinated or not. Omicron is not necessarily a great respecter of vaccines and for those of us of a certain age, even if you’re vaccinated there is still one in two hundred chance that this damn disease will kill you. But if you’re unvaccinated — and there are still millions in that category — and if you’re 70 or older there’s a one in twenty chance it could kill you if you become infected.  

I’ll take my chances with half of one percent rather than five percent. And if I have my druthers, I’ll just avoid the whole infection thing.  

That’s what the news is focused on, of course — the pandemic. But tonight we’re not going to worry about it here at home. We’re together and tonight we’re watching The Music Man because Sofie has never seen it and she may be auditioning for a role in it. It’s the same theater company that she performed with in the Sound of Music as part of the novitiates’ choir. It’s a challenge to get the kids to watch it. There are so many distractions with their video games, and Christmas presents and all.

I’m not sure how many kids today are captivated by what are now old classics. And musicals on top of that. They are a reflection of a time that is so different. The world has changed so much that these films must seem slow, and perhaps kind of pointless to them all. Still there’s nothing like some of the dance scenes in the Music Man to get you engaged whether in the library or the park. Fun. And whether the kids are paying close attention or not, at least a few of us are — even though we’ve seen it so very many times. 

So here’s to the classics and to those of us who appreciate them. A walk down memory lane isn’t a bad way to spend the evening on Christmas Day. 

It’s a good way to ease into the last week of the year. Merry Christmas!

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 24, 2021

Our tradition is to open gifts — other than those brought by Santa, of course — on Christmas Eve. That means the kids are counting down the hours. It’s almost 5pm so it own’t be all that long, but to them, I’m sure, it feels like forever. I can remember the anticipation and the excitement. 

This afternoon, then, I’m not going to take time to write at length. Family first.

And at least we’re together with part of the clan and we’re keeping track of the rest of the family in Minnesota and Texas. I can’t imagine how those folks whose flights have been canceled due to COVID-related staffing shortages are feeling. We’re lucky.

Anyway, it’s time to prep some Christmas Eve pizzas. Presents won’t be far behind. So, enough writing. Time for the holidays.

To steal the most appropriate line I can think of, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 23, 2021

It is funny the things that trigger our memories. First there was someone singing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” I can remember my mother playing it on the piano when I was a kid. She wasn’t a trained pianist but she’d play the chords with her left hand, the melody with her right and sing along as she played. She could carry a tune and had a nice voice. 

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” triggered memories of Dad. In later years in particular, as my older siblings started to leave home, he’d get misty-eyed thinking of them at the holidays. With Tony, Nat and Gus in Texas, and Joe and Jess in Minnesota, I can relate.  

One thing leads to another. Out of nowhere came a memory of my Mom reading us “Annie and Willies Prayer” from the anthology “The Best Loved Poems of the American People.” When I was in my early twenties she gave me a copy of the book with all of her favorites bookmarked (in those days, those were actual bookmarks rather than electronic links, lol). The poem was another that would reduce my sisters — ok, all of us — to tears. 

Meanwhile, here in the present, Tony sent a picture today of his car all loaded up to drive to Victoria, TX from Austin. The gifts all wrapped and loaded in the back had the car packed to capacity. I wondered how they’d fit Gus in. 

Tonight, Tjiama, Joe and the kids arrived. Their car looked much the same. Hmmm. 

And I know Joe makes Jess a bit nuts with all the presents he ends up getting for her.  I could say I have no idea of where they get that from, but it would be a lie. The old saying about the apple not falling too far from the tree has the ring of truth.

Of course, I’ve never been as totally over the top as my kids get. No. Never. 

Anyway, it is time to shift gears. Forget work, forget fundraising, forget the political idiocy. Forget about it all. It’s time for family. It’s time for Christmas.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 22, 2021

I don’t have a lot to say today. The hours were filled with work —  both online and around the house. There was a trip to the vet, as well, with Lo Khyi and Max (nothing serious). There’s more to do as we get ready for Christmas. And later tomorrow, Tjiama and Joe and the kids will come over. They’ll stay during the holiday weekend. The house will be a bit noisier than normal with the kids here, and their two dogs. It will feel like when the kids were young. It will be nice.

I won’t be long tonight. Still more to do. 

There was an interesting article in Newsweek that a friend had on her Facebook page and Leija shared with me. It raised a fundamental question about whether our nation could be heading towards an irrevocable breakdown that could lead to violence. It spoke about our fundamental differences and the view of a segment of our society that we live in an oppressive state where a tyrannical — and illegitimate —government seeks to strip away our freedom. Meanwhile, there’s another segment of nation that sees the far right as trying to rush us headlong into a repressive, racist, misogynistic and fascist state. Two different visions, two different directions.

The article suggests that the challenge, if this devolved into conflict, is that once side is heavily armed and is buying more guns all the time. One of the far right commentators talked about one side having 8 trillion bullets. “Which side do you think will win?” He asked rhetorically.  And, the reality — as pointed out in the article — is that the overwhelming majority of the gun owners are Republicans, white, and rural.

It was a serious article. And it posited some legitimate questions and posed some deeply troubling fears that have to be nagging at many of our minds. It’s the environment in which the right is attacking Dr. Fauci talking about ambushing him with kill shots or comparing him to the Nazis’ Dr. Mangele, “the Angel of Death” who would experiment on Jews in the death camps. It is appalling. But even red state newspapers in small towns talk about civil war and dictatorship and the socialist nightmare that Biden is orchestrating. There is an undercurrent of division and fear that the FOX journalists are tapping into. And it’s worrisome.

There was more than enough truth in the article to be deeply troubling. And the militias that have formed in various locales are no joke as security officials can tell you. But I hope that we can take a beat. Yes, there are millions of guns but, as crazy as our gun culture is, that doesn’t mean every gun owner is prepared to turn them on our fellow citizens. I’m guessing most aren’t. And yes, the overwhelming majority of Republicans say in polls that they believe Biden is an illegitimate President, but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to go to war. 

Newsweek made a case for why the risk of conflict is real. They didn’t try, however, to examine closely enough the challenges and problem inherent in trying to orchestrate a true civil war. You can bitch all you want about the government, but just what do you do if it disappears? What happens to Social Security, to Medicare, to all the government programs that make us safer and healthier? Republicans hate Biden. Democrats hate Trump. We all think the other side is dead wrong. And in the end, what do we gain? Where do we end up? Damned if I know. 

All of this probably requires much greater thought than I can give it tonight. And it’s the holiday season. There are many things that are more uplifting and hopeful to think about. So I’ll turn my mind that way. It will certainly be better for my mental health. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 21, 2021

Happy Solstice. It’s the shortest day of the year. Some describe it as the darkest. That’s accurate enough in terms of the hours of daylight. Some might think it describes more than that, as we listen to the news about the crazy surge of COVID. 

It wears on us all, I think. I know it wears on me. The constant uncertainty and the threats posed by this unpredictable disease are bad enough, but it seems worse when we have to address it against a backdrop that seems to constantly reinforce the harsh differences in values and beliefs that seem to divide us. 

It is enough to make me want to throw up my hands. I find that I have to work to keep anger at bay. A year ago it was worse, I guess, with the craziness that was added every day by Trump, but still, it feels hard. And I’m tired. 

That’s why taking time for ourselves is more important than ever, though it can be hard when you feel as though there’s so much more to do. And, at least for me, I feel it all the more when I fail to achieve my goals. Fundraising, for example, has been far harder than in years past and I feel bad that we may not be able to help all those who need us. But I read something the other day about failure and was reminded that failure goes hand in hand with trying. We don’t make a difference without risking failure. We don’t make a difference if we don’t try.

I can accept that.

It made me think as well of my Mom and how much she liked the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. She taught me to love it too. I hope someday my grandkids might find some resonance in it as well. It’s not “mine” to pass on, of course. I know in many ways it is a reflection of a different age — it was written in 1895 in the waning years of the Victorian era — but it still speaks to me. I saw it described as a poem for tough times. And man, these are tough times. 

So for those who may not have read it recently — or for those who don’t know it at all (gasp), here’s “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Today it’s not about being a Man of course. But it IS still about being a good person, a principled person, a determined, committed, caring person. It’s still about giving our best no matter what Triumph or Disaster proclaim. Yep, More than 125 years later it still works for me. 

Happy Solstice. At least tomorrow is guaranteed to be a brighter day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 20, 2021

Monday morning. It’s chilly — like December should be. I can’t say cold. After all, I’m from Minnesota and it doesn’t really get “cold” until you’re on the other side of zero. But chilly works for a day that began in the 20s. Lo Khyi’s water dish on the deck had a pretty solid layer of ice on it, a reminder it may be time to get the heated dish out there. He’s a funny dog. He likes to drink outside even though there are a plenty of water dishes inside the house. It’s just the way he is. 

I guess that’s true for most of us. We are who we are. Our habits, attitudes, and beliefs are pretty well baked-in, especially by the time we reach a certain age. 

We are, however, capable of change if we want it badly enough. We can learn new skills — though it does get harder with age — and we can re-examine the world around us and our place in it. 

Some folks, I know, don’t embrace the change. Others actively fight against it. But I kind of like it. It’s always an adventure. And it happens to us all whether we like it or not. 

It makes me think of something I came across in one of the countless web searches I do. There was a quote from Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

I won’t say that I’m wise, but I want to continue to change. Hopefully for the better. 

It’s now evening. I barely had the chance to start the blog this morning before I had to stop. Maybe if I’d kept writing this morning the end result would have been totally different. But instead, a morning comment about a pup who likes his water icy cold can lead to an early evening reflection on change. But that’s where my mind went today and my fingers on the keyboard followed merrily along.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 19, 2021

I’m starting this as we “babysit” with the three grandkids here in Virginia. “Babysit” is hardly the right term, though, for three crazy kids age 12, 10, 5. There’s nothing babyish about any of them. 

The conversations ranged from Dungeons and Dragons to family trees and the study of history. There were games and there was goofiness. And there was confetti. Lots of confetti.

Sofie has been preparing it in anticipation of New Year’s Eve. But there’s nothing like a dress rehearsal. Suddenly, she and Luca — the two who might be most inclined to disregard that little voice in the back of their heads asking them “is this REALLY a good idea?” — were throwing confetti into the air. 

Now that can be fun, I know. But as the exercise was repeated multiple times as they moved across the room and into the foyer it was a bit like watching Thing One and Thing Two in the Cat in the Hat. Trouble upon trouble. LoL

Sadly, unlike the “Cat in the Hat,” Thing One and Thing Two, did not have a marvelous machine to clean it all up. I watched, with growing skepticism about the outcome of this effort. When it was time to clean up, it seemed that the kids lacked the enthusiasm for that part of the game. Shocking, I say. Shocking.  

Sofie, to her credit, made a good effort and Luca did about as much as you might expect from a five year old. Of course, each time they pulled together a pile of Sofie’s multi-colored confetti, it somehow continued to find it’s way into the air. Once again, not a surprise. The confetti seemed to multiply, adhere, and move with a determined desire to slide under floor molding, stick to rugs and walls and even settle into the light fixtures.

Although I believe that the basic duty of a grandparent when babysitting is to ensure that the children are all still alive and have all their limbs when their parents return, it was reaching a point where, like the goldfish in the Cat in the Hat, SOMEONE had to insist that the game had, perhaps, gone too far, and this time the cleanup must be real. The kids fail to appreciate that Nana and Papa, even if they prefer hugs and snuggles, can, if forced, be firm in their guidance. This was such a time.

We joined in the clean-up effort and lo and behold, by the time the parents walked through the door, a modicum of order had been restored. Though, I did think Mom and Dad deserved the pleasure of removing the light fixture’s shade to clean the confetti out of it. Knowing our grandkids, and appreciating that this incident COULD be repeated, they might be wise to wait for a bit. Besides the yellow, orange, green, blue and red shapes inside the light fixture gave the foyer a festive air that appealed to the 60’s legacy in me. 

The evening is closing far more quietly at home. Pups are sleeping in various parts of the room, we just had some homemade butternut squash soup and a vegan version of stuffed shells, and the heating pad on my back warms me almost as much as the meal did. It’s enough to put you to sleep. Perhaps it’s time to stop writing.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 18, 2021

It’s seven days until Christmas. 

I have always loved Christmas. My parents always made it special. I hope that I helped to do the same for our kids. There is something magical about this time of the year. I know we all say that, but there’s an element of truth to it. It’s there. 

It’s not the Hallmark movies and the carols playing everywhere. It’s not Black Friday sales or who can get the best price on the latest gadget. And even though I know I’ve been accused (unfairly of course) of going overboard when it comes to gifts, it’s really not about the presents either. It’s about the time together as a family. The laughter, the excitement of the kids… even the meltdowns.

It’s looking back at the pictures from years of Christmases. It’s listening to the poor quality recording of Tony on a radio show when he was maybe 4 years old talking to Santa. It’s my grandma’s Christmas candle holder and Christmas bell. It’s the holiday plate that my mom painted. It’s the stockings that I stitched and it’s the Santa that tops the tree proudly holding the American flag, brought home from a Marine ball, that Joe slid into his belt one year and that has been there ever since.  

It’s remembering the Christmas codes I created with the increasingly elaborate clues that I’d dole out as the days progressed towards the holiday. The codes had to be solved by Christmas — that is, if you wanted to open your gifts. At least that’s what I’d tell the kids. I know they didn’t really believe me, but they worked hard to solve them nonetheless.

And then there were our Christmas parties. We haven’t done one since we retired but for years they too were part of the tradition. They began in Sri Lanka and they had an almost twenty year run. Leija always went all out. The baking was non-stop. I did the Bengal Lancer Punch and the Italian sausage and a few other goodies, but it was Leija’s show and it was always stellar.

These days, of course, we’re the grandparents. I’ve relinquished my role as the package distributor. Our daughter Tjiama does that. I get to sit back and just watch. It’s still all good. Just different roles. There’s a song, “Christmas Mem’ries. There’s a verse that always resonates:

“And oh the joy of waking Christmas morning

The fam’ly round the tree

We had a way of making Christmas morning

As merry as can be

I close my eyes and see

Shiny faces

Of all the children

Who now have children of their own


But come December

I remember 

every Christmas I’ve known.”

Those memories come flooding in this time of year. Along with the hope that not only our family but that all of us, everyone, will find a moment of love and joy and peace.

None of it will make the pandemic go away or ensure that sanity returns to our politics but those Christmas memories — old and new — will help.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 17, 2021

Well… no Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall this year. Cancelled. Pro football games have had to be rescheduled because so many players have COVID and are spreading it. It’s crazy. New York had over 21,000 cases in a single day.  

Omicron is racing in right behind Delta. The White House offered the stark warning that if you’re not vaccinated you face a winter of severe illness and death. That’s grim, but true. The prediction is that millions will end up getting ill with Omicron in the coming months. And of course flu is kicking in as well. What a horrible challenge for the medical teams that have to respond.

We will never be the same. 

Robert Scott Palmer, one of the insurrectionists that attacked the Capitol will never be the same. He was sentenced today to five years for assaulting the police officers on January 6. He assaulted them with a wooden plank, he sprayed them with a fire extinguisher and once it was empty he threw the canister at officers. That day he was full of hate and anger and thought nothing of attacking police officers. Today he was in tears, sobbing before entering the court and telling folks he felt betrayed by the former President whose lies and demagoguery convinced him to be join the mob.  

He didn’t contest the charges. He pled guilty. The video evidence was incontrovertible. I can understand that today he may realize that he was a dupe, but that doesn’t excuse his choice of violence. I can’t feel sorry for him. It’s easy to feel remorse once you’re caught, but what if somehow these folks had managed to keep Trump in office. I don’t think that they would feel bad then. They would likely have been triumphant and convinced that violence was the answer. I have to believe that many of them still are.

Another defendant was in tears today. Kimberly Potter is on trial in Minnesota for manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. In this case it was a police officer who shot an unarmed black man. She thought she had drawn her taser. Most of us have seen the story and her testimony today was heartbreaking. She too felt remorse. And she too was caught on video. This time her own body cam and that of other officers. 

Unlike Palmer, she was devastated when she realized what had happened. I don’t think anyone really believes her goal was to shoot and kill Daunte Wright. But she did. And, although I know he had an outstanding warrant and I can understand the police stopping him and seeking to take him into custody, I still wonder — as I did when we first learned of this killing — whether the story wouldn’t have ended differently if Wright had been white. 

I don’t know what justice should look like in this case. Two defendants. Both in tears. And both raise tough issues about our society. What a world we live in.  

Tonight, though, I’m not going to unravel all of this. I know I don’t have the answers even if I wanted to try. Instead it’s just a snapshot of America a week before Christmas 2021. I think perhaps it could use a bit of photoshopping. 

Be strong, be safe, be healthy.

December 16, 2021

A year ago I really didn’t believe that in late 2021 we’d still be overwhelmed by the COVID pandemic. But we are. We’re seeing over 114,000 new cases every day and 1200+ deaths. And this is almost all Delta so far. Omicron may be making a bid to be the “boss variant” but Delta is far from done with us. It’s troubling to see how quickly we can go from “maybe turning the corner” to “back in crisis” mode. And although Omicron may be milder — maybe — it’s nonetheless crazy contagious and seems likely to be a very capable escapee when it comes to evading the vaccines.

There’s really nothing new or enlightening I can add to the facts. And, as we have throughout this pandemic, we’re likely to continue to be buffeted by the unrelenting assault of an inconstant and unforgiving disease.  

Still, who wants to have to think about all this a week before Christmas. The world is weary of the pandemic, I know. But that conservative champion in Congress, Ohio’s Jim Jordan, is telling the world that the “real” America is done with the virus. I guess the “real” America he is thinking of consists of those who still think the virus is a hoax, and that mask and vaccine mandates are tyranny. The tragic irony is that all the supporters of the far right demagogues who decry vaccines are the ones who are declining the jab, and are the ones who, for the most part, are dying in the thousands.  

They are also the ones, sadly for us all, who are helping to perpetuate the virus. It’s not a surprise that Colorado Governor Polis said, “Everybody had more than enough opportunity to get vaccinated. At this point, if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s really your own darn fault.” And, for those who ended up getting sick, he said, “…it’s almost entirely” their fault. And he’s right, of course. 

There are many Americans who have done their bit to try and keep us all safe. We got the shots, wore the masks, canceled the gatherings, missed time with family, and waited patiently for things to change. We tried to protect each other. We wanted to do the right thing. And you’ll forgive me, then, if I feel a bit like Governor Polis. 

I know we can’t blame everything on the unvaccinated. But there is plenty for which they CAN be blamed. This current Delta surge and all the problems that flow from it have been exponentially multiplied because so many chose not to get vaccinated. Hospitals once again are overwhelmed by those who refused to believe in science or act for the greater good. 

Once again schools could be forced to close, teachers are at risk, businesses are undercut just as they were trying to rebuild, and everything from Broadway to the playing fields of the NFL has been thrown into disarray again. So, thanks Jim Jordan and Donald Trump and Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson and all the others who prize their political agenda more than the lives of our citizens.

As I said, I know there’s nothing new in any of this, but there are just times when you need to vent. So that’s that.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy. 

December 15, 2021

Ten days to Christmas. Wow. I’m not clear how that happened, but it did. The year has flown by. This day did too. 

I mulched up the leaves that had accumulated in the front yard. I wanted them out of there before it rains this weekend. And there was the usual routine of work, walks, and workouts. And now it’s going on 8pm. Yikes!

I wanted to take time today to do another appeal for Engage Nepal. We have so many partners asking for help. And the projects they’re advocating are good. Very good. But fundraising has been slow this year. How do you convince people to care and to act? It’s one of those questions that we struggle with on many levels. Not just when it comes to fundraising, but equally when it comes to political activism, civic engagement, and more.

We look at the horrific devastation in Kentucky and we feel it deep in our being. We are shocked and stunned by the death and destruction and we can imagine the pain and the depth of the loss experienced by the survivors. But what motivates us to move beyond empathy to act? It’s similar to the questions that have come to mind during the pandemic. How can we be moved to tears by the story of one family’s tragedy but carry on every day without falling under the weight of 800,000 tragedies?

In a world rife with challenges, where we need champions to engage, it seems like small beans to try and build support for a small non-profit. We aren’t trying to tackle global problems. We just want to help make a difference in the lives of people who can use a helping hand.

So that’s what I’ll focus on for the rest of the evening. Never a dull moment.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 14, 2021

Every now and then I may overdo it. A little. Maybe. 

It starts innocently enough. I had spent most of the morning at work in front of the computer. But I did want to start moving, and the pups needed their walk. That seemed reasonable for all of us.  

But first I looked out the front door and discovered 10 boxes, each weighing 45 pounds or so. It was our latest shipment of books. Five hundred twenty of them. It’s great that they arrived so quickly (it is the holiday season) but they had to be brought in before the walk. Then they had to be hauled down the stairs into the basement. 

I managed to get my heart rate up doing that alone, but the pups weren’t impressed… they still wanted their walk. I had promised. 

So off we went. A good hike. Just under two miles.

We were home in about 50 minutes… no record setting pace when you’ve got a very big dog who has never met a bush he doesn’t like to sniff and maybe mark.  

At that point in the day, it might have been a good time to kick back. Maybe write this blog and relax. But no… with the temps in the high 50s it seemed the right time to do work outside. I had put off cleaning up the garden before winter hit, but the time has come. Just as I love helping the garden to come alive in the springtime, in the autumn there is something satisfying in preparing it for rest during the winter. 

So I filled a couple of yard bags with the remnants of the coleus and the cosmos and the last bits of the rhubarb. I cut back the honeysuckle. I dug out the remains of this year’s lemongrass crop. I swept. I cleared out the pots and stacked them for the winter. I moved the patio furniture around and then I tackled the bird feeders. After all, we’re moving into that time of the year when the natural food supply for the birds isn’t as rich as during the warmth of summer.

Anyway, two and a half hours later, I was done. I had been ready to give it up earlier, but there was this series of… “I guess I can do just one more thing” moments. It happens. 

The real mistake, though, may have come when I decided it was the smart thing to try and stretch all those tired muscles. Stretching is not without its challenges at times — there’s a fine line between helping and hurting. But I did that too.

So tonight I’m sitting with my feet up, a heating pad on my back, and very clear in my understanding that I’m not twenty years old anymore. 

But, I DID get the work done. 

OK — that sounds a bit too Minnesotan, but we are who we are. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 13, 2021

Just like that, we’re home. This morning we were scraping ice off the windshield of the rental car, but riding back from Dulles we rolled down the windows because the afternoon sun was so strong. 1000 miles doesn’t just bring us climate changes though. It’s that mindset shift as we suddenly are thrust back in the routine. The dogs needed to be fed. Chores done. Mail sorted. Bags unpacked. Books to be shipped. Etc, etc. 

But that’s always the case. Rather than bemoaning the day-to-day tasks that have to be managed (and which aren’t that onerous, when you get down to it), we remain grateful every time that we have the chance to travel and, in particular, to spend time with our kids and other friends who touch our lives.

The past 22 months, have made us so grateful for that time with those we love and grateful to just be able to experience the joy of travel. But we know that we’re still struggling with the pandemic. We know that even being fully vaccinated and boostered, the omicron variation of COVID has further complicated our lives. 

We have to hope that we were smart enough and safe enough on this trip. We did all the things we’re supposed to in terms of masking and distancing where we could. And, at the Klingon Christmas show we went to, vaccination requirements were enforced. It was good.

But still, you never know. And now there’s the uncertainty about whether omicron is overcoming our defenses and just how severe it can be. A week or so ago we were waiting for it to appear in the U.S. Now it’s in 30 states.  

In the UK it is spreading with a vengeance with the number of infections doubling every two – three days. They’ve seen their first omicron death. And here, even without omicron, we’re closing in on 800,000 deaths and we’ve apparently hit 50,000,000 reported cases. But worse yet, with omicron, many of those could be re-infected. New York and California are re-imposing indoor mask mandates. Aside from the politics of this, I’m not sure why they were ever lifted.

We hope, of course, that our vaccinations will protect us from severe disease. I’m so glad they are available and that we got the jabs. Even so, there’s no guarantee. As has been true through so much of this pandemic, we just don’t know. And, even if we’re protected from the risk of severe illness, might a mild case still lead to long-haul COVID? 

There was a really good report in the Washington Post the other day (just as I was about to fly to Minnesota), about the insidious impact of long COVID. How it has devastated lives. It doesn’t have to kill you to hurt you. And we just don’t know yet how bad it can be or how long it can last. (I’ll put the link in the comments below).

The new developments have made the cost-benefit analysis more complicated. When the disease was first raging and there were no vaccines and uncertainty about treating it, staying home and staying safe was a no brainer. Now, with multiple vaccinations under our belts and advances in treatment, the choices feel a bit more complicated. So I’m reading and listening and trying to learn, but, boy… I hope that our travel plans for 2022 will make as much sense in the months ahead as they did when we started to make them. 

Tonight, though, we’ll enjoy being home with the pups who seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 12, 2021

It’s time to think about traveling home. Our flight is early tomorrow. We’ll hate to say goodbye to Joe and Jess, though. Whenever we have time with our kids it’s good. I always want to see that they are well, happy, and safe. And that goes whether we are physically present or not.  

In any event, it has been a great time and today we had a another nice day. We went to a European Christmas Market in downtown St. Paul by the Union Depot. We drove by the home — an AirBnB — that we’ve booked for when we come for Joe and Jess’ wedding next year. It looks great. We also checked out a new vegan fried chicken place. Exceptionally good. 

We’ve had so much fun over the past few days — and we’re still chuckling about the Klingon version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The best part, though, has just been being together. It always is.

Still, as much fun as it has been, there are four pups waiting for us. 

So, it’s back to Virginia as a new week begins. I’m sure that there will be plenty more to write about then. But for tonight I’ll just enjoy our last evening together.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.  

December 11, 2021

The sun is shining brightly, this morning and, it seems all the more intense as it reflects off of what must be at least a foot of newly fallen snow. Here in Minnesota, however, folks are much better prepared to respond to this sort of challenge than we are in Northern Virginia. I don’t think life is going to miss a beat.  

Our son Joe is outside shoveling already. I’d like to join him and help but I know that my back would not look upon that choice favorably. I may be unwilling to fully accept that there are some things that are harder to do these days, but I’m not stupid. With the way my back was twinging yesterday after a long walk, shopping, and then cooking for a few hours, I know that I’d pay a price for going out to join Joe. Still I wish I could help. 

Beyond that, there’s not that much to talk about as the day starts but I’m trying to write early as we have a busy day planned including a Klingon adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Mounds Theater. The Mounds theater is 100 years old and has journeyed from the days of silent films to live theater showings like the one tonight.  

Now you may be scratching your head about the Klingon part of this and, if you are, you are obviously NOT a Star Trek fan. I am. And the chance for us to be part of what is becoming a holiday tradition for Joe and Jess should be great fun.  This will be their third time attending and their Klingon is getting pretty good (this theater company also does a Klingon version of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”). For the rest of us there will be subtitles projected to ensure we don’t get lost along the way.

Time with family means so much. It even “trumps” talking about Trump and his big “F*** him” in an interview about Benjamin Netanyahu. (Perhaps the two of them deserve each other but still, Trump shows just how little class he has every time he opens his mouth.)

So, this weekend is about family. It’s about time together. So it’s time to stop writing and start enjoying.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 10, 2021

We’re two weeks away from Christmas. And that’s why we’re in Minnesota. It’s a very quick visit, but it’s a chance to spend some time with Joe and Jess during the holiday season since they won’t be able to come to Virginia this year.  

So, this morning Joe and I went for a walk. Even in a city that you know well, you see it differently when you walk through the streets rather than whiz by in a car. You see houses that you never noticed before. A small rambler mixed in with the mansions on Summit Avenue. How could I have missed it? And as we walked I was reminded so much of my childhood. The sidewalk squares that randomly rise up — a product of too many Minnesota winters causing the ground beneath the cement to buckle.

The neighborhoods through which we walked are well-established with deep roots. The homes still look the same as they did when I was a kid. They have character and a presence and they feel like home in many ways. So familiar. Still, I have to wonder about how long they’ll stand so unchanging and solid. They were built based on the technology of a different era. At some point the changing world and the shifts in science and tech may make it harder for these homes to function as well as they once did even with retrofitting and adjusting.  

Maybe that’s wrong, I’m certainly no expert on such things. But still I pondered it as we hiked along the streets. I wondered about what these neighborhoods might look like in 50 years. Something to muse about at least.

And Joe and I talked as we walked. We talked about the city that he has come to know, and about growing up here in St. Paul. The older I get the more the memories of my youth filter back. As we drove through one section of town yesterday coming from the airport, I saw the winding streets leading off of Fairview Avenue and remembered this particular neighborhood…  Tangletown. It was one I hadn’t thought of in years. I was surprised to even remember the name. 

It was a neighborhood that I used to explore on my bike as a kid. I’d like to walk through it and through my old neighborhood in which I lived until I was 8 and a half. See them through different eyes and from a different perspective. But time is a short on this trip. Our focus is on having some time with Joe and Jess, talk about wedding plans, and just be together. 

Meanwhile, a snowstorm hit this afternoon. Boy, THAT, reminds me of my childhood for sure. It’s nice to be inside and nice to have had some nice warm potato leek soup and a filling quiche for dinner (I got to cook this afternoon, one of my favorite things) and tomorrow we’ll be out and about again. Storms Iike this, even 8 inches or more, don’t disrupt things for long here in Minnesota. And, for now, I’ll enjoy the storm. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 9, 2021

And just like that, I’m at 30,000 feet. It’s so commonplace today to fly, but it’s still pretty amazing that we can do this. Some day it may be replaced by technologies that far surpass what we experience today, but for now, it’s pretty cool. Even to an old jaded traveler.

As I took the walkway from the parking garage to the terminal the walls were lined with images from the Hubble Telescope. Now those were incredible. Our universe is so vast, so totally overwhelming, that it seems unknowable. But the challenge of exploring the unknown! It was a challenge that our species once tackled with relish, but we have run out of the “unknown” on a grand scale here on the surface of our planet. 

The Hubble reminds us that there is so much more if we can get there. In all that vast, vast array of galaxies, how can there not be life in one form or another? It’s pretty hard to believe that we are the only place where life could have evolved. 

We don’t have the capacity, of course, to explore these far off places in-person… yet. We are chipping away at the immensity before us, though. Learning and growing in knowledge if not in wisdom. Yet the enthusiasm for exploration remains limited. I guess it has always been so. 

Explorers struggled to find the resources for their explorations were fortunate to find a patron to support their ventures into the unknown. And, when they did so, it was often with the hope of winning undiscovered riches in return. I wonder how many were driven by the need to “know.”  How many were consumed by curiosity?

Today, we continue our exploration using the technology we have created and we make progress and learn. But I wonder where the dreamers are. The space billionaires may be the new patrons who drive exploration. Why not? 

You can argue that there are too many needs here to fund space exploration. That’s a long-term game and we have to confront short-term realities. But some are willing to invest in the future. 

Of course, maybe one of those other galaxies will beat us to the punch. You never know. Now THAT would be interesting. 

The musings of an idle mind at 30,000 feet.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy. 

December 8, 2021

Well, thank you, Lauren Boebert. She seems determined to insure she stays in the news and, even if her choices are questionable, she at least gave me something to comment on today..

Actually, I guess we all should ignore her. That would be best. But it’s hard at times. She decided to steal the idea of her Kentucky colleague and post her own photo of her and her four boys in front of their Christmas tree. The boys, of course, are all holding semi-automatic weapons. It seems to be a right of passage for young Republicans these days. It’s hard not to comment on that.

AOC felt compelled to speak out. She spent a tweet reminding us of how, in recent years, Republicans, have accused us of demeaning the spirit of Christmas. How much more twisted can it be, when Christmas becomes about scoring political points with your base by having your kids pose with lethal weapons in hand? It’s weird and sad.

Boebert, of course, had to respond — twitter wars are what we do in Congress these days, I guess — and complained that AOC was being a downer for an 8 year old boy, trying to make him feel guilty about his Christmas present.

So… does anyone else find it insane to think about giving a semi-automatic weapon to an 8 year old? Honest to god? Really?

I’m not going to dwell on it. Either you are troubled by this or you’re not. That’s the craziness that is America today.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to finish packing. It’s off to Minnesota tomorrow. Brrrrr. Worth the effort though! Leija, Joe and Jess are at the other end.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 7, 2021

“A day that will live in infamy.” I wonder how it must have felt to my parents and grandparents as they heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years ago today. Had they hoped that the war would not come? How shocked were they to see our nation’s naval fleet so severely crippled? Were they scared? Angry? Confused? Did our leaders wonder about whether they could overcome this blow?

What a testing time it was for our parents’ generation and for our nation.

I wonder how we would respond in today’s America. I remember that after 9/11, we had to drive Tony to college in California. We didn’t know if flights would be resuming in time for him to arrive before the school year started, so we jumped in the car and drove him to Stanford to start his first year of college. As we drove we felt such a powerful sense of unity, of shared love of our nation. I don’t think any of us was sure where this new war on terror would lead, but we felt, at least for a time, that we would walk the road together.

I have no idea if we’d respond similarly today. Twenty years have changed us. The war on terror changed us. The Tea Party. The internet. Social media. The election of Barack Obama. The election of Donald Trump. The pandemic. The historians will see this a crucible, I think, in which America was reforged, but I guess we’ll have to wait for their judgment to determine if it is for better or worse.

In any event, I have no real point to make. Just thinking of how the world has changed in my lifetime and wondering who we are today. Could we respond, as the Greatest Generation did, if faced with a crisis of similar magnitude? I don’t know.

That’s all. I’ve got a bowl of hot homemade chili waiting for me. I think it’s time to sample it.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 6, 2021

And… we’re back. Yes indeed, for those who thought that COVID was bogus, and just a ploy by the Democrats to defeat Trump, what do you say now? For all those who predicted that COVID would conveniently disappear as soon as the elections were over, please note that here we are, a year later, and we’re back up to 100,000 new cases a day. 125,000 yesterday.

Hospital ERs are still overloaded. People are still at risk. And it still is a challenge despite the huge progress that we’ve made with vaccines and treatment. Deaths are in excess of 1500 a day once again and by the end of the year we’ll easily surpass 800,000 deaths.  

Should we have pulled the plug on Thanksgiving again this year? Probably not. If you’re fully vaccinated and your guests are too it seemed to make some sense. Should we not travel? If we wear masks, have gotten the jabs, keep our distance and stay smart, the risk equation looks different than it did a year ago when we were waiting for vaccines and still struggling to figure out how to treat this disease. So, to me, the cost benefit equation for travel looks different than it did a year ago too.

I’ve never disagreed with the fundamental premise that we have to still live our lives despite the pandemic. I just didn’t treat that premise as an excuse to be irresponsible or put others at risk. So yes, I want to live my life too, and I feel/hope that the risk equation works in my favor. Even fully vaccinated, I don’t want to get his virus. God knows, I don’t want to lose my sense of taste — I love food too much for that. But on a more serious level, even mild cases can bring strange side effects and risks I’d rather not have to worry about. 

And it’s not folks like me who are filling up the ERs and who are dying across the nation every day. It’s largely the unvaccinated, the deniers, the anti-vax zealots, and those that the far right pundits have convinced that COVID doesn’t exist. If not for them and the politicians with whom they have a symbiotic relationship, we would likely be losing fewer of our fellow citizens every day, but still they prattle on and their followers take their word as gospel. How sad is that?

Also in the “how sad is that” category was the march on the Lincoln Memorial by uniformed members of the “Patriot Front.” They all wore white masks as well. My guess is that it was for the “look” — the intimidation factor — of these masked men marching by rather than out of concern for COVID. The rally wasn’t too impressive. Numbers weren’t huge. But we should be careful about dismissing them out of hand as “buffoons” as one commentary did. The Nazis were once disregarded too.

These folks believe that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them.  They espouse racism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance under the guise of preserving the “ethnic and cultural origins” of their European ancestors. And they aren’t just a bunch of curmudgeonly old white guys. Sadly instead they’re young, unlikely to just go away, and seem to be driven by a hateful and racist agenda.

The Patriot Front wants to “reclaim America.” From who? From black and brown Americans who are still the victims of racial, social and economic discrimination?  From women who still struggle for the right to control their own bodies or to get equal pay? Do they want to “reclaim” the nation from the millions of us who voted for a different vision? How long before they start leveling charges of folks being race traitors and the like? 

And, to see young men and women supporting their agenda and filling their ranks, worries me. Where did we go wrong in telling young people the story of who we are and what our democratic experiment stands for? All I know is I’d rather be a bit of an alarmist when I see such things rather than indifferent or dismissive. Other nations have seen what happens when people wait to long to speak out and act as racism and hatred gain hold. Just sayin’.

But let’s end on a hopeful note. I learned today about a company called FlashFoods that is partnering with grocery chains to offer significant savings on food that is nearing it’s sell-by date but that is still fresh and that could feed tens of thousands. This is no exaggeration. Most accounts suggest that more than 30% of the food that is produce in the US (and globally) goes to waste.

That’s the equivalent of about 1.3 billion tons of fruit and vegetables, and meat, grain, seafood, and dairy. It’s tossed into dumpsters. It goes to landfills and produces methane, which adds significantly to the greenhouse gas production that accelerates climate change. And all of this unfolds while, for millions across the world, food insecurity and malnutrition are constant companions. And along with the waste of food, we also waste all the water and energy and land that we used to produce it, ship it, process it, and distribute it. 

FlashFoods, it seems to me has the right idea. Not only can we reduce food waste, we might just encourage better eating and we might also give families who are struggling a tool to help lessen the budgetary challenges. It’s not a perfect tool and it isn’t “the” answer to food waste. But it is “a” answer. I like seeing folks with innovative ideas who partner with the marketplace to try and help drive change.

It may be too broad a statement to say that no problem is insoluble, but I think that so many of the challenges we face can be managed and ultimately solved. It can take a lot, though, to get there. Are we willing to change? Are we prepared to sacrifice for a greater good? Are we committed to lead rather than wait for someone else to go first? It’s easier to deny the science on climate change or the facts on the inequalities in our society than it is to try and change these and other problems.

But we have to try. We really do. Even on Mondays. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 5, 2021

Writing every day is not without challenges. Some days the muses fail to inspire. And some days it feels like you’re just recycling the same old news.

The names can change but the story is the same. Insensitivity. Two Americas. Inconceivable decisions that just make no sense. Even IF there hadn’t been another horrific school shooting, you have to wonder about the choice that Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie made the other day. He and his family posted a photo on twitter. A Christmas message. Yep — “Please Santa, send ammunition,” it said, as he and his wife, and what I assume are their five kids are arrayed around the Christmas tree all wielding weapons. Nice, huh? Wonder how the families who lost a child in the Michigan shootings feel. In that case, a gun that was meant to be a Christmas present, was the instrument that took four young lives.  

But Congressman Massie, seemed to think it fully appropriate to post that Christmas message?  What do folks use for judgement these days? I really don’t get it. Truly. To me, in any year, this would be in poor taste in any nation where gun violence is as much of a problem as it is for us. But to issue it just days after the murders in Michigan is not just insensitive, it seems hateful. I can’t know what was in his head, but I know how it feels and I can’t help but feel it goes beyond just terrible judgement. 

Massie is a new name in the mix. But the nature of his post, the image of an array of lethal weapons in the hands of a white family sends a message that is too familiar. 

Another day. The same stories.  

A man named Marcus Lamb, who I had never heard of, died the other day from COVID. He was a televangelist and had created the Daystar Television Network. He was also a determined anti-vaxxer who decided he’d treat COVID with Ivermectin, the horse and cow dewormer. That’s another story we have heard before. COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers dying of COVID, when perhaps they could have lived if they had just accepted the science. Just gotten the shots.

Instead, not only did they make bad choices for themselves, they have worked unceasingly to convince others to make similarly bad choices. I don’t wish them ill. I’m sorry for Mr. Lamb’s family and the loss of a father and husband. But this story too is old. And it is the result of his own choices. That’s the truth. Simple as that.  

Like I said, another day, same stories. Seems like cheating to even write about them but, without the guidance of the muses, this is what I get.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 4, 2021

Trying to stay in the spirit of the season, I took a few hours this morning to put up the Christmas decorations outside. There’s nothing special. Certainly they’re not going to win any competitions. But, hopefully, it will look decent once dusk comes. We had removed a number of large arbor vitae earlier this year so the options for lighting in the front yard certainly are changed. We’ll see.

The good news is that although one string of lights was dead everything else worked and the three Xmas deer are still good for another year. I believe the two eldest had been dubbed Ray Ray and Sparkle a few years back by our granddaughter. They’re still with us.

Doing the work made me think of my childhood. My paternal grandparents got into the spirit and would always ensure that the front yard was decorated. It seemed as though their entire neighborhood did. Every year we’d end up either walking or driving through the neighborhood to check out the displays. By today’s standards they weren’t incredible, but in the early 1960’s they looked pretty good. It was fun.

I wonder if my grandpa put things up all by himself. Fortunately, we don’t put lights along the roofline or gutters as he did so there was no ladder climbing. Nonetheless, my back feels the bending and squatting that goes with decorating.The rest of the day will be lower key. The dog walk is done. I’ve been doing a bit of work but there’s nothing urgent in that. In other words, I’ve got little of interest to offer today. It’s a lazy Saturday, so I need to try and be lazy and let the rest of the day slip away.

Even though I’ll eat alone tonight — Leija left today for Minnesota to help her mother — I still should eat well. Something healthy. think a curried vegetable stew is waiting toSo, if you’re read this far looking for something newsy or thoughtful… sorry. No can do, today. There’s always tomorrow, though.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 2, 2021

Last night, as I wrote, I felt stressed. In the back of my mind I was conscious of the next task. A presentation that I had to give this morning had to be worked on. It wasn’t lengthy, but I try to take care with what I do and even a short offering was worthy of attention and care.

But as a result, I wasn’t really in the moment. I was already jumping ahead to the next one. And I realize that although I’ve been proud of my ability to multitask, and god knows, much of my career it was a vital skillset. I don’t really need to let it continue to bleed over into my life today. Today I can bring my focus to bear on the moment, I can enjoy it and be in it and not give it only that portion of my attention that isn’t somewhere else. 

When our family gathered over Thanksgiving, I tried to make sure that I was present for those moments. Truly present. It’s good for me, I know. I still try to do too much and multitasking is a hard habit to break I’m finding, but it’s worth the effort. I’m learning that being present isn’t just the language of yoga teachers or gurus. I can do it too.

And that, in turn, triggers a memory. I cross-stitch, and over the past 30 years I’ve become fairly decent at it. I do complex projects and like to produce works of… well, artistry, after a fashion. I remember we had hung several of the pieces, which Leija had framed with great care, in our residence in Eritrea. One night early in our tour the Defense Attache was admiring them and turned to Leija and started to compliment her on her skill. She corrected him, telling him that it was the Ambassador who had done the work. 

The good colonel seemed a bit non-plussed, but recovered quickly and redirected his compliment. But I could tell he was confused. The Ambassador cross-stitches? I did my best to put him at ease. I told him that yes, indeed, I cross-stitched — and I drank beer and watched football while I did it, too. Real men, you see, do cross-stitch. Real men also are present. Both are good.

The point, I guess, is that throughout our lives folks seek to define our identities. Assumptions are made on the basis of our gender, our appearance, our skin color, and so much more. Our parents, family, and friends all have their influence and many of us, chameleon-like, learn to adapt to the expectations. We learn to give the audience what they want. Others aren’t as able to adapt… still others don’t want to. We all are defined, and define ourselves differently. And I guess, for me, the older I get the more I just want to be defined by me. That might be true for many of us. Hmmm, won’t THAT be fun for our kids?!

In any event, I’m rambling on, less stressed than last night, and just enjoying the process of writing. But I guess there are other moments I can be present in, so I’ll go and do that.

Friday is on the doorstep. I’m ready. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

December 1, 2021

A year ago, as December began, the heading for the new month on the blog was “the year can’t end soon enough.” 

Yep. 2020 was a pretty lousy year. And it got even crazier during the month of December with Trump refusing to concede and with the government essentially failing to function as the leader of our nation could only focus on himself and his sense of loss and anger that he had lost. It was a bad month.

This December starts with more promise but, as noted last night, the Omicron variant of COVID poses uncertainty. I wanted to write about the abortion case before the Supreme Court, but I don’t have the heart to take on a topic like that, so loaded with anger, righteousness, fear, frustration and more. How do you walk the line and discuss the topic in a way that doesn’t get folks spun up?

I know my views and beliefs. You are entitled to yours. But, if you don’t like the laws in Mississippi or Texas don’t wait for the courts to solve the problem. Let’s take the courts out of it. Let’s win the seats that we need to reform the laws.

Ironically, when we hear all those Republican lawmakers calling themselves pro-life, we never see them voting to control the guns that kill so many in our society. We hear those same legislators decrying vaccine mandates as infringements on freedom and body autonomy, yet they have no problem restricting the freedom and autonomy of women. 

And so it goes in America. The land where a dad buys his teenaged kid a semi-automatic hand gun on Black Friday and the kid kills four classmates four days later. How many things can you find that are wrong with THAT picture?

But, for all that, and Omicron notwithstanding, this December still holds more hope than last year’s did. Now it just has to deliver.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.