January, 2022

January 16, 2022

“We will not allow a tiny minority of unhinged extremists to impose its will on our entire society.” 

That’s a quote from Germany’s new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Anti-vaxxers there have turned to violence including a plot to murder the pro-vaccine governor of Saxony. If you follow the reports, it feels as though we’re living in some dystopian novel written about a world falling apart. We know though, that this is painfully real.

In many countries across Europe governments are turning to increasingly exclusionary measures to keep those who refuse vaccinations out of mainstream life. It’s an understandable effort to manage a pandemic that won’t stay gone. A disease that keeps roaring back to life every time we think we may be getting it under control.

It’s a disease that has infected 326 million+ people across the globe and has killed over 5.54 million.  It has governments (at least the responsible ones) worried about the long term health implications for their citizens, and it had caused economic disruption and social upheaval with consequences we can’t even begin to effectively measure yet. 

So yes, I understand that governments, in their determination to try and halt the spread and minimize the devastating impact, are pushing forward with plans to isolate and control the danger posed by the unvaccinated. And they do pose a danger to others, whether they admit it or not.

The choice to impose these restrictions is not without costs and dangers too, but I can understand the thinking behind the decision. But for those who are unvaccinated, for whatever reason, I can understand their own angst and anger. In many parts of Europe, the unvaccinated are now locked out of much of public life. In some places they can no longer go to university, they can’t work in a grocery story or eat in restaurant, or go to the gym, or attend a concert.

One of the leaders of a group opposed to vaccine passports said recently that, “People without a certificate, like me, we’re not a part of society anymore. We’re excluded. We’re like less valuable humans.”

They want their “freedom,” they declare. They want their “rights.” But just what does that look like when you live within a society that is dealing with a pandemic that is killing people and disrupting nations in devastating ways. Especially now, when we HAVE the tools to at least minimize the risks, do we just let them go their own way? Do their own thing?

They seem to believe that their rights include the “right” to cause harm to others. Many of us who are vaccinated, who have worn masks, who have social distanced and who have done our best to protect not only ourselves but our communities, disagree.  

In Austria, there will be lockdowns imposed on the unvaccinated and vaccinations will become mandatory as of February 1. Failure to comply will not carry criminal penalties at this point, but initial fines can be in excess of $4000. Other governments are considering similar measures and there is a fair amount of popular support.

It makes sense in many ways and it makes me crazy when you hear of folks who deliberately go out of their way to essentially put others at risk by defiantly eating out in large groups, going to the movies, and exercising their “rights.”

I don’t think that these governments are wrong. We have an unprecedented public health crisis and the greater good is served by trying to get this under control.  

BUT… and there’s always a but. If we set aside our own, often-visceral reactions, fueled by the tensions and divisions into our society, there are questions that are worth asking here. 

Faced with the unrelenting onslaught of COVID, it’s easy to agree that we face a dangerous threat of outsized proportion and action is required. But, when we start to marginalize a segment of society, impose controls, lock downs, force them to get vaccinated, etc., we potentially start down the proverbial “slippery slope.”

Fear is a powerful force. We saw it at play after 9-11 when our anger and fear led to similar debates about the civil liberties vs. national security. Many were willing to sacrifice some degree of freedom for greater security. That’s neither a surprise nor unusual but it requires care and thought and not a rush to judgement.

I think the anti-vaxxers are, for the most part, irresponsible. Some are even hateful. And in our current environment we assume that much of their stance, here in the U.S. at least, is a reflection of the political divides. So it’s easier to dismiss their plaints as more of the same nonsense we heard throughout the Trump administration.

Still, let’s be careful who we judge as a threat and how we respond to them lest the shoe end up on the other foot. When Trump sought to portray BLM protestors as dangers to our nation and our safety, there were many who agreed with him. They might well have applauded restrictions on their ability to protest, on their civil liberties. They didn’t care if unidentifiable men in black SUVs took them away.

There are a lot of slippery slopes and when we start to allow the erosion of personal freedoms in the name of broader societal good we have to take care — great care — to think through our rationale and our choices. The easy, or the quick, or the expedient course may not always be the best, even when faced with such a serious threat as this pandemic.

At the end of the day, the anti-vaxxers moan about their rights being restricted but, of course, the rest of us have rights too. We don’t want to be put at risk by those who won’t take advantage of the protections the vaccines offer and if they choose not to get vaccinated (as is still their right here in America) others can choose to seek and limit the extent to which they can expose others to the disease.

We all have rights, we all get to make choices, and figuring out which rights — whose rights — should have priority is a constant battle in any society, and all the more so in those nations that prize democracy and personal freedoms. 

I don’t necessarily disagree with the European leaders who are doing their best in the face of an unrelenting crisis, I’m just saying that all of us need to proceed with care as we set precedents that could someday come back to bite us.

Like so many issues that we think are black and white this too is washed in shades of gray. I wish it was all easier. It isn’t.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 15, 2022

Today is day 675 of writing daily. I don’t keep track on any kind of regular basis, but it’s so easy to just ask Alexa once in a while, “How many days is it since March 10, 2020.” Voila. 675 days. 

I’ve been intending for some time to try and start organizing all these entries and this morning I took the first month’s worth of them and put them together. Still not sure what, if anything, I’ll do with them, but I found it interesting to reread the words I wrote almost two years ago as the pandemic began. 

I’m glad I starting writing. I wish I had been committed to writing like this earlier in my life but there were other priorities, other demands on my time. 

I was reminded as I read through my first month of entries, just how jarring this time has been. The uncertainty and the fears and how little we knew about where this would lead. 

Two years down the road, there’s so much we don’t know yet. The infection rate and death toll have met or surpassed our worst fears when this all began. No one believed we’d confront the loss of 800,000 mothers and fathers and siblings and children. No one thought there would be 5.5 million new cases in just one week as 2022 began.

In my first month of writing I still had some degree of hope that we might come together in the face of crisis. I hoped that leadership and wise decision making in regard to the pandemic wouldn’t fall victim to political pandering. But it did. And quickly. And I’m pretty sure that at that point none of us envisioned that we’d be debating the etiquette of how we handle conversations when COVID deniers or anti-vaxxers end up dying from COVID. Yet, here we are. 

I don’t know where we’ll be in another year. But now, thanks to writing daily, at least I have a record of where we’ve been.

As I have been writing, I’ve been seeing the news about the hostages being held at the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. I hope this doesn’t end in tragedy. We have had too much of that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 14, 2022

Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday. She passed six years ago today… on the morning of her 92nd birthday. I miss her.

Once, in one of those “grandma journals” she wrote that she worried that she’d be forgotten. I don’t think she had cause for concern. Certainly, for me, she’s often in my thoughts. So I’m going to share (

January 14, 2022Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday. She passed six years ago today… on the morning of her 92nd birthday. I miss her.Once, in one of those “grandma journals” she wrote that she worried that she’d be forgotten. I don’t think she had cause for concern. Certainly, for me, she’s often in my thoughts. So I’m going to share one of the posts I’ve done about her in the past about her today. I’ll put the link below. Happy Birthday, Mom.Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 14, 2022Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday. She passed six years ago today… on the morning of her 92nd birthday. I miss her.

Once, in one of those “grandma journals” she wrote that she worried that she’d be forgotten. I don’t think she had cause for concern. Certainly, for me, she’s often in my thoughts. So I’m going to share one of the posts I’ve done about her in the past about her today. I’ll put the link here. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

January 13, 2022

I have to believe that there are some “Princess Bride” fans out there who will get this reference. Early in the film, the “man in black” was relentless in his pursuit of Vizzini, the Sicilian master criminal. Every time the man in black overcame another hurdle Vizzini would place in his path, Vizzini would declaim, “inconceivable.” After the man in black kept on doing things that were seemingly inconceivable, Vizzini’s partner, the affable “giant’ Fezzik finally had to suggest to Vizzini that perhaps Vizzini didn’t understand exactly what the word “inconceivable” really meant. It was a great line. 

There are plenty of things in life that seem “inconceivable” to us. But sometimes, the inconceivable is far more possible than we want to believe.

For those who were born and grew up in America, the proposition that our democracy could fail is inconceivable. The idea that racist and antisemitic beliefs are appropriate models for social engagement is inconceivable. The thought that Nazism would seem, to some, a better alternative than the principles on which our nations was founded? That too is inconceivable.

Except… it isn’t. 

Nothing is inconceivable. 

Today, seditious conspiracy charges have been filed against 11 members of the Oath Keepers militia group including the group’s leader who was arrested today in Texas. He had told his followers in advance of January 6 “that we aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” They had caches of arms in Virginia and plans for a “quick strike force” to act.

There was a concerted plan to deny the voices of those of us who voted and to prevent the peaceful transition of power. 

It’s easy to dismiss this as just a bunch of crazies. We want to believe the we could never become a nation that chooses fascism over democracy. But we could. 

Not many of us may know about the Wall St. Putsch, but in 1933 there was a plot — a real and determined plot — to overthrow the newly elected President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It wasn’t just folks like Charles Lindbergh and the America First crowd who were enamored of the Nazis. Some of our nation’s wealthiest men and women, including J.P. Morgan and Irénée du Pont were willing to bankroll the overthrow of the government. Historians debate about how close they came to succeeding, but no one denies that the plot was real. And scary. 

I’ll put links to two articles about it below. Some of the parallels with what we see today are disturbing. I want to believe that some day there will be articles about how, as in 1933, we came close to the fall of democracy in the 2020s, but we survived. But there’s no guarantee. 

We can’t afford to ignore the events unfolding around us in this nation or the strength of the  beliefs of those who would choose a different path for America. Their views may be distasteful or repugnant to us, they may be antithetical to the values that are at the heart of our nation’s existence, but we can’t bury our heads and just wish the ugliness away.

I’d love to be like Vizzini and tell you it’s inconceivable that we could end up living under a fascist dictator in the years ahead… but I’d be lying. I’m not saying that’s our future, but we can’t rule it out if we don’t pay attention and if we take our democracy for granted.


That’s my PSA for the day. Take it for what it’s worth.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/01/13/fdr-roosevelt-coup-business-plot/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/11/trump-fdr-roosevelt-coup-attempt-1930s?fbclid=IwAR2GfAkxOlpo-aCYVhv8GtJdhsl67KV8GyZhAdUk0WNP_lzqiefORpDxEdE

January 12, 2022

So, this morning I’m on chauffeur duty, waiting in the car while Leija has a doctor appointment. They won’t let me join her inside due to COVID concerns. 

I get that — and I respect the decision. Hell, I applaud the decision. It’s great that these offices are making efforts to keep people safe. And I’m doing my bit too, just like many of us are, and have been, for almost two years. Admittedly, it’s hard not feel a bit weary by now, but at least we protected ourselves long enough to get fully vaccinated and boosted. 

And, if we do end up with COVID we’ll be better protected, and less likely to have severe disease. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The effort has been worth it and I continue to remind myself of that because there are days when you just want to throw up your hands and surrender. With so many out there who never got vaccinated and who have filled hospital ERs (making it more difficult — and risky — for the rest of us to get care if needed in an emergency), it’s hard not to feel frustrated. 

Maybe COVID would be just as bad no matter what choices people had made, but I can’t help it if I feel resentment and anger towards the irresponsible politicians and conspiracy crazies who have helped to perpetuate this. And I’m frustrated with the anti-vaxxer’s and amazed at those who would rather listen to a talk radio idiot seeking a ratings boost, or believe a friend’s Facebook rant, than deal in facts and follow science. Grrrrr.  

I won’t belabor the point, nor rehash two years worth of idiocy from some (including the total failure of leadership from Trump and his allies). But they did nothing to help the situation and I have to believe that we are in worse shape today because of them.

Meanwhile, it’s just so frustrating to hear Dr. Fauci say that we’ll all probably end up with COVID. He may be right. He probably is. The science of this is what it is. And, if we do get it. I’ll be damned glad for the science that also brought us vaccines in record time and for the efforts to make them and the boosters so widely available. Sure there were glitches, but if you step back and look at the enormity of the challenges we have faced, you have to say we’ve made some pretty impressive progress in the face of an implacable pandemic.  

Still, the idea of the inevitability of contracting COVID feels pretty disheartening after all we’ve done to stay safe. As I said, I know we’re better off facing this with vaccinations and boosters providing added protection from the worst that this disease can deliver, but still… when does all this end.

So many of us just want our lives back. I’ve found many ways to keep my days full and to continue to learn and grow, but still… I miss the joy of travel, I miss eating out, I miss the spontaneity of life which has been seriously constrained by the need to be thoughtful and to take such care.  

Part of me wants to say that, if we’re all going to get it, then let’s just get it done. But, I tell that part of me to just shut up. I’ll stay well as long as I can and stay safe as long as I can. Every week we learn more, every week treatments improve, and every week I am healthy is something I’m grateful for.  

Maybe a date with COVID is inevitable but I sure as hell am not going to make it easy. So take THAT Omicron! Do your damndest COVID, but know that some of us don’t intend to give in without a fight.

I remember my Mom looking at the world around her as the years ticked by and shaking her head. It was hard to keep up and absorb all the changes. By the time she hit her 90s It was a world that in some ways she didn’t recognize nor fully understand. 

I’ve got a long way to go yet before I hit my 90s but already the world seems less familiar and more daunting in some ways. There comes a point in our lives where we don’t want to have to keep learning new tricks or forge new paths for ourselves. But sometimes we are given no choice. It seems like this is such a time in America, so I’d best get on with things, like it or not.

OK. That’s enough musing from the driver’s seat. (Hmmm…”musing from the driver’s seat” That could be a catchy title for a blog post. Thank god I’ve never tried to come up with titles for the 673 posts I’ve done since I started this ritual of writing daily). In any event, time to drive rather than write, so I’ll end here.

And, whether COVID in some form or another is inevitable or not…

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 11, 2022

It’s been a busy day. I just got off a call with the Engage Nepal Board. I’m worried that the year ahead will be a tough one. Omicron is surging in South Asia now too, and the percentage of vaccinated folks is lower than it is here. Considerably lower. That’s not going to be good.

Look at how disruptive this has been in the US. For all that we talk about Omicron being a milder form of COVID, if you’re not vaccinated it can be deadly. There’s a reason why the hospitals are overwhelmed. I hope it won’t be as bad in Nepal but it probably will.

So, as I prepped for the meeting and then talked with our Board members, I thought about how  interesting this journey has been. I had no idea what it took to build a non-profit when I started out and we’re still a long way from being an enduring institution. Nonetheless we’ve done some good work.

Anyway, the challenges in Nepal will be there tomorrow. I’m tired and it’s time to shift gears. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 10, 2022

Another week is off and running. It starts much like any other week. Challenging and difficult issues face us and there’s no promise of an early resolution. There’s the crisis in Ukraine as 100,000 Russian troops sit poised on the border. Hospitals across the nation are totally overwhelmed as we are seeing the worst hospitalization rates yet during the pandemic. And then there’s the latest study out of Europe that reaffirms that the past seven years were the world’s warmest “by a clear margin.”

Yeah, it’s another good week. And that’s without even talking about the dysfunction in democracy and our declining faith in our governance. 

But there was a beautiful blue sky today and it did not FEEL like a Monday and I refused to let the headlines dictate my mood. So, two of the pups and I had a great hike beneath that blue sky and I swear that Lo Khyi was smiling the whole way. I put in a few hours for the State Department. I stretched and took some quiet time, and I squeezed in more time at the keyboard than I hoped. It’s not that I’m ever going to be a great player but that’s not why I play. I play for me — for the challenge of learning more about music and music theory and for the sheer joy of making music. That’s always been true when playing the guitar and it is again with the piano. 

I write for much the same reason. I brings me pleasure. It challenges me. And it keeps me busy. And, as much as I may complain about being too busy at this point in my life, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.  

So, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’ve really got nothing to say today, but I stretched that nothing out into enough of a blog that I can count it. I’ve still got things to do. A board meeting for Engage Nepal to prepare for, an ad to create for “The Ambassador’s Dog,” and a few other tasks to work on while we sit and relax tonight.  

I’ve had worse Mondays. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 9, 2022

There was the sweet story this morning about Dagashi — traditional penny candy sweet shops in Japan. One has been around since about 1870 and 13 generations of the family have worked there. Watching the little ones flock around the stall, the looks of anticipation on their faces as they confronted the challenge of choosing. It was sweet — and not just because it was about candy.

As a kid I recall going to the corner store — we had plenty of them in those days. A little shop called, if I recall correctly, “Variety,” where the owner and his wife tried to fit as much as they could into their limited shelf space. Andm near the cash register, which sat on the counter near the front door, was where our version of the Dagashi could be found.

In memory, it was an impressive display. I remember licorice whips, Twizzlers, and tootsie rolls. There were candy cigarettes, root beer barrels, wrapped caramels, candy buttons on strips of paper, wax bottle candy along with wax lips. Jaw breakers were another favorite as were pixie stix.

We had candy necklaces, Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy (sometimes I’d freeze the bar and then smack it into pieces), Bazooka Bubblegum and the packs of chewing gum and baseball cards where, if I was lucky, I might get cards for players on the Minnesota Twins, Guys like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles, Camilo Pascual or Bob Allison (who might not have been a superstar but who, for some reason, I felt particular affection).

There were Sugar Babies and Red Hots and Hot Tamales. There were Smarties too (which I always found kind of boring) and candy hearts and NECCO wafers.

Tootsie Pops topped my chart when it came to suckers (far better Dum Dums) and there were also Holloway Slo Pokes suckers. They were essentially a hard caramel bar on a stick that, with care, could last a long, long time. It would stick in your teeth if you tried to chew it rather than lick and suck but, however you attacked it, it was pretty darn good.

I can remember going with my sister to the double feature at the local movie theater and I’d struggle to choose from Milk Duds or Jujyfruits, or Dots or Sour Balls. A dime went pretty far in those days. There were Life Savers, too, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid to put an open roll in my pocket and then have to deal with the lint that would stick to the top life saver in the roll. I don’t recall letting a bit of pocket fuzz deter me, but perhaps I was more fastidious than I recall and tried to clean it off before popping it into my mouth.

There was also the array of candy bars from which we could choose. It was part of a childhood quest to work my way through the full roster. Some had their origins early in the 20th century. Baby Ruths, Snickers, Three Musketeers, Hershey bars, Milky Ways, Heath Bars and Butterfingers are just some that have had particularly noteworthy longevity. There were Oh Henry’s and Chunky’s and, in Minnesota, we had Pearson’s Nut Goodies and Salted Nut Rolls, which I came to love as I got a bit older.

It’s funny the thing that we remember with the right prompts. I can still picture that corner store. I remember the creaky wooden floor and how the windows were so covered with posters and ads that even on a sunny day the interior was always a bit mysterious. You never knew for sure just what treasure you might find tucked away in a corner of the candy counter.

Those are memories of a different time. I’d say a simpler time, as well, but I imagine that, no matter our generation, most of us look back on our childhoods as a simpler time. If we’re lucky, childhood is a time where we don’t have to worry about the fate of the planet or the future of democracy. Our parents carry those burdens for of us and we’re blessed if our greatest challenges revolve around our candy of choice on a given day.

A rainy Sunday seems a perfect time for such “sweet” reminiscences. Now, though, it’s time to go hit the treadmill or rower and burn a few calories. And then… well, there’s some dark chocolate somewhere in the kitchen calling my name! After all this candy talk, I guess I need to respond.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 8, 2022

Happy Saturday. It’s a sunny day. Blue skies, and a nip in the air but it’s kind of invigorating. A walk is in order assuming sidewalks in the area are sufficiently cleared.

I’m opting to write early today. The problem is that often, early in the day, my brain is still sluggish from sleep. Nothing has caught my eye yet other than the weather, and I ask myself what I really have to talk about.

I glanced at the headlines though and, although I hate in some ways to waste time and energy on stories such as the one that found Ted Cruz abasing himself before Tucker Carlson, I just feel compelled to comment. It has hit the news because Cruz had the temerity to say something honest the other day. He characterized the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a “terrorist attack.”  

Carlson, who is making himself rich as the voice of right wing extremism, was outraged. Or so he pretended. HOW could Cruz call this an act of terror? Shame on him. 


Carlson conceded that maybe there was a riot on January 6 (gee… do you think, Tucker?) but surely, he insists, it was not an act of terror. 

Now, the last time I looked (which was just moments ago), terrorism is still defined as politically motivated violence. Seems like it fits to a “t” what happened last January. But Carlson tells his audience that these were patriots not terrorists and that our government is now trying to purge those citizens as part of a repressive assault on freedom.  

There’s more, of course, from Carlson and his ilk, but I won’t get into it. It’s all so exploitive and manipulative, but it’s their niche. It’s their golden ticket to fame and fortune. It doesn’t matter that it’s all just a story that they make up to feed an audience that hungers for someone to tell them that their grievances are justified and that it’s OK to lash out at all those liberals, people of color, immigrants, etc who are obviously at the root of all their problems. Carlson plays his audience like a fiddle, fueling their fears and their outrage and setting the stage for ongoing division. It’s pretty disheartening. 


And to see Ted Cruz rushing to kneel at Carlson’s feet and to apologize for his poorly phrased and just “stupid” (his quote) remarks was troubling. It is frightening to think that Carlson and the right wing extremists are so important to the future of Cruz and other Republicans that Cruz felt he had to abase himself before Carlson and offer mea culpas.

It’s worrisome to think of the influence that someone like Carlson wields, but it is also telling. It offers pretty compelling testimony about the state of the Republican Party. If they believe that they cannot win as a party without the extreme right, then that means that the Tucker Carlsons get to call the tune to which folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Louie Gomert and Matt Goetz and Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz and Paul Gosar will all continue to dance.

At some point there has to be a course correction. I hope that the day will come when conservative views in America will again be articulated as thoughtful policy alternatives that lead to healthy debates. But, for now, we’re instead burdened with dog whistle politics full of racism,  division, and radicalization. I worry that the far right will convince itself that if you can’t win at the polls then it’s OK to try and win through violence and intimidation. And Carlson and others pave the way for that viewpoint as they continue to attack our institutions and the fundamentals of our democratic system.

Ugh.  OK… I guess I found a topic for the day… it’s just not a story that I like to think about.

So, instead, it’s off to run errands, walk the dogs, play some music, and enjoy. Even Tucker Carlson can’t spoil those blue skies and bright sunshine. 


Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 7, 2022

So… first of all… once again I had to call T-Mobile to try and resolve an issue that has supposedly been resolved multiple times. But, bearing in mind the post I did the other day about the roiling anger that seems so pervasive, I took extraordinary pains to be patient and civil and perhaps even pleasant. I don’t know that this time the situation truly will be resolved, but the guy I spoke with seemed willing to try. And, while I have to believe that he welcomed that I didn’t vent my frustrations on him, I have to say that I felt better for keeping in mind the value of civility. 

Meanwhile, we sat down a little bit ago at the end of what proved to be a busy day. We turned on the TV and the first thing was an add for a Big Buford. Not only ONE Big Buford but two Big Bufords “for just $8!  A real deal… I guess. Available at Checkers — which is just one of the many fast food chains I’ve never visited.

The ad made sure I knew that a Big Buford is the quintessential big American burger. Too big, too greasy, too cheesy, too…everything.  I know there are many among us who love a good burger. I do too, and I love that there are some really good vegan options. But, those Big Bufords are… scary. 

Maybe I’m just more conscious of it because I’m vegan or because we’ve been much more aware of our relationship with food as the years go on, but I have to say this just isn’t healthy. It might be a guilty pleasure for some, but it is not healthy. And I assume that duo of Bufords is more likely than not going to be accompanied by fries, and soft drink and the caloric total of that one meal would likely be far more than anyone should consume in one meal (or even perhaps in the entire day).

The ad was repeated multiple times over 30 minutes. I don’t know what it costs to air during Jeopardy, but there has to be good money in these Bufords — and in perpetuating the idea that our appetites can only be sated by bigger and bigger servings. By more fats. More sugars. Smother it in cheese, it has to be good, right?

I’m not trying to be preachy. That relentless series of ads just forced itself on my consciousness tonight. I WILL note, however, that dinner was a homemade roasted tomato and garlic soup and a Mediterranean salad bowl with a tahini herb dressing that was not only healthy and satisfying, but the entire meal contained fewer calories than just one of the Big Bufords. 

Enough said. Happy Friday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 6, 2022

A year ago today, at the time I wrote my blog, the attack on the Capitol had not yet begun. I wrote early as I had plans for cooking and wanted to get to it. I remember the horror as I watched events unfold. It was a repeat of the trauma that I felt the day that our government unleashed troops on our fellow citizens near the White House, as they peacefully protested the murder of George Floyd.

I was deeply and profoundly sickened and scared. I had spent my entire professional life serving a nation that was founded on principles. Equality, justice for all, and governance by the people, was at the heart of the vision that shaped our nation. We had had enough of the rule of tyrants. We declined to accept teh divine right of flawed kings to determining our loves.  

That commitment our founders made to the rule of law and human dignity was breathtaking in its articulation in a world where people were subjects, not partners, in governance. The creation of a social compact in which the power to govern was neither divine, nor sanctioned by force of arms, but instead was granted, for a prescribed period, by ordinary citizens to those we chose as our leaders, was unique at that time. 

I came to appreciate our founders’ vision more and more over the years. I saw how we were a beacon of hope in the world. I saw how the principles set forth in our founding documents still resonated with and inspired people in nations where their leaders abused power and abused their citizens. I was proud to serve our nation and to speak on behalf of those principles. But, a year ago today, I wondered if we would fail ourselves. I wondered if democracy would survive.

What happened that day, or the preceding June when the protestors were attacked, or when in Portland masked men with no identification whisked other protestors away in unmarked black SUVs, was not the America I served. It was a darker, scarier, and more troubling America. And it broke my heart.

That’s not the America I want to end my days in. It’s not the America I want our grandkids to grow up in. I don’t want to see hope dim. I don’t want to see our voices cowed and silenced. And I sure as hell don’t want to be “ruled” by self-serving, power hungry fools who care only for themselves but not our nation. I don’t want America to offer hope only if you’re white or christian or male. I don’t want our dream to die.

But that’s the direction we moved under Trump. 

Some folks will want to read this as partisan. It isn’t. This isn’t about Republican or Democrat. It’s about us — about who we are and who we will be. 

We’ve seen glimpses, too many in fact, over the past few years, of what we could become. The marchers in Charlottesville. The black SUVs. The attacks on the protestors. The armed men intimidating lawmakers at state capitols. The plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor. The QAnon crazies. And those who provided the ugly, horrible images one year ago today. 

These aren’t two competing visions of America at work. It is a choice between the America our founders dreamed of —and that many of us continue to aspire to —and something else that is darker and uglier. But, whatever that darker vision is… or might become… it won’t be America.  

I don’t want to lose our nation. We could. There is no doubt about it. Biden warned about it this morning. He’s not wrong. Some Canadian professor wrote the other day warning his fellow citizens about the need to think about what happens to Canada if American becomes a right wing dictatorship in the next decade. Don’t scoff at the suggestion. History has shown us that these things happen. There’s a reason our oath of office commits us to defending our constitution against enemies foreign AND domestic.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not predicting our demise. I remain convinced that we are better than this, and I believe that the America I served, and that I believe in, will prevail. But it will not happen without effort and not without our commitment and vigilance. And I hope that all of us will find ways to offer our support to those who stand for our values and that we will all do what we can to preserve the democracy that means so much and that has defined us as a people.

I haven’t commented much about the January 6 investigations underway in Congress, but I have to say that they appear to me to be an honest effort. The work will inevitably be viewed through a partisan lens, but the details that have emerged (and more comes out all the time) are deeply troubling. We have to look beyond partisanship and, if we do, the evidence of a concerted effort to undermine our democracy, disregard our constitution, and invalidate the expression of our sovereign will as a people in a free and fair election, is clear. 

Last year, the day after the attack I wrote:

“The bottom line is that yesterday we saw a mob that turned into rioters and domestic terrorists. The mob that Trump told to march on the Capitol. The mob that Trump incited, and lied to, and that he told to “show strength” to take back that which had been “stolen” from them. Trump sought to intimidate legislators. He was ready to accept mob rule rather than the rule of law, if it would preserve him in power.

Will these events help us end the fever dream that revolves around the Trump cult of personality? I don’t know. Perhaps what happened yesterday shocked many back to reality, but there are still some in the Republican Party who continue to tell the lies or who now claim that the mob that attacked our Capitol were not really Trump supporters but maybe ANTIFA activists. Clearly not everyone learned the lessons.”

A year later, that’s still the case. There are many who didn’t learn the lessons or who learned the wrong lesson. There are those who just think that next time they should be better armed, more violent, and who believe that they are justified in seeking to overthrow our government. They want to create something different. But whatever it is, if they are successful, it won’t be America.

I wrote last January 7: 

“Today, let’s ask for wisdom, and care, and responsible partnership across the political spectrum as we chart our path forward. Let’s put our nation ahead of our parties. Let’s stand for America.”

I don’t usually quote myself, but today I’ll make an exception, because I still believe it.

Let’s stand for America because, I’ve got to tell you, the alternatives kind of suck.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 5, 2022

Once the holidays are past, folks tend at times to fall into the winter doldrums. The days can be gray. Weather is unpredictable, but the surprises it brings are seldom pleasant at this time of year. Add a crazy pandemic and you might even think that things look bleak. 

But… and there’s always a but… we don’t have to let “bleak” be the choice of the day. I got thinking about that because of a daily Far Side calendar page. The cartoon on January 4th showed a dog kneeling in prayer at its bedside. And it asked — whatever entity dogs may pray to — to give all that pup’s loved ones the ability to see in color. 

We have the gift of seeing the color in the world around us but often choose not to. I think that’s too bad. The enthusiasm that our pups bring to the simple things, like a walk, or to chasing a thrown ball, deserves to be seen in the full richness of color. We shouldn’t waste our ability to see it.

I was thinking of that on and off as we walked late in the day today. We only did a mile stroll around the neighborhood. Lo Khyi and Gyptse Jane seemed to enjoy it. And the colors, dusk-washed though they were — just seemed unusually vibrant. There was still enough daylight to see clearly, but it had waned enough to allow the warm glow from the street lamps to wash over the objects in their orbit from tree tops to the red stop sign on the corner. The sky was an inky blue that was holding back the black, but it was dark enough to make the crescent moon clear and bright. The light-filled windows in the houses created small vignettes of life in the neighborhood. Lo Khyi’s orange bandana lay vivd against his coat, and it was just… right.

We’ve lived here for over six years. It’s not as though I’ve never seen the neighborhood but tonight it looked different. I can’t help but think that “color” is as much in our perspective as it is in the miracle of the body that lets us see the rainbow. 

I’m with the pup in Gary Larson’s cartoon. Let’s pray to see in color.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 4, 2022

What a mess on I-95.  People stuck for more than 24 hours!  

Things like that seems to happen when there’s a big storm out here in Virginia. Though, I struggle with why. It really wasn’t such a big storm. At least not if you come from Minnesota. 

Still, I feel terrible for those folks. It’s certainly not something I would want to experience. My guess is that, as they coped with the challenges, no one was checking to see who was Republican or Democrat. My guess is that while being stuck over the cold dark hours last night on the interstate, the experience was equally difficult no matter the color of anyone’s skin or their faith.  

Circumstances like this can remind us of our shared humanity. Senator Tim Kaine was stuck in the mess for 27 hours, but was calling his staff not to get himself out but to try and orchestrate help for everyone. I heard that a family from Connecticut, driving home from Florida, was walking among the cars in the night handling out oranges. That is the America that I seem to remember from my youth. 

Maybe that’s a romanticized memory, but I don’t think so. And I don’t think that that America is necessarily gone for good. Hope not. 

And meanwhile, it’s another crazy day on the COVID front. The other day I saw the headline about cases being up 984% in Florida over two weeks. Today it’s record numbers of children being hospitalized. Heartbreaking tales about parents watching their newborn, or six-month-old or toddler struggling to breathe. Another report said 13% of Congress is now infected. We’re worrying about what happens as kids and teachers go back into the classrooms, wondering which rules to follow, and overwhelmed trying to dodge Delta, Omicron, flu, and winter colds.

What a year… and it’s only four days old.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 3, 2022

We had our first snow storm of the season. It seemed to come from nowhere. There wasn’t the usual hype leading up to it’s arrival. They only got around to talking about it yesterday. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Either way, it snowed. It seems that the weather doesn’t care if I’m plugged in or not. Go figure. Who knew?

Anyway, it was REAL snow. Sometimes here in VA an inch of snow can become an “event.” That’s still something that seems silly to me even after forty years of living (when assigned in the US) in the Commonwealth. At our house we probably had about 7 inches. And it was a heavy, wet snow. My back can attest to that. I wanted to pretended I was a few decades younger, but my back and neck will tell me later tonight that I was mistaken.

The day REALLY belonged to Lo Khyi, though. He’s in his element when it snows. He frolics. He romps. He nestles down into it. And he can lie in his snow nest for hours, periodically sampling the air and ensuring that all is well in his kingdom. 

When I went out to try and convince him to come in, he took it as a signal to play the “only if you can catch me” game. Dogs DO play and Lo Khyi had a mischievous grin on his face (yes, dogs DO grin, as well) and he crouched ready to dash away in a flurry of thrown snow.  I chased him a bit and, after a while, he relented, and came in. 

He can be a big galoot at times, but I do appreciate it when he takes the time to remind us of what’s important and, today, that was play. He’s lying nearby, chilling inside now after a lively day. We’ll wander out for a final tour of the yard before bed and it will take at least twice as long as normal because he loves… LOVES… to lick and eat the snow. That might not seem like a great choice to some, but he’s a bhote kukkur – a mountain dog — from Mustang. He knows the lore and the wisdom. He was born with it. So I’ll trust him and I’ll wait while he enjoys his icy treat. Why not?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

J

January 2, 2022

It’s the first Sunday of 2022. The start of a new week. 

We’ve all got a pretty good idea of what the week ahead will bring and it will likely be stressful for most of us. Folks are supposed to go back to work and kids to school in the midst of the most contagious spread of COVID yet. There’s no good solution to the challenges of that proposition nor necessarily even a good way to protect yourself if you have to be in any type of public setting. A bit of unease is not only acceptable, it’s smart.

As my day got underway, today, I opened my phone to check my notifications as I do most every day. I know that such checks are commonplace these days for many, but I can’t help but think about how fantastical that would have once seemed to me. The idea that we carry in our our pocket computing power that is hundreds of thousands times more powerful than that which took man to the moon half a century ago, is mind boggling. Tech has changed our world and I marvel to realize our grandkids take this incredibly powerful technology for granted. It will only grow more sophisticated as they grow older and how it will change their lives and human interactions is something I find hard to even guess at.

We may not live in the world of the Jetsons yet but, when we think of the advances and the technological wonders we experience every day, we’re sure moving in that direction. We take it all for granted because it has become commonplace, but twenty years ago none of this was part of our lives. We may complain about being “connected” all the time, particularly if you’re still active in the workplace, but the tech genie isn’t going back into the bottle and I don’t want it to. There are adjustments and challenges but I am grateful to have the technology. I’m grateful for being connected to family and friends. Video calls, check-in texts, sharing photos, swapping stories, and more. It’s all good. 

There’s not a day that goes by that this technology doesn’t connect me with the kids and with family and friends who matter to me. And, with the start of year three of the pandemic around the corner, I’m so grateful that we have tools that can ease the isolation and that keep us in touch.

The topic of the miracle of modern technology is worthy of more discussion, but what I WAS going to write about, before I allowed my mind to wander, was a story I saw when I opened my phone and checked those notifications today. 

A New York Times article that caught my eye: “A Nation on Hold Wants to Speak To a Manager.”

It was about anger in America that is pulsing and throbbing and waiting to be unleashed across the nation. It’s not just the crazies… it’s been building in so many of us. Read the article if you can. It’s not surprising because we all see and feel the anger. It is sobering though, and it ties together many of the issues and challenges of social interaction in the age of the pandemic.

The anger is real, but it’s also a manifestation of fear, and frustration, and worry. A few months ago, there was an afternoon as we returned from a trip to Texas when I felt angry beyond words over folks who were cavalier about mask usage in the airport. I usually keep my emotions on a fairly even keel and as a result was particularly shocked at just how hot my anger burned towards the idiots who flaunted their lack of concern for others and their social irresponsibility.  

That anger, though, was the outgrowth of fear about this horrible disease we struggle with and about gut-wrenching worry for a loved one who had contracted COVID despite the vaccines and masks and trying to do it right. I knew that they would likely be OK but I was worried and scared for them nonetheless. COVID anxiety is deeply embedded by now and I was furious with those who fueled the disease and forced me to feel that fear and concern.

But this anger we see today is more than just a pandemic phenomena or the outgrowth of the politics of division — though both those realities have fanned smoldering resentments and frustrations and have turned them into raging fires. 

And, it may be that the technology that has become so central to our lives has also made it easier to lose sight of the human dimension and the rules of social interaction that once helped us to keep our anger and resentments in check. As it has become commonplace for us to navigate much of our interaction with the world through computer chips and engagement with AIs like Alexa and Siri, it has become easier to forget how to act with real people we encounter. 

There may be a moment of fiery satisfaction in really letting someone have it, but I’ve found it is followed by the sense that I have failed myself. What did I really gain by giving the customer service rep at T-Mobile hell? Will it make them more competent? Will it solve my problem? Will it make the world a better place? Of course not. And I know it. 

It is too easy to let a faceless voice reading a canned script for programmed interaction become a target. They seem hardly any more human than the AI on my phone. But that starts us down the slippery slope. We have to be better than that. We should be better than that.

I wonder if we’ll find our way back to a calmer and kinder approach to each other. I hope so. I don’t want to feel angry all the time. I had enough of that as Trump piled outrage after outrage on the political bonfires he relished starting.


It starts with us, I guess. Finding the patience, the compassion, the empathy, and the fundamental courtesy and respect for others that my mom and dad, through their example, taught me as a child. And, for me, my walks help me get there. They are calming and centering. Taking time to meditate, to find a few moments of silence and peace in the day, also helps. Being intentional and thinking about who I am, who I want to be, and how I want to engage the world does too. 

We set the tone, and set an example for our kids, our grandkids, for our friends and others. Which path will we choose? How we navigate this sea of turmoil and uncertainty matters, and our computers can’t make these particular choices for us. It’s on us. 

Time for a walk.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 1, 2022

And so it begins. Another year. 

There’s always something about the start of the year. Possibilities open before us. Opportunities. Hopes. Dreams. There’s no predicting where the days will take us, but we begin with a sense of renewal.

Some years deliver better on that sense of promise. We’ll see how 2022 does.

Here in Haymarket the clouds hung low, the temps were in the 60s, and the rain, while not heavy, was enough to discourage walking. So, instead, it was time to take down the Christmas decorations. I’m never in a rush to end the season, which I do love, but you take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. Today was a day that seemed right for the effort. 

Boxing up Christmas always is a bit like boxing up memories. As I put things away this year I found old boxes filled with some things that had been sealed up and put away. Things that had once meant something but that now were just forgotten bits of a different time in life. Some were just generic holiday ornaments that could be found in any Hallmark store, others had a bit more character but no personal significance — at least not after so many years.

Once they might have been part of a holiday celebration but now they’re just forgotten things. 

That’s what happens with the passage of years. Not everything remains vibrant and relevant, but there’s always something to take on meaning and significance to form the heart of the memories that touch us most deeply at any stage in our lives.

There was another “memory” of sorts today. To mark Betty White’s passing Apple TV was airing some of her shows, including the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was, of course, a classic — a staple — for those of us of a certain generation. And it first aired over 50 years ago. 

I know I’m not a kid but, for god’s sake, is it really over a half century since MTM first aired in 1970?   That just seems crazy. It couldn’t have been that long ago, I tell myself.  But then I look at the clothes, and the hair styles, and listen to the dialogue  and it seems that it should have been even  longer ago than a half century. It was such a different time. So very different.

And now its 2022 and on this New Year Day I’m surrounded, as I write, by the memories sparked by the day. Some are old and ready to be surrendered, some are indelible. They’re all worthy of a visit but, at the same time, the promise that the new year holds lies ahead. So eyes forward. New adventures, and new memories, await.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.