January, 2022

January 31, 2022

I’m not unhappy to see this day end. 

The news is just grating on me today and my guess is I’d be cranky even if my back, knee and ankle (lol… yes I’m falling apart) weren’t making everything seem just a bit harder today.

Donald Trump was in the news, of course, because he was offensive and outrageous and hateful. Yep. The same old Donald. He attacked the prosecutors in New York and Georgia who are investigating his family’s business and his post-election interference in Georgia. He called them vicious racists — because they happen to be black. That means, in his twisted logic (and that of the base he caters to), that they must hate Trump because he is white.  

He is already calling for demonstrations if the legal process anywhere in our nation dares to challenge him. It’s too reminiscent of the call for protests on January 6. And he more or less promised that if he becomes president again he’d pardon the January 6 insurrectionists who have been treated, in his view, so unfairly. It’s absolutely appalling. 

What is so sad, however, is how most Congressional Republicans still cannot find the courage to break with Trump. They need his base voters too much to speak out for what is best for our nation. 

Then there’s Ted Cruz, and a crew of other Republicans calling Biden’s commitment to choosing a qualified black woman for the Supreme Court “insulting” or “an affirmative action” choice or a “quota” action. Of course they’re going to talk trash — I guess that’s the nature of politics. But if you had any doubt that the party is playing to some of the most conservative elements in white America, look no further. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was only the latest among the anti-vaxxers to offer heinously outrageous comparisons between the genocide of 6 million jews by the Nazis and the public health choices we face today. How anyone can actually equate the murder of millions to a public health policy intended to protect us from a deadly virus is beyond me. But it is part of the same crazy mindset that we see play out, again and again, these days. 

There are so many stories out there that play into the anger and worries and frustrations that we all face. But, while there may be a lot of stories, I have to wonder if the news programs don’t go out of their way to highlight the most outrageous views of the other side. They want to play upon the fears, because those fears boost their ratings. 

Whether your political leanings take you left or right, there are plenty of bogeymen out there to choose from. I worry though, that we’ll become so accustomed to being caught up in the outrage of the moment, that outrage will soon become our only common denominator as a nation. 

Like I said. Happy to see the day end.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 30, 2022

There are folks we meet along the way who are just special. The Amchi Tsampa Ngawang Lama was one of them. Some of you have heard me speak of him. He blessed Lo Khyi as a puppy when we stayed with him and his wife Karma at his Dancing Yak guest house in Jomsom in the Kingdom of Mustang, high in Nepal. And he later offered his blessing for “The Ambassador’s Dog” book.

It was the story of a lineage painting of Tsampa-la, told so eloquently in the documentary “A Gift For the Village,” that brought the artist and story teller Jane Vance, into our lives. So Tsampa was, in essence, the reason that Jane, is today one of our dear friends and that she became the illustrator of “The Ambassador’s Dog.” Funny how the paths of serendipity intertwine in our lives. But Jane and Leija and I are just small parts of the global family that grew around Tsampa and we are just a few of many who share connections through him.

Amchi Tsampa was a man of compassion and love and joy. He was a scholar of repute, a healer, an herbalist and… he became a friend. He was gracious and warm and kind and it was a joy to get glimpses of the world as he saw it. Our acquaintance spanned only a bit more than decade. We did not see each other with any frequency. It didn’t matter. I had been touched, like so many others, by the radiance of his mind and spirit.

We were connected. And, although his physical being passed today, I feel we still are.

Tsampa-la was deeply spiritual. I believe that there was much in his understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, and his lifetime of experience as a lama, and as a student of the life of the soul, that allowed him to see the approach of his own physical death differently than I might. I wish I could have spoken with him and benefited from his insights. In another life, perhaps I could have studied and learned from him. Perhaps, in some life to come, I will. But at least we came together in this life and for that I’m grateful. His is another face I will miss from among those I admire, and respect, and love. Such is the way of life.

In my mind’s eye, though, I see Tsampa riding among the stars on a wind horse. He js smiling his incredible smile and his eyes are as vibrant as ever. I smile back. How can I not?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 29, 2022

Trying to enjoy a zen-like Saturday and doing taxes do not go together. At least for me. 

It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of paying taxes. I have no problem with playing my role as a citizen. I truly don’t. I just am not a fan of the process. Of course, I don’t know many who are.

It all can be so complex if your tax picture is the least but involved. The idea of a simplified tax system has a lot of appeal at times like this. That approach would have its pros and cons as well, though. 

In any event, I’m making progress on the taxes, so I can’t complain.  

There really wasn’t much else to distinguish the day, I guess. It was too cold for a walk. I think I could have managed, but I’m not sure that the pups would have been warm enough. We all were fine with a quieter day, I think, but the day never really took on much character and I’m feeling rather uninspired.

I recognize that I’ve written about food a lot this week and I’ll just say that it has ended on a another tasty note. I had prepared a Bhuna curry paste recently, so it was easy to just whip up a sauce. To it I added some spiced tofu cubes that I had baked, and some of the roasted veggies I did today (broccoli, cauli, peppers, and onions). The other dish was red lentil dal with spinach. Really tasty. The two dishes were rich in protein, rich in flavor, and low in calories. With a bit of rice and some chutneys to go along side, it was another day of living the dream as a vegan. *smile*

Tomorrow I’m sure I’ll have more to say. Tonight, though, I’m tired. I’ll settle for a good meal, a comfortable chair, and a quiet night with Leija and the pups. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 28, 2022

It’s Friday. I’m not going to complain about that.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad week. We ate well all week it seems. Tonight it was homemade vegan burgers and fries — regular and sweet potato fries. They just tasted so good on a snowy evening. Filling, tasty, and within my caloric budget for the day.

For the past six months I’ve really made a commitment to wellness and I’ve been proud of the changes. My blood pressure is at record lows, my weight is down to what it was when I joined the Foreign Service 40 years ago, and my aches and pains are no worse than I’d expect at my age and perhaps better than I might have expected.  

Like so many days this week, today took another unplanned turn. Had planned to make a quick trip to our local garden center — something that is often a costly choice. I didn’t do too badly — I only came home with four new plants… or was it five? Maybe five. But one, a fairy spire cactus was quite small. 

Not only did they need to be settled into their new home, which also meant repotting all the newcomers. It was also an occasion to repot, realign and rejuvenate some of the other members of the sunroom jungle.

It was a totally Zen hour to two spent working with them. We did have to make another quick run to Home Depot because I realized the Natal Lily, gifted to us last summer by our friends who couldn’t take it to California, needed a new pot. I separated the baby that had sprouted alongside it and needed to give it its own space.  

The surgery was, I think, successful — and now we have three Natal Lilies growing. They can join the half-dozen snake plants — one of which was from my grandmother and the rest are all its descendants. One of my oldest Christmas cactuses seems to be withering and my shamrocks have been losing their joie de vivre. I hope that repositioning them, offering some freshened soil, and having a long chat reminding them that they are loved, may do the trick. 

In any event, we have grape ivy making a comeback. Lipstick plants that still bloom, African violets that are flowering, and orchids that are making their comeback after we beat back a mealybug attack. 

Having that greenery in the midst of winter is always welcome. And caring for all the plants just makes me feel good. So, although the full range of the work I ended up doing wasn’t planned, it felt like a great way to end the week.

And now, as I try to finish my writing, I’ve just come back inside. The Prince, you see, insisted on going out into the snow storm we’re presently experiencing. He is, of course, a mountain dog — I couldn’t begrudge him the experience of the storm. And as I waited for him to get his fill of the snow he was eating, the yard lights framed me, and the shadow I cast with the hood of my winter jacket deployed, was a perfect Darth Vader image. 

“Lok(hyi)… I am your father,” I intoned. I’d could swear Lo Khyi chuckled. 

And now, the day is ending with snow falling and the yard just looking beautiful. It’s been another good day — coming at the end of a good week. It’s nice to be able to say that. Hope you can too.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 27, 2022

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We need to bear witness forever to the murder of six million Jews during the Second World War. They can’t be forgotten. We saw survivors of the concentration camps being interviewed. There aren’t many left, but those who are still alive remember. How could they possibly forget?  

They remember watching kids their own age being marched into the crematorium. They remember seeing parents, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and siblings killed. One of the survivors said she worried that in the years ahead the generations who did not see the horrors will too easily forget them. Let’s hope not.

Mankind can rise to selfless acts of courage and decency and honor. And we can also sink to depths of evil and inhumanity that are beyond most of our ability to comprehend. 

Will it become easier for the Holocaust deniers to rewrite history as time goes on?  Will it be easier, and more convenient to pretend that it didn’t happen?  And will it be easier for the rigors and racists to rise to influence and power on narratives rife with hatred and bile? It has happened before. It can happen again.

Just this past weekend anti-semitic flyers were distributed in communities in Southern Florida including in Broward County, which happens to have many Holocaust survivors living there. Similar flyers were also distributed in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, California, and Maryland.

I’m not going to dignify the messages of mindless hate with discussion of the lies the flyers told. But we also can’t dismiss them as the work of a few crazies. That’s probably what many Germans thought. The brown shirts were just a few crazies.  We know now where that was destined to end. We can’t let it happen again.

And so, I have to ask Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and the others on the far right who think we should side with Russia against Ukraine… what the hell are you thinking? 

How about you?  Do you think that Putin is more akin to Gandhi or Hitler?

As a nation, we are the ones who are supposed to stand against autocrats and despots. We are supposed to believe that strength, at the expense of justice and decency and human rights, is not to be admired but abhorred. But not, it seems, if you’re Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson. 

I’ve never understood Trump’s slavish fawning over Putin. I never will. 

Let’s never forget the horrors of which mankind is capable nor turn our back on the values that we believe in. The world can’t afford for either to happen. 

Stay strong, say safe, stay healthy.

January 26, 2022

Where to begin today? I’m not sure. 

I guess I’ll start with my most recent experience. Dinner. This morning as I looked at four large and very ripe tomatoes sitting on the kitchen island and realized they needed to be transformed or… failing action on my part… tossed. 

This afternoon action won out. Onions, and then a few minutes later, garlic were tossed in the pot to sauté in a bit of water. Add in a big handful of chopped cremini mushrooms, celery, carrots, a bit of fresh fennel and then the chopped tomatoes. I had some fresh basil so that went in along with oregano, thyme, rosemary, lemon pepper, a pinch or two of salt, and a few bigger pinches of coconut sugar.  Next came a can of tomato sauce, some broth, and a couple of cups of great northern beans. I had some Field Roast vegan Fennel and Garlic Italian Sausage on hand so that went in too, as did some fresh spinach and a cup of small shell pasta.

The end product was so satisfying. 

With it, there was a fresh garden salad with a bit of feta (vegan), olives, tomatoes, grapes, clementines, and a variety of other veggies. Topped with a sundried tomato dressing and some spices it complemented the stew perfectly.  Some crusty sourdough bread helped sop up both the soup and the salad dressing. I thought I was in heaven.  Ahhhh.

That’s a great way to end the day. The beginning was pretty good too. Leija made us oatmeal loaded with cranberries, hemp seed, apples, and fresh raspberries. It too was SO good. (You’ll note that food and mood are, in my life, inextricably linked.)

After breakfast, the two big dogs and I decided we’d do a morning walk rather than wait for later in the day. The weather reports kept talking about the wind chill and the bitter cold, but I dressed with that in mind and I found as we walked that it was a truly glorious day. The sky was wonderfully blue, the air crisp, but the sun melted away the frost and you could smell the damp earth. The dogs had a field day. We stopped on a small wooden bridge over a stream that runs nearby and just watched the water for a minute. The birds were vocal and active, the sun hit the water just right and the dogs patiently waited while I just took in the morning. 

Weather and activity affect mood too!  

Later this afternoon, after preparing the stew and salad, I went downstairs to stretch and meditate before dinner. On a wall in my little sanctuary hangs a beautiful framed Turkish tile of a Sufi dancer. I remember seeing them in Istanbul. It is a form of physical meditation that was so deeply spiritual and transcendent. It was an incredibly powerful experience and I remember we were too wired — too filled with what had to be a transferred energy from the ceremony — that we couldn’t imagine looking for transport afterwards. We walked however many miles it was back to our hotel in the Sultanahmet area just reveling in the moment.

I tried to let the memory of that grace and ease-of-being guide me as I stretched and did a bit of yoga. I’ll never whirl, but allowing body and breath to guide our movement can be a mood changer and mood enhancer as well.  

All in all, it was a good day.

Meanwhile, outside of my peaceful bubble, the planned retirement of Supreme Court Justice Beyer is big news today. President Biden will almost certainly seek to replace him with a black woman as he has promised. 

I hope that this goes forward smoothly but boy — you can’t help but wonder.  The bitterness still rankles over the Republicans denying Obama’s nominee a hearing and a vote only to insist, four years later, that Trump’s candidate should not only be heard, but confirmed just a week  before the presidential election.  It was so callously hypocritical that I have trouble letting it go. You can say it’s just politics. You can say that the Republicans had the power to do it, so, why not? And, of course, they did have the power. But that doesn’t make it right.

Notwithstanding all that, a black woman on the court will be good. She would bring a perspective that should be part of the conversation in our multiracial, multiethnic society — every bit as much as the voices of the white and conservative justices appointed by Trump. The reality is that much of America is white and much of it is conservative. Their voices should be heard and their values are a force in shaping our society. But so are the voices of liberals and progressives, the voices of people of color, the voices of women — the voices of us all.

Anyway, it has been too good a day to talk politics or jurisprudence. Time to start the slide toward the week’s end.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 25. 2022

I will confess, I have my nerdy side. I embrace it.  And it might just keep me healthy, right? They say that keeping our minds active as we grow older is important. So that’s what I try to do.

Active minds take many forms. For me, part of it is sitting down and playing music. It doesn’t have to be played well — though, beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. The process, though, is important and enriching. Coordinating my eyes, hands, fingers and ears can be a challenge, but it forces my brain to work. I’m not sure how it works the magic that it does, but it is pretty cool.

Language is also part of my strategy to stay mentally young. I’ve been doing Spanish online for five months…157 straight days of lessons. Sometimes only ten minutes. Sometimes longer. It’s more like a puzzle… testing myself… but I learn, too. I don’t know that Duolingo is going to make me a fluent speaker, but it’s fun to discover something new, make new linguistic connections, and expand my understanding. It’s funny, but the way my career worked out, I never needed to be fluent in Urdu or Sinhala or even the French I studied when I first joined State. Although I had studied Spanish as a kid, it had been years. It seems that, in the America of today, knowing some Spanish makes sense, though, so this too is something more to keep synapses connecting and working well.

Then there’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  One is about words, and the other about how much eclectic information we can store — and recall. I love words. They were always my stock in trade. Even as a kid they were defining for me. I talked a lot. And I read a lot. And reading a lot helped build that storehouse of information. Is it any wonder that I watch these shows?  Every night when I’m able?  

And word puzzles and logic puzzles. I don’t know how I hadn’t heard about Wordle. My daughter introduced me to THAT tonight. Now I’ve got another daily task. And now I’m checking out the NYT’s Spelling Bee and, from time to time, I’ve been known to do the Crossword, as well. 

Yep. Clear signs of being a proud nerd. I just have no idea how that word came to be pejorative. That’s just silly. It’s a banner to be held high. And my brain? It might get tired by the end of the day, but it DOES get its exercise. Let’s hope that helps.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 24, 2022

Our days can take unexpected paths.

As mine started I was feeling unsettled. I wasn’t ready to take on the day.  It had nothing to do with Mondays — though there have been times when I think they deserve their reputation.  Whatever the reason, I was not looking forward to the day. And then… Gyptse Jane smiled at me. 

I’ve said iti before, I know, but dogs do smile and this morning, as every morning, Gyptse Jane was bouncing about, eager to go outside and begin the day. Her eyes were so bright, her enthusiasm so compelling, I had to smile in response. It didn’t transform the day on the spot, but it started me on a different trajectory. 

After a morning of work, I went for a walk with Gyptse and Lo Khyi.  I had thought about leaving the Prince of the Mountains at home. I know his leg gets sore at times but he so wants to go. He saw me from his “spot” on the hill out back. He can see into the kitchen and watched me put on my coat, grab my hat and then, when he saw me pick up the harnesses he raced down from the hilltop to stand by the backyard gate. 

The message was clear. I wasn’t going without him and, his energy as we walked, was so affirming. Vague unease  slowly gave way.

Two miles later we were back. It was a a good walk and helped to further leaven my mood. And then I had a few tasks I wanted to tackle — do some work in the backyard and clean out a corner of the garages. Those tasks quickly morphed into an afternoon-consuming undertaking. the major part of which was cleaning and reorganizing the garage. 

Now you might find it odd that this was a mood brightener, but it was. It’s not that the garage was a total disaster — it wasn’t.  But, as all garages do, it had over time slowly slipped down the functionality and organization scale. Although it was unplanned, it seemed like it was time to act.  

There’s something to be said for the satisfaction of doing things that are physical. Unlike much of the world around us, this was something that could shape and control. It was clear and visible change that I could effect through effort that I chose to offer. It felt good. And so did refilling bird feeders and sweeping the back patio to clear away the blackout sunflower seed shells the birds had scattered from a nearby feeder (which also got moved).

It was full-on dusk by the time I finished and, working out in the garage in the cold, did nothing for some of the aches and pains that go with the passage of years. But boy… the garage looks good and it felt good too to tame it.

I can remember my Dad cleaning his garage (though not, perhaps, in the midst of winter). I wonder if he found similar satisfaction at being able to impose a degree of order on the environment around him.  Anyway, I channelled my father a bit today, and that too ended up feeling affirming.

Yep.  It’s funny, the things on which a day can turn. 

I wouldn’t have expected, when the day began, to say it has been a good day. But it has and you can’t ask for any more than that on a Monday. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 23, 2022

Little Gus is 11 months old today. The time since his birth seems to have flown by.
It is also just a touch more than a year since we had our first COVID vaccine too. We were so excited, in part because we hoped to be able to travel to see our new grandson once he was born and that vaccination started us on the road to realizing that dream. There have been two more since then, of course. The second was on the day that he was actually born. Thank god that the vaccines came as quickly as they did and have been the game changing as these have been.

Thinking of it leads me to remember how for almost a year prior to that first shot living with concerns about a potentially deadly virus for which there was NO vaccine at the time. It has certainly been a hell of a journey that we all have experienced in our own way. And it still continues.

Part of my journey, of course, has led me to write. A lot. And recently I’ve started trying to pull all those journal entries together and consolidate them. Reading through them I realize I have expressed some… shall we say… “strong” opinions from time to time? There’s no regret in that. It has been therapeutic and also honest. I recognize that my perspective may not always be shared by others, of course, and perhaps some day I’ll look back and realize I was wrong in my critiques.

Perhaps I’ll conclude I was overly concerned in my dismay over the failure of leadership and or in my worry over the direction our nation has taken. Perhaps. But the words felt right as I wrote them and — so far at least — they seem to hold up well.
If nothing else, though, they are a record of a journey and it is good to know where we have been as we consider where we will go next.

And today, where I will go next, is into the kitchen. I had already planned to make my Thai red curry stew today. It is hearty, it is wonderfully flavorful, it is healthy and it is something I like to make. It comes together with relative ease, but there’s enough “process” involved to make it feel like an accomplishment at the same time.
I even dreamt about it last night!

I was getting ready to make it while at an event of some sort — seemingly related to the State Department — in a hotel that, I think, was supposed to be in Thailand, but was distinguished by its constantly changing hallways rather than any culturally appropriate motifs. There was the usual assortment of strange dream disconnects, including a lost shoes segment. That one seemed a bit odd, but perhaps no stranger than the fact that I was suddenly confronted by an even greater challenge — the realization that I did not have the Thai Kitchen red curry paste I like to use.

Now, I know that there would have been an abundance of red curry paste options available to me in Thailand, but curry pastes can be distinctive and I wanted the particular flavor profile that the little jar of Thai Kitchen offers. It’s a good blend of spices, and the red chilis in it offer just the right amount of heat.

Perhaps even more challenging, however, was the recurring worry throughout the night about cubing the super firm tofu I like to use. To be clear, cubing tofu is NOT rocket science, even for those who don’t ever work in the kitchen. But our dreams can ignore reality and we buy into the challenges that they create for us. I knew, even in my sleep, that this was an odd thing to be obsessing about, but it was a recurring theme through the night nonetheless. And that is all the more reason to finish writing the blog and get into the kitchen and get it done.

Besides, the stew itself is fun to make. So many wonderful vegetables in it. The choices depend in part on what I have on hand but right now I’m fully stocked. Onions and ginger and garlic, of course, have to be part of the equation. And I love the flavor the keffir lime leaves add. And then I can go wild with beans, celery, broccoli, carrots, or whatever captures my imagination. Add in some coconut milk, fresh basil and lemon grass too if you’ve got it. I use a yellow curry boullion for the broth as well. Mmmmm.

There’s also the baby corn and bamboo shoots that I parboil first to reduce the scent that they carry from the brine in which they are packed. And that carefully cubed tofu with a slight coating of oil will be tossed in a ziplock along with some cornstarch, keffir lime powder, garlic powder, and maybe just a touch of cumin. Once coated the cubes will be baked until a lovely golden brown. They too are a great addition to the stew as are some red lentils to boost the protein content a bit more. Season it with a bit of vegan fish sauce, Worcester, golden mountain sauce a touch of sriracha and a bit of coconut sugar and voila!

There’s a nice Thai cauliflower dish, as well, that I like. That may end up being just the thing for the beautiful organic cauli sitting in the prep fridge in the garage.
Anyone who thinks that vegans live on leafy greens and bland meals — both in taste and appearance — doesn’t have a clue. Come on over and join us and you’ll discover the healthy joys of vegan eating.

So, it’s time to get busy on this sunny Sunday. Cooking. Dog walks. Music. Work. A bit of this and a bit of that all lie ahead. And if, as always seems to be true, there is more that I want to do than there are hours in the day, there’s always tomorrow.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 22, 2022

It’s a bright and sunny Saturday. Chilly… temps have struggled to rise above freezing, but that made for a delightfully brisk walk with the dogs. I’ve had time to play a bit of piano, time to stretch, time to meditate, and time to write a newsletter for Engage Nepal.

There’s so much to do every day, but the pace today is more measured than yesterday and that helps. A lot.

I’m trying to maintain a zen-like mood, but it can be a challenge especially when, here in Virginia, a mother threatened to turn up at her kids’ school on Monday with all the guns fully loaded if her kids are required to wear masks.

Here’s a direct quote, ”My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on,” King told the Board. “Alright? That’s not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready to… I will call every…”King was then cut off for going over the three-minute time limit, and she replied, “I’ll see y’all on Monday.”

That’s pretty special, right? It’s totally inappropriate, of course. And in today’s world how can we not take the direct threat in her words seriously?

What have we come to? It doesn’t help that our new governor wants to frame this not in terms of public health but instead as a question of “parents’ rights.” What does that mean? Parents have all sorts of ideas. Some are pretty stupid. And some put others at risk. Since when do they get to make the choices that will affect my grandkids?

I’m not amused by this woman. She was charged for her irresponsible threats. She deserves it.

Then there’s the congressman who, during a Zoom hearing on the truly disturbing and dangerous risks to servicemen and women who were exposed to the toxic smoke of burn pits was apparently sitting there cleaning his handgun as the hearing went on.

Given the level of gun violence we see, the many recent incidents, and the attention to stupid threats like those made by the woman I wrote about above, the image of his playing with his gun in the midst of the hearing, was troubling to say the least.

Equally, though, while his grandstanding might serve him well with his base, it was disrespectful and even insulting to the men and women who were testifying and to the veterans who are dealing with incredible health consequences associated with their service.

He couldn’t be troubled to show them the courtesy of listening. And please… tell me why he HAD to clean his gun just then if not for the political theater. Shame on him.
I’m sure that these folks see this differently. But in my book they’re wrong. Dead wrong. I believe we deserve better from those who aspire to be leaders. And I think we deserve better from each other.

That’s the best I can do as Saturday afternoon heads towards dusk. The dogs are all in, the house is warm against the chill air outside, and a peaceful evening lies ahead. I’ll happily settle for that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 21, 2022

It was grandson Leo’s 11th birthday today. That takes top billing in this blog. We all got together with take-away from a nice little vegetarian place that has lots of vegan options. Leo, along with his Mom, are both vegans and his two other sibs are vegetarians. He made the decision to be vegan unprompted last year. It’s so interesting to spend time with him and with his siblings. They’ve all got interesting takes on the world, all have their moments of crazy (as they should) and are growing into themselves with every passing year.

Today it was Leo’s turn to celebrate another anniversary of his “emergence day.” (You’ll appreciate that if you have seen the books “Strange Planet” and “Stranger Planet” where bemused blue aliens struggle to make sense of human foibles and sensitivities.) Glad we could be there to share in the moment. These are things that we missed when we served overseas. I love that we don’t have to miss them any more (even though the life we left behind was incredibly enriching).

I thought of that life today. It felt a bit like a day in the life of an Ambassador. Back to back tasks, work and errands. My days used to be like that. Often days that ran 12 -14 hours. Today, the focus was different, of course, but the feeling of being on the run and tightly scheduled was the same. I use to thrive on those intensely packed days of multi-tasking and the incredible diversity of the issues I’d find myself engaged in. I find that at this point in my life those kinds of days have lost their charm. I can do it… I just don’t want to. At this point in my life it doesn’t fit.

So this morning I rushed through my side gig work so that we could go to get Leo’s present (received with enthusiasm). It was the chance to experience flight along with a friend (he’ll likely choose his big sister) in the iFly indoor skydiving experience.

Then, it was only a 20 minutes to our favorite organic grocer so it was a chance for some hard core shopping.That was followed by a trip back home, putting away groceries, checking and responding to mail, changing clothes and then off for a meeting with HRH Himani Rajya Lakshmi Devi Shah. The former Crown Princess is the founder of the Himani Trust. The trust’s work, in many ways, parallels the work of Engage Nepal, and it was pleasure to meet with her and to discuss our challenges, the work that needs to be done, and the potential for partnership.

After the meeting and the birthday celebrations, the pups were happy to have us back home. Once they were fed and let out, it was my first chance to sit and do nothing — except write.
And as I write I feel I have to at least tip my at to the crazy news of the day — and there was a bit to choose from. My choice, for top of the crazy list, revolves around a the latest news to emerge from continued investigations of the January 6 insurrection.

The stories about the concerted effort by Giuliani and his cohorts to actively defraud the system by submitting forged documents and fraudulent slates of electors were indeed crazy. And, in the process, they seemed determined to do exactly what they falsely claimed the democrats had done — steal the elections.

It seemed such a transparent travesty that it was ludicrous on some levels. But what’s crazier is that there are actually so many who would actually believe their lies. That’s both crazy and scary. Somedays this might have been a top line story I’d be tempted to write about. But clearly Leo’s birthday has pride of place. And thank god for that. At least from where I sit it is a far more fulfilling exercise. And so another week ends.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 20, 2022

Well, there’s a lot of news out there. Election plots. Biden’s funky answer on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. The plane that turned around part way to London because a woman on board wouldn’t wear a mask. (What world is SHE living in? What did she think she’d gain by inflicting this pain on her fellow passengers?) The Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s January 6 documents can be given to the House Committee investigating the insurrection. (Trump must be apoplectic that “his” justices aren’t his lapdogs.) Oh yeah… there’s lot’s of big stories. They can wait.

Today wasn’t their day in my world. In my world today, it was a day for simple things. And that was good.

I continued my quest to see how many jabs my body can absorb. This time it was for my knee. It goes along with the ones in my S-I joint and two more recent ones in my mid-back. I think they help. They keep me functional. And I’ll be happy with that. 

That may not qualify as a simple joy, but it was indeed a fairly simple visit to the doc. A quick little shot, and back to my day. 

And that day included finding that my jewel orchid, the first I’ve ever cultivated, was in bloom. That too was a simple thing. But that made my heart lighter and brought a smile to my face. And my Natal Lily, a gift from a dear friend who had to leave it behind when they moved to California, has another new division that soon I’ll separate and replant. Seeing it grow and thrive, much like our friends are in California — that too made me smile.

I looked out the window shortly thereafter. The rain was ending, but the air was rapidly getting colder. In response the birds seemed eager to store up on the nuts and dried fruit and sunflower seed hearts and other high energy foods. The cardinals and sparrows (several kinds) and the juncos and some house finches rushed in. I’m always happy to see them.

There were two jays that joined in as well, seeming drawn by the corn and even the peanuts in their shells that are on one of the platform feeders. Those were some of the treats that the squirrels like as well, of course, and I do give them their own stash. They’re just going to go after the feeders anyway… may was well make it easier. 

Those jays and the flash of blue they added were lovely. And though some people don’t care for them — they can be bullies — they’re smart and fascinating and, at least in our yard, they seem content to go for the treats they most enjoy and don’t bother our smaller feathered friends who are at the feeders the jays can’t access in any event. All of them together created a scene that also brightened my day.  

Then there’s THE squirrel. We have a number of them and they do give the dogs sport — no one get’s hurt, but there’s a lot of trash talking — but there is one who I find every morning hanging upside down from a red, hanging woven wire feeder, desperately trying to get at the black oil sunflower seeds that are inside. The cardinals frequent that feeder, but I don’t mind the squirrel trying to get some. 

But, on the other side of the pergola, the same sunflower seeds are in the platform feeder that also has the corn and the peanuts. Maybe this one guy likes a challenge. Maybe he has a compulsive obsessive disorder. Maybe he just likes hanging upside down. I don’t care. I think he’s a bit of a goof and I like him. I do. Gyptse joyfully rousts him every morning, but not with ill intent. It’s just a fun way to start the day. And that too made me smile.

The rest of the day was calm, busy, but good. And it ended with one of the greatest simple joys of all. Food. Good food. We had been eating stews and soups I had made that we had frozen. Quiches, as well. But I wanted to cook and there were some tomatoes to use up, and some extra firm tofu nearing its use-by date.  So mid-afternoon, into the kitchen I went.

A few hours later we had vegan matar paneer (with baked tofu as the paneer substitute), we had aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower accented with tomatoes and onions) and we had grilled marinated tofu all with basmati rice.  Add in some Patak’s Eggplant Pickle (first shared with us by Gil Harrington and Jane Vance), some garlic pickle from Patak’s and a bit of tamarind chutney, and… oh my.  I’ve learned as well where we can cut oils and fats that weren’t needed and come up with a wonderful dinner that is vegan, incredibly tasty and satisfying and all of it, together was under 500 calories a plate. Eating dinner I didn’t just smile — I think I beamed. 

Simple things can bring us so much joy. Being with family (tomorrow we’ll come together at our daughter and son-in-law’s home to celebrate Leo’s 11th birthday). Walking the dogs is another. Working in the garden. Playing music quietly. Writing. Reading. 

Today, the cold and gloomy day could have shaped my mood. But it didn’t. The simple things came together and they changed my outlook. Simple things matter. Look for them in your life. They can be game changers.

Stay strong stay safe, stay happy.

January 19, 2022

I’m not inspired today. I’m trying. But it’s one of those mid-winter doldrums days. They come along from time to time. The remnants of ice and snow from the last storm constrained our dog walk. There were a couple of customer service experiences that seemed determined to elevate blood pressure. But I didn’t let myself give way to the frustration. At least not much.

I certainly can understand why life in today’s world can be a challenge to our health and our sense of well-being. But we can fight back. For me that’s taken the form of a determined effort directed toward wellness. Over the past nine months I’ve brought my blood pressure down to an average of 105/70, lost twenty-four pounds, and have made a commitment to myself to carve time out of every day for stillness. Even 15-20 minutes a day can make a difference. 

I know some folks might be dismissive of the mind-body connection and that’s their prerogative. But there is evidence that a consistent meditation practice can, over the span of as little as eight weeks, rewire our brain and change the way we engage the world. And I’ve seen the difference that proper breathing, mindfulness and meditation, and activity can make. Even if you’re doubtful, given the challenges we face in today’s world, what does it hurt us to try?  

I’ve said before I’m lucky to be at a point in my life where I can explore these options. I don’t want to become so absorbed looking inward that I miss out on the world around me, but caring for the physical body is as important as being informed and engaged in the world around us. I realize that our days aren’t promised, and I’m doing what I can to stay well so that I can watch the grandkids grow and be part of their lives, so I can dispense paternal wisdom for the kids, and so I can share each new day with those I love. There are adventures that await and I want to experience them.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 18, 2022

There’s never enough time in the day it seems. It’s 5:25 as I start this but I have a call at 6 PM.  Wonder if I’ll get this done by then

Well, I didn’t. Such is life. And now I have more I want to do yet tonight for Engage Nepal.

I’ve said it before — and it remains true — there’s never enough time. 

There was, however, enough time in the day to sign-up for the free covid home test kits that the government is willing to send to us all. It took only a minute, if that, in the course of a busy day.  

I’ve got to applaud the government for making this effort. It’s been so hard to get ahead of the curve with this disease. It seems that every time we think we are making progress we get hit again. It’s frustrating. We make huge gains on vaccines and boosters, but those who won’t take them ensure our hospitals remain overwhelmed. 

And the speed of Omicron’s transmission, and the unprecedented volume of cases, has led to a heightened, and overwhelming, demand for testing. It seems like we’re always behind the curve.

Now we’re trying to stabilize things yet again and find another new normal. Hopefully one where seniors don’t make up three quarters of the fatalities. We haven’t tamed Omicron yet nor fully caught up with demand for testing. But, while the four free tests per household won’t fix every problem they will mean a lot to some fellow-citizens for whom the cost is a huge constraint. And the Administration’s work with insurance companies means, for those who have insurance, eight more test kits will be covered per month. That’s pretty good too.

To me, though, the best part may be that it at least feels like folks are trying — and THAT counts for an awful lot in my book. 

All for tonight.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

January 17, 2022

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

When I was an Ambassador, we would use this day to discuss respect for human decency and human rights in countries where they were more often a dream than a reality. And we drew on Dr, King’s words and example to talk about reconciliation in the face of division, and about respect for our shared humanity — which far too often was in short supply. 

Sounds a bit like America today. 

In MLK’s memory and honor there are many places that have chosen to make his holiday an opportunity for service. And across the nation there were people who did join together in service to their community and to each other. It’s heart-warming. And, God knows, Dr. King’s deep commitment to peace and to non-violence still remind us of values that matter. 

Dr. King did drive change, but it was not without cost. Injustice gives ground grudgingly and those who hold power and privilege are far too often unwilling to give way. He was assassinated at the age of 39. Thirty-nine! His life was just hitting its stride. He deserved many more years with his children. Deserved to know his grandchildren. Deserved to share joys and sorrows with his wife. He deserved to have his voice heard as he fought against systemic discrimination in the face of often visceral resentment and hatred. 

When you look at the power of his legacy you have to wonder what his impact would have been had he lived.

The struggle for which he gave his life still continues. The Voting Rights Bill is unlikely to pass. Strikingly, the Republicans in the Senate are united in their opposition. What is it that scares them? Really! The easy answer is that they think if they allow the voting process to be easier, more open, and fairer, they’ll lose. The arguments they offer about fraud and protecting democracy seem pretty specious. So, in the pursuit of power, they are opting to perpetuate the injustice that sadly is baked into our system of governance. I doubt that Dr. King would have believed that a half-century after his death the struggle would still continue. But it does.

I guess, though, we don’t have to look too far to be reminded of how far we still have to go. Our most recent former president was at it again the other day in his rally. He told the assembled crowd, “The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating… white people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re white you don’t get the vaccine or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics. In New York state, if you’re white, you have to go to the back of the line to get medical health.”

That is not true. Anyone with sense knows that is not true. And anyone who knows our nations’s history in terms of race and access to medical care knows that whites in America are not victims of discrimination. But Trump, with his politics of grievance, continues to fuel division and fear and, sadly, there are always those who will listen. 

Dr. King’s granddaughter, Yolanda, today did her grandfather proud, I think. She’s already an articulate and determined advocate for justice. And she called out all those politicians who issued statements today praising Dr. King, but who, in their actions, routinely reject his values and his commitment to rights for all.

At age 13, she had no patience for them seeking to wrap themselves in her grandfather’s mantle. She has no time for hypocrisy. She wants the world to change. Now. 

As we get older we counsel patience. We tell young people that things don’t happen overnight. Give it time. Well… you know what? I think a bit of impatience maybe is what we need. Why not today? 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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.



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. It 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.


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.