March 2022

March 19, 2022

There’s nothing worse than being ready too early. I WANT to go. I’m set. But the clock has slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s an odd thing. Normally time seems to race by faster each year. But in this moment, there’s plenty of time to kill. 

The dogs know something’s afoot. They see the suitcases ready to go and know what it means. And they look at us with mournful eyes, incredulous that we’re leaving them. It doesn’t matter that they adore our dog-sitter and they’ll be thrilled to cuddle and snuggle and walk with her while we’re gone. It’s the idea… the principle of it all. 

After a good solid year of togetherness in the first year of the pandemic, they’ve seen the suitcases come out again a few times. You would think that they’d be used to it again. And I don’t commute into Washington a day or two a week as I used to, for work. I’m a permanent teleworker now (albeit as an “advisor” on a part-time basis), so the dogs see me all the time. It doesn’t matter though. They see the bags come out and act as if I’ve betrayed them — as if I… gasp… had befriended a cat. (If only they knew about our grand cats in Minnesota and Texas!  Yikes!)

They can’t guilt me out of traveling and they won’t guilt me into worrying about them. I know that they’re in good hands and Tjiama and Joe aren’t far away if needed. 

Still three hours before we leave. I’ve looked at the news. The war in Ukraine continues. The risk of a new pandemic surge seems to be growing even as states rush to get back to “normal” — whatever the heck that is these days. We’re still going to be buffeted by this pandemic but at least we can hope that it will be far less deadly or dangerous — at least to those who have been vaccinated and boosted. 

The stories I glance at don’t inspire me today or compel me to write. Instead, I just feel weary of all the challenging issues and problems. I don’t care to write about them today. I want the excitement of the unfamiliar — and hopefully, the unexpected — to reboot my attitude and reset my perspective.

Here’s to clear skies and northern lights. Happy Saturday.

Stay strong, stay safe, and… in light of the risk of a new COVID wave… stay healthy.

March 18, 2022

T minus 1. This time tomorrow night I’ll be on a plane bound to Iceland. I’m ready. 

I smiled repeatedly today at the little calendar reminder on my computer screen that just simply said: Iceland. Tomorrow.

I am excited to go. It’s not just about the travel, though I love that too. It’s about new experiences. It’s about something different, about a change from the routine. Hopefully, there will be an experience or two that takes me outside my comfort zone in one way or another.  There’s always growth when that happens. And I like to keep on growing. 

Travel isn’t the only way to have new adventures and experience change, but it is almost always a rewarding and fun one. 

The 14th century explorer Ibn Battuta said, “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” It’s a wonderful way to think of travel. I hope I’ll come away with a few stories to tell. We can always use more stories, right? 

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 17, 2022

As far as I know, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me. I have been denied the “luck of the Irish” all my life. I have no real affinity for green beer or Irish whiskey. Nonetheless, let me wish all of you who have roots anywhere in the Emerald Isle a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s been a busy day, today. I was pleased that we were able to donate on behalf of Engage Nepal to UNICEF Ukraine today. For a week or so our donors have been willing to split their donations between Nepal and Ukraine. I’m honored we were able to give $1150 today. Of course, at the same time, I’ve received three more appeals from Nepali partners just this week. All are deserving too. So, back to work on fundraising. 

Meanwhile, of course, the world continues to teeter precariously. But here’s what struck me today. It’s a quote from Putin’s television remarks today:

“But any people, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors, and simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths, spit them out on the pavement…”

OK, first I ask — and I don’t say this in a partisan spirit — who does this sound like? Calling those who protest against you scum and traitors? I couldn’t help but think immediately of our former president and wonder what the world would be like right now if he were still in office. 


The ugliness of Putin’s tone, though, is ominous. As he grows more frustrated by protests at home, the burden of sanctions, and a war that is not unfolding according to plan, what will come next? 

So many challenges and decisions lie ahead. In these moments of high stress and higher stakes, global leaders need to be physically, mentally and emotionally at their best. I worry that this is not the case —it’s hard to imagine that it could be. It’s a disconcerting thought. 

Yep. It’s time for a vacation. Soon. Soon.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 15, 2022

I saw earlier today that, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys will continue to be held without bond being pending trial for conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack on the capital. I’m willing to assume that court knew what it was doing when it made the decision and, I’ll admit, I have little sympathy for him or his fellow rioters. Some might call them traitorous. I certainly don’t even want to dignify them with the term “insurgent.” His supporters, of course, see it differently. To them he’s a patriot being cruelly detained by a tyrannical government. Some will want to paint him as a freedom fighter, and a hero. Which is he? Which was George Washington, or Thomas Payne, or the rest of our founding fathers? The reality is that history will be written by the winners. It is always true, I think.

How the history of our era will be perceived may well be shaped by those who win the next election or how the war that has been unleashed in Europe comes out. It is interesting to consider that Tarrio could indeed someday be seen as a rebel acting on principal rather than a far right thug seeking to undermine democratic rule.

There’s no predicting how history will view these days, but I am pretty certain that if we fail to stand for the principles we believe our worries will be far greater than just the issue of how history may see us.

Meanwhile, my day had a rocky start. I learned yesterday that the accountant our foundation had been using when I became Executive Director had embezzled $700 from us four years ago. He had filed taxes which he never really paid, syphoning the money into his own pocket. He is now in jail, convicted on multiple charges of embezzlement from clients far bigger than us. We can reimburse the tax authorities over the coming months. That’s OK. And I can appeal the $560 in penalties and interest and I hope that the State will be understanding. Still sorting out all the headaches took time and energy and I had to deal with the underlying sense of dismay that this man had abused his position of trust for so many clients.

I felt stressed and the day didn’t seem to offer hope of getting better. I could feel myself getting antsy about our upcoming travel. There’s always so much I feel the need to do before traveling. There are always loose ends to take care of. I want to be ready. I start to get wired. There was so much I wanted to do.

I headed out with the dogs, but the Prince of the Mountains, who at times has a mind of his own, seemed disinclined to cooperate. When 100 pounds of muscle doesn’t want to move, you know the walk isn’t going to be an easy one. He was unusually balky, and after a block and a half, I had had it. Back home we marched and I swapped Lo Khyi for Max who, along with Gyptse, was a far more appreciative partner.

Then, while thoughts of all that needed to be done filled my head, I tried to connect my airpods to listen to a book or music as I walked. They were balky too. Not sure why, but for the next quarter mile or more I kept trying to troubleshoot the issue, growing more frustrated by the minute.

I stopped. I was struck by how wrong it all felt. Something that is generally one of the most pleasurable parts of my day — walking with the pups — had become just one more chore to tick off on a busy day. I was fussing with AirPods and fretting about the next task and stressing about a morally bankrupt accountant. I was not enjoying the walk, I wasn’t connecting to my pups. I wasn’t in the moment.

I took a deep breath. I paused. I put away the AirPods and slid the phone back into my pocket. I apologized to the pups and salvaged our walk. Had I not, I wouldn’t have seen the turtle sunning on the log as we walked by. Wouldn’t have seen the nests surrounding the tree trunk that, in falling into the water, had assumed a new role within the forest ecosystem. I might have missed the mockingbird flying overhead or the red-winged blackbird that rose out of the grasses in the field as we passed.

That pause, that breath — they reset my attitude and my day. The day and its challenges did not change. My attitude did. It’s a lesson to remember.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy, and stand with Ukraine
March 15, 2022

I saw earlier today that, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys will continue to be held without bond being pending trial for conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack on the capital. I’m willing to assume that court knew what it was doing when it made the decision and, I’ll admit, I have little sympathy for him or his fellow rioters.

Some might call them traitorous. I certainly don’t even want to dignify them with the term “insurgent.” His supporters, of course, see it differently. To them he’s a patriot being cruelly detained by a tyrannical government. Some will want to paint him as a freedom fighter, and a hero. Which is he? Which was George Washington, or Thomas Payne, or the rest of our founding fathers? The reality is that history will be written by the winners. It is always true, I think.

How the history of our era will be perceived may well be shaped by those who win the next election or how the war that has been unleashed in Europe comes out. It is interesting to consider that Tarrio could indeed someday be seen as a rebel acting on principal rather than a far right thug seeking to undermine democratic rule.

There’s no predicting how history will view these days, but I am pretty certain that if we fail to stand for the principles we believe our worries will be far greater than just the issue of how history may see us.

Meanwhile, my day had a rocky start. I learned yesterday that the accountant our foundation had been using when I became Executive Director had embezzled $700 from us four years ago. He had filed taxes which he never really paid, syphoning the money into his own pocket. He is now in jail, convicted on multiple charges of embezzlement from clients far bigger than us.

We can reimburse the tax authorities over the coming months. That’s OK. And I can appeal the $560 in penalties and interest and I hope that the State will be understanding. Still sorting out all the headaches took time and energy and I had to deal with the underlying sense of dismay that this man had abused his position of trust for so many clients.

I felt stressed and the day didn’t seem to offer hope of getting better. I could feel myself getting antsy about our upcoming travel. There’s always so much I feel the need to do before traveling. There are always loose ends to take care of. I want to be ready. I start to get wired. There was so much I wanted to do.

I headed out with the dogs, but the Prince of the Mountains, who at times has a mind of his own, seemed disinclined to cooperate. When 100 pounds of muscle doesn’t want to move, you know the walk isn’t going to be an easy one. He was unusually balky, and after a block and a half, I had had it. Back home we marched and I swapped Lo Khyi for Max who, along with Gyptse, was a far more appreciative partner.

Then, while thoughts of all that needed to be done filled my head, I tried to connect my airpods to listen to a book or music as I walked. They were balky too. Not sure why, but for the next quarter mile or more I kept trying to troubleshoot the issue, growing more frustrated by the minute.

I stopped. I was struck by how wrong it all felt. Something that is generally one of the most pleasurable parts of my day — walking with the pups — had become just one more chore to tick off on a busy day. I was fussing with AirPods and fretting about the next task and stressing about a morally bankrupt accountant. I was not enjoying the walk, I wasn’t connecting to my pups. I wasn’t in the moment.

I took a deep breath. I paused. I put away the AirPods and slid the phone back into my pocket. I apologized to the pups and salvaged our walk. Had I not, I wouldn’t have seen the turtle sunning on the log as we walked by. Wouldn’t have seen the nests surrounding the tree trunk that, in falling into the water, had assumed a new role within the forest ecosystem. I might have missed the mockingbird flying overhead or the red-winged blackbird that rose out of the grasses in the field as we passed.

That pause, that breath — they reset my attitude and my day. The day and its challenges did not change. My attitude did. It’s a lesson to remember.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy, and stand with Ukraine

March 14, 2022

Over the past two years, as I have written daily, there have been issues that have been so compelling that you just feel the need to write about them. To say something. At times it was the COVID pandemic when it was most frightening and deadly and when our leaders seemed inept fools who didn’t care what really happened.

There were times when the same leaders — Trump in particular — engaged in such reckless, dangerous, and often irresponsible acts that the outrage I felt needed an outlet. 

There are other issues that have sparked repeated posts. Gun violence. Climate change. Racial and social injustice. And now, we have war in Ukraine and the risk, that seems greater each day, that this could escalate into something even more dangerous.

Our sensitivities are heightened, nerves are raw, and worry is a more frequent companion. I don’t want to listen to the news, but I feel as though I need to.  I worry no matter what so I may as well get a better sense of what there is to worry about tonight.

As I said the other day, though, we have to find a balance. We can’t only focus on the pain and hurt. Still, it’s hard at times to put it all out of our minds. As I walked today with the dogs I heard the song “Good Job” by Alicia Keys. When she released it during the darkest days of the pandemic I remember how much it touched us then. It was meant as an anthem of respect and gratitude to all those who persevered and provided essential services during COVID. There were so many who deserved to be recognized.


“You’re doin’ a good job

Don’t get too down

The world needs you now

Know that you matter, matter, matter.”

We all matter. We do. But we need to be reminded of that, at times. We need to be reminded that we are important to each other. That our actions, our love, our generosity of spirit, our words of wisdom, and our hand extended in compassion and support matters. 

At times like this we need each other more than ever. In the face of the suffering in Ukraine, and as we confront the threat posed by Russia to all that is decent, I hope we can find ways to set aside our rancor and our divisions. Whether we recognize it or not, we need each other. Perhaps more than ever.

Alicia Keys’ lyrics also included a line that resonates with me every time: “the world’s not as sound, when you’re not around.” We all know people like that, I wager. People who inspire us, who offer us comfort or perspective and who just make us feel a bit better when worry and ugliness gnaw at the frayed edges of our souls. Cherish them. Let them know that they they are doing a good job.

Let them know that they matter.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 13, 2022

Slowly I’m letting myself believe that we have turned the corner… really and truly… on the pandemic. I know some would claim that I’ve come late to the party, but I am still trying to be cautious. I continue to wear masks in stores, but today we ate lunch at a restaurant with a lovely group of friends — old and new. I continue to be conscious of social distancing rules but I don’t hyperventilate if others around me do not. And, of course, we’re ready to travel to Iceland within the week. Indeed… things are different. Even the news that President Obama has COVID hasn’t been so much a cause for alarm as a moment of gratitude for the science that has brought us vaccines and boosters.

Now, of course, there’s a new variant. Deltacron. (You’ve got to love these names!) And who knows what the future will bring in terms of new variants. Masks are likely to play a role in our lives in the months ahead. Surges will occur. New boosters will be required. But every week we are adapting our lives to deal with COVID. I think we’re a long way from seeing what a truly post-pandemic world will look like. There is too much that is still evolving and changing in terms of our attitudes and our priorities. It’s going to be interesting and may possibly lead to more questions we can debate in the political/cultural wars that continue to rage. 



And meanwhile, of course, there’s Ukraine. Who knows what will happen next. Russian strikes have come too close to the territory of NATO partners. That’s a dangerous turn, with the potential for escalation. And the Russians seem eager to try to draw China into the fray. The US and our NATO allies are trying to keep them out. There’s so many areas for tension, so many possibilities for miscalculation or misunderstanding. 



There’s a story that I heard on this week’s episode of “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” on NPR that gives me pause. Legend has it that the soul of an evil demoness has been embedded in a “killing stone” in Japan for over 1000 years. The stone was found split open the other day. Some suggest that the demoness, whose true identity was an evil nine-tailed fox spirit, has returned to work evil in the world. Others suggest that water erosion was the culprit that led to the rock’s fracture — not a surge of demonic energy. Fair enough, but when I look at the world today, I’m harder pressed than I’d like to be to laugh off the surge of the demonic energy angle.

These issues unfold even as we go about our day-to-day lives. We can’t let worry over them cast such a pall over our lives that the world loses all its vibrance and beauty. But we do need to understand what the issues are and be part of the discussion. We didn’t do such a great job in managing the discussions when it came to COVID. Let’s hope we do a bit better this time.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine

March 12, 2022

I’m sorry. I know it probably was my fault. I should have sent flowers or a basket of fruit by way of an apology. But I’m too late. The weather gods are, at best, touchy and, at the worst, vindictive. And as the snow and sleet whirled madly through the air this morning and into the afternoon I knew… knew deep in my heart… I should NEVER have suggested a few days ago that it was “spring.” Forget the 80 degree weather. Forget that thawing earth, the buds bursting forth on the trees. I never, ever, should have declared an early spring.

The weather gods are enjoying reminding me of the error of my ways. Even as I type, the winds are whistling. I’m glad at least to have shelter and warmth. That’s something to be grateful for and I’ll not tempt fate, nor the weather gods, again. 

It has been a busy day otherwise. I spent a few hours this morning preparing for and then trying to manage a zoom interaction with our partners at the Sagarmatha Children’s Home this morning. Those kids have been a part of our lives for five years now. We’ve watched them grow and it was a pleasure to have some time with them, and with Manoj Kandel and his family, who make it all possible. There are good people in this world and good things still happen every day. It’s another of those things for which I am grateful.

Much of the rest of the day was spent preparing for our Iceland trip. It’s only a week away. I am one of those who starts packing well in advance. And it’s a good thing. You discover that no matter where you look, your rain pants are missing, and who want’s to get up close and personal with a waterfall in near freezing temps without a bit of protection from getting soaked?

You also discover that a commitment to wellness carries with it some costs to your wallet. There aren’t many pants left that aren’t in the category that my daughter referred to as my “hobo pants.” Hmmm.  Thanks, sweetie. Yes, most have gotten a bit large and so loose that they don’t need to be unbuckled or unzipped to be taken off or pulled on. A few sweaters and shirts that might have been perfect for Icelandic excursions now find the shoulder seams hanging halfway down my arm. 

Those issues were easily remedied without even venturing out into the weather. A few clicks on the iPad, and all was remedied with delivery on Monday. I’ll include modern technology on my list of things to be grateful for, though, like most of us, I’ll do it with a few caveats. 

Mixed blessings, however, are still blessings.

And now, I think we’ll light the fire (alright, we just flip a switch, but the fire is still warm and the flames still dance) and just ease into the evening.

Stay safe, stay strong, stand with Ukraine.

March 11, 2022

Year three of writing daily starts with more of a whimper than a bang. I confess to feeling at a loss today as to where to focus myself.

I was struck this morning, though, by how much the Chinese seem to be doubling down on their support for Russia. Their disinformation efforts seem to be marching forward in tandem with Russia’s. They count on there being enough folks out there who want to believe the lies, who seek to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Easier, I guess, for some to believe that Putin is justified than to take a stand for what is right.

I don’t think that the Chinese are necessarily wild about Putin’s choice or methods, but they aren’t willing to speak out against them. My guess is that Xi and the Chinese Communist Party have to be a bit uncomfortable in the face of the extraordinary and broad array of sanctions directed at Russia. 

Does it make them wonder about how the world would respond if they sought to do the same in Taiwan? Are they still smarting from international condemnation of their abuse of the Uighur Muslims in China and the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics? Are they worried we might turn our sights more directly on them if we all start letting our values come first in the effort to define global rules of engagement?

Perhaps Xi finds resonance (ironically) in the words of Ben Franklin. “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Franklin sought to ensure that the patriots would stand united in the face of the threats posed by a tyrant. Today it may be that the tyrants feel the need to stand together in the face of those who believe in decency. You have to think that the autocrats of the world find no solace in the unified response to Russia’s invasion by so many nations.  

The question that many are asking perhaps is whether there can be a “bridge too far” in today’s world. Is there a line that, once crossed, leads to such moral revulsion and indignation that goodness, and decency, and human dignity all demand we say enough is enough? 

Perhaps there is. Perhaps Ukraine is the bridge too far. And, whether it is — or is not — it may be what defines the world we live in in the years ahead. Ukraine may mark a shifting of the tide but in which direction?


Will we see mankind regress to a world where the size of your army matters more than the values you stand for and where your willingness to trample on decency, disregard human rights, and wantonly kill innocents is the measure of your strength? 

I remember when we were outraged by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and their ruthless use of sexual violence and murder. They brutalized children to turn them into killers and pawns in their effort to enrich themselves and gain power. It was ugly. I met with survivors and heard their tales. And I was proud that when I was in Uganda we were part of the international effort that fought to remove the LRA leaders from the battlefield and bring them to justice. 

The LRA, even at it’s strongest, was a mere ragtag group, of course, in comparison to the forces that Putin can array. But aren’t the fundamental issues pretty much the same? 

Does might make right? Or will we demonstrate through our actions our true commitment to human dignity, the rule of law, and a rules-based system of international engagement? 

Autocrats like China’s Xi  Russia’s Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un (or even Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki, with whom I had to deal on my first Ambassadorial gig) all know that their approach to governance and their actions on the world stage are diametrically opposed to our position. Something ultimately has to give. There’s a lot riding, then, on the International response to Ukraine. What we do while the conflict rages and what we do when it ultimately ends, both matter. 

I remember when we stood against the ugly “death to gays” bill passed in Uganda in 2014. It wasn’t enough to just be vocal in our initial condemnation of the law. What truly mattered was our longer-term refusal to return to business as usual as long as the bill remained the law of the land. Eventually it was nullified and, although our opposition was not the only factor, in that happening, I think it might have remained in effect had we not been unrelenting in our commitment to core values that mattered.


At the time, I recall that some of our international partners shared our revulsion, but not our commitment.  They shook their fingers and declaimed about the evils of the law… for a time. Their values mattered, it seemed, but only to a point. And, after declaring how much those values mattered with noble sounding words, they opted to put those principles back on the shelf to be trotted out again another day when the costs of acting on them might not be so high. 

Our erstwhile allies didn’t want to put some broader, long term interests at risk.They chose their path. We saw it differently though. 

Of course, even for us, there were challenges. It’s never easy to get the balance between values and interests perfectly right. The lines are seldom black and white, and the more complex the issue the more likely that the path forward will find lines blurring even more.
There are times, however, where who we are, and what we believe, has to matter most. 

So yes, as autocrats and despots line up on one side, and democracies and those who believe in a rules-based world order join hands on the other, what we do today — and what we do if (when?) Ukraine falls, will matter. We can’t get tired of the struggle. We can’t pretend it hasn’t happened. We can’t go back to the status quo. 

I hope that we understand this. The path ahead won’t be without pain. We’ll see which America  shows up. Are we the nation that came together with courage and determination after 9/11 or the one that allowed charlatans and demagogues to divide us and encourage us to fight, not a common threat to our values, but each other? It will be interesting to see.

OK. Here’s to year three.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 10, 2022

730 days. Two years. 

That’s how long I’ve been writing this daily journal. I’m still not sure exactly how I’d characterize it. Sometimes, I guess, it’s commentary on the world. Occasionally I’ll offer my perspective on the events unfolding around us. Other days my writing is more about personal reflections. Then there are the days where there is nothing whatsoever to offer but I write because I’ve disciplined myself to do so. 

And, even if on any given day there’s nothing of note in what I say, I never know what will flow when I start to type. And, when I look back at two years worth of observations and commentary, there have even been some of which I’m proud. Some that offer defining glimpses of me and my journey and, if I find a way to preserve these, I like to think that some day they might be of value to a grandchild or great grandchild wondering about their family.

I also think that there could be value in preserving a contemporaneous record of the times we live in. Not as a scholarly articulation of the issues, but to capture from a personal perspective some strikingly transformative (for bettor or worse) events. The pandemic, of course, is part of it. But so too is the ongoing battle being sparked by the evolution of the American experiment.  

Which way our nation goes, who we will become, is at the heart of so much of the anger and the turmoil. 

My views are only a personal perspective, admittedly, but understanding how individuals see/saw the world in which they live is part of the study of history. Our fears, hopes, values, frustrations and more all contribute to the shaping of something that is much bigger than our individual roles in the process. But our voices matter. The actions and beliefs and choices of individual citizens matter. Hell… just ask the citizens of Ukraine. They can tell you.

Writing about that conflict has also become a part of this journal. And, as with all my posts, I write not as some sort of an expert — not as a military analyst or foreign affairs pundit — but as a human being rocked by what we’re seeing. It is important to give voice to our concerns and horror. To bear witness — as I’ve said before. 

I was struck this morning, though, by a comment about Ukraine by Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the son of the president of Uganda. When I knew him, Muhoozi was a general in the Ugandan army and the head of their special forces command. Many believe he and his father are grooming him to become president after his father finally gives up rule. Not a shock to anyone who knows his father, Yoweri Museveni. Sadly, it doesn’t bode particularly well for the democratic future of Uganda. I digress, though.

What Muhoozi said is, “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right! When the USSR parked nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in 1962, the West was ready to blow up the world over it. Now when NATO does the same they expect Russia to do differently?”

The parallels he seeks to draw are far from perfect. But it’s the insidious sort of argument that autocrats like to draw on to excuse their abuses and the ugliness they perpetuate. And although I reject Muhoozi’s assertion that the majority of the “non-white” world supports Russia, it hit a nerve that has been gnawing at me. We are absolutely right to be outraged by horrors we see in Ukraine. But was the world as outraged when similar Russian barbarism was on display, with the support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad? Would we be as outraged if the nation being destroyed and the people being devastated were black or brown? 

Certainly we’re going to say ‘of course we would be.’ We want to believe that. But, even though inhumanity is just as ugly no matter the skin color of those who are its victims, history might offer many examples of times when the level of our outrage was related to the degree to which we identified with the skin color, or faith, or geographic origins of those being assaulted. Even as we rail against Putin and his inhumanity, it might be good for us to remember how selective our outrage might look to others and commit ourselves, caring not just for Ukraine but for all those who suffer through no fault of their own. Food for thought.

See? I never DO know where my musings will take me, and even after two years, I’m no more able to predict what I might say when I start to write than I could when I first started this journal  on March 11, 2020. 

Pandemics and politics, social and economic justice, racial equality, the need for rational reform of gun laws, the need to respond to the existential threat posed by climate change… there has been plenty to write about on any given day. Other times, it’s all about family. Our kids and grandkids or the four-legged partners who share our lives. 

And, more and more I find myself exploring the joys and the challenges of growing older. It’s not just about aging… it’s about transforming. And at each season of our lives we do exactly that. We transform, we redefine ourselves, we reprioritize and we journey into the uncertainty of our futures with hope that our choices are wise and that we’ll be able to chart a path that may even offer a few landmarks for our children in the years ahead. 

That’s enough for day 730. We’ll see what year three brings.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine and stay healthy.

March 9, 2022

Yesterday I had the chance to write early in the day. Today that was not meant to be. It has been busy and I just finished putting together an Engage Nepal newsletter to highlight a Zoom interaction we’ll be doing with the children of the Sagarmatha Children’s Home on Saturday. 

They’re great kids who have found love, family, and a future at SCH. I’m proud that we’re able to be part of their journey and the event should be fun. It’s an unscripted event that should be fun. We’ll see.

It’s an odd juxtaposition though, to be planning this event with the kids when another group of kids are still buried under the rubble at a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupal, Ukraine. The wanton disregard for civilians and human life being demonstrated by the Russians as they continue their brutal attacks.

Even if they have no moral qualms about what they are doing, even if they think that the world opprobrium doesn’t matter in the long run, what do they believe they gain? In the destruction of cities and murder of children and pregnant women and elderly civilians, don’t they worry that the long term costs to them will be devastating?

Apparently not.

I think that they’re wrong. There is a fundamental abhorrence for their actions that seems to run deeper and cuts across ideological lines in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen in my lifetime. But we’ve seen nations abandon their values to gain an advantage before and the Russians may be able to find partners who can ignore the ugliness of their actions. TIme will tell. 

Meanwhile, our decision to halt imports of Russian oil is being described as a declaration of “economic warfare” by the Russians. Even as we carefully try to navigate this crisis and avoid being drawn into a direct confrontation that could lead to World War III, events seem to increase the risks every day.

It’s a scary time.

This morning I thought about the poem “Courage” by Amelia Earhart. I discovered it decades ago at a time in my life when its message resonated for me. (I’ll post it below in the comments).

I couldn’t help but feel we need courage right now. All of us. How do we cope with killing and destruction that makes no sense? How do we internalize the violence, the ugliness and the threat to all that we know.  

It’s bad now. It could get worse. Much worse.

I wish courage for our leaders, and for us all. A bit of wisdom won’t hurt either. 

It’s getting late. Time to wind down. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 8, 2022

Iceland. 11 days away. I’m so ready. Their Omicron cases continue to drop, they’ve lifted their last remaining COVID restrictions, and all systems look like a go. This is the trip that we so reluctantly cancelled two years ago. It was the smart play as COVID first was rearing it’s threatening head. With no vaccines available and so much uncertainty, it was the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t feel tremendous regret.

So that makes anticipation of this trip all the sweeter. We’ve expanded this iteration to include a couple of nights in Akuyeri in the north. Not only a chance to see more magnificent scenery but additional chances to see the northern lights. Seeing them is a variable we can’t control, of course, but we’re giving ourselves every chance. But if we don’t see them the world won’t end. We’ll still enjoy seeing the natural beauty, exploring a new country and culture, and enjoying time with two dear friends who will be joining us. And we can always go back to Alaska… or northern Canada… to try again. The search is half the fun.

Since the first time I strapped on a backpack and explored Europe with a Eurail pass in hand when I was 23, I have been hooked on travel and on exploring the world. And I can’t wait to get back out into it again.

I guess the Foreign Service was a fitting career choice.

Almost inevitably every Foreign Service tour of duty, and many of our personal trips as well, forced us to experience things that took us outside of our comfort zones. I still remember my first morning in Bombay (my first FS posting when Mumbai still went by the name Bombay). We were on our way to the consulate for my first work day in the field in the FS. We stopped at Kemp’s Corner, the intersection at the bottom of Kumbala Hill, where we lived. At that moment a beggar, suffering from leprosy, approached the vehicle. He had lost his right hand, but he carried an alms bucket hanging on that arm which he pushed through the open window of the vehicle asking for help. THAT is when I wanted to say, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more.” (Or Minnesota.)

And throughout the years there have been countless experiences while exploring the world that have taken me farther outside my comfort zone than I would ever have dreamt as a kid. I won’t claim that every experience was fully appreciated at the time, but they all were opportunities to grow and that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

So, we’ll see what Iceland has to offer. My guess is that after four and half decades of wandering the world whenever the opportunity presented itself, there won’t be much that is particularly daunting, but there will still, I wager, be plenty to inspire, to spark inquiry, and to lift my heart. Travel almost always does that whether it’s a trip to see a grandchild or to visit the land of frost giants and trolls as light dances in the night sky.

We’ll see what the day ahead holds (it’s 9 AM as I write this), but no matter the news, I’ll be sustained by the thought of adventures to come.

Happy International Women’s Day! (Interesting opinion piece, btw, by Iceland’s first lady on CNN on the role of women in Iceland. Take a look — I’ll put the link in a comment below.)

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 7, 2022

Today has a certain peaceful feeling to it.  I’ve worked a bit, and have a bit more I want to do, but I’ve found time so far to walk, to stretch, and to meditate. That’s a good day.


There was a bit of external distraction though. I got new ink today.

I used to be a tattoo skeptic, if not a downright foe. I didn’t get it. I do now. 

Not everyone would agree, I know. Some might shake their heads wondering how I could make such a choice. Quite simply, if you don’t get it, you don’t get. And that’s ok. But for me — much to my surprise — it works. 

My retirement ink has been a reflection of my journey, of who I am, and who I aspire to be. They just feel right. Each one I’ve gotten has meaning to me. They tell a story, much as the art that adorns our walls, or the items we choose to treasure on a curio shelf do. And they’re a statement that I’m happy to wear. 

The tattoo today was a reward for seven months of effort. Seven months or mindful eating (down over 30 pounds). Seven months of regular physical activity. And seven months of shifting my mindset and priorities and redefining my life. It combines elements, the lotus — the a symbol of rebirth. An unalome — the path to enlightenment. And the buddha and the crescent moon that speak to creativity and enrichment that flows from growth. 


I don’t lay claim to having been fully successful in pursuing those qualities but the journey towards them has been enriching in itself. I figure I deserve the tattoo.

Besides… I think that they’re just a touch badass. And it’s never too late to be a badass.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 6, 2022

It’s spring.

I know the calendar would tell us otherwise, but I’ve been in sandals all day. Temps are in the high seventies. And I saw robins galore and bluebirds, too, while on my walk. Feels like spring to me!

Since the walk, I’ve been working in the kitchen. Tacos al pastor are ready. The taquitos need only to be assembled and baked. The Mexican sweet potatoes are baked and mashed with a spinach, corn, black bean and poblano chili topping are all set to be layered on top and then broiled. The mango & kidney bean salad is calling, the soup is simmering, the honey-lime-sriracha tofu is grilled. Yep. All is ready.

I even was inspired to make a vegan pineapple upside-down cake. It is a bit of a deferred birthday celebration after all. A day to go all out.

Our family has a long tradition of showing love through food. So there’s a lot of food and a lot of love and it’s all good.

The kids are in the car and on the way. They’ll troop in, along with their two dogs (to go with our four) and there will be the normal uptick in noise and energy. That’s ok too.

I’m so grateful on a day like this to be able to have the time with family, to be able to share good food and drink, and to relax together on a lovely spring-like day. That’s a lot to be grateful for right off the bat. But yesterday, while shopping for a few items needed for today’s menu, there was a young woman in the parking lot of the grocery store. She was playing violin. Her playing was lovely and it reminded me a bit of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free.”

But this young lady wasn’t playing solely for the love of the music, though her passion for it was clear. Beside her was a sign. “Need money for rent — two kids —desperate — please help. We circled through the lot to give her a five dollar bill. It didn’t seem enough, somehow.

What weighed on my mind as we drove home was the thought of how many folks in our society are struggling. What must it be like to have to depend on the kindness and generosity of strangers to just feed your little ones. And, of course, I thought of the challenges faced by the people of Ukraine. And the appeals I get routinely from folks in Nepal who are troubled about children and families living on the edge of disaster and they too are hoping someone will care.

None of us can fix it all, of course, but the fact that we can only offer a few drops to till the huge bucket of need shouldn’t deter us from acting. Every little bit helps. Anne Frank’s quote, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” is very much in my head right now. I realize, that compared to so many, we have so much. We are fortunate beyond measure. We, and our children and grandchildren, are healthy. We are fed and clothed. We are educated. We have shelter. We have love.

We don’t have to drain our bank accounts, but there are so many ways we can make a difference. And as gratitude fills my being this peaceful Sunday afternoon in Haymarket, I know we’ll try to make sure that all the violin players on all the street corners aren’t forgotten.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 5, 2022

It’s a bit late as I start the blog. I’ve been cooking. We’re doing a second birthday dinner tomorrow with Tjiama and her family. We’re always happy to have an excuse to get together and eat. The kids, with the possible exception of 11-year old Leo, who is a good “tryer” of new foods, may not sample all that I make, but they’ll have plenty of the things that they are inclined to eat waiting as well.

The choice for tomorrow is Mexican. So it has been fun to not only find some new vegan approaches to the cuisine of our southern neighbor but to also find recipes that weren’t just about cheese and beans. So the Sopa de Fideo is already prepared (essentially Mexican noodle soup) and the “chicken” is marinating in a sauce made with garlic and three kinds of chilies for the tacos al pastor.

Tomorrow we’ll add in black bean tacquitos, a mango and kidney bean salad, and Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes. Looking forward to trying all the dishes. It was fun, as well, to work with the chillies today and to see how some of our favorite spices end up appearing in Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, and Mexican cuisines. The flavor profiles shift depending on what other spices they’re married with, but it is always interesting to see how they’re received by our taste buds as we eat our way across time zones.

The kitchen is a refuge, as I’ve said before, and I declined to watch the news as I cooked this afternoon. No regrets. Even so, I did hear some reports early in the day. I’m trying to get my head around the increasing level of popular support for a no-fly zone to protect Ukranian air space. It’s not surprising that folks feel an urgent need to try and do something to help. This war is in our news feeds wherever we look and the tragedies and heartbreaking stories are right in our faces.

Perhaps it touches the same chord in us that the tales of the Alamo did. The valiant defenders standing against an overwhelming force. I get that. This is horrible and tragic. But, in a nation wearied by years of war in Afghanistan, and Iraq before that, I’m surprised that so many are eager to embrace an approach that has the very real possibility of bringing us into direct conflict with Russia, which risks inviting a far broader war in which once again we must fight.

That’s not to say that Putin doesn’t need to be contained. He does. It does not mean that we run scared before his threats. We shouldn’t. But even while our hearts ache with what we see happening to the people of Ukraine, we have to temper that emotional investment with a measured calculation of the risks and benefits and careful consideration of what is truly the best way to respond to this crisis.

IF we were to make the choice to pursue a no-fly zone, I hope it’s based on a careful assessment of the intelligence and sound decision making, and not just a rush to act because that’s what the polls say folks want. If a no-fly zone is the best answer, arrived at after due deliberation, so be it. But right now we need wisdom, not emotion, driving the train.

It’s ironic that the Biden administration that kept warning of the risks and the threat of invasion (and was dismissed by some on the right as alarmist and anti-Putin) now is being called out for not being willing to rush into expanded confrontation. The array of sanctions that our government has orchestrated are unprecedented. So was the vote of condemnation in the UN General Assembly. Biden and his team have provided leadership on the world stage when it was needed most and they continue the effort. There is a long game here that is even more critical than the immediate crisis, sad as it is.

The debate can rage all it wants. I just know I’d much rather have Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Tony Blinken and their team managing this than DT, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo. That, to me, would likely have truly been the stuff of nightmares.

Back to the kitchen tomorrow, but it’s time to relax now.

Stay strong, stay safe, stand with Ukraine.

March 4, 2022

It’s been a day that has gone slightly off the rails. Not horribly, but irritatingly so. It was the first day this week that there was nothing major external on the schedule. I was going to do some work for State, as well as for Engage Nepal. And then have a rich afternoon of walking dogs, stretching, mediation, menu planning etc. After working all morning, I got the dog walk in at least and, late in the day, I had a chance to meditate. By then I needed it. 

After three hours back and forth with T-Mobile customer service we thought our phones were working again. They did. For about one minute. Just long enough to disconnect from the customer service call. OK… it was a huge and unproductive time suck. And we finally learned that the problem was (is), apparently, a tower near us that has major problems. Perhaps they will work tomorrow. Perhaps not. We have options with Alexa and with calling over wifi and my phone with Engage Nepal is working so we’re not isolated.

We’re so accustomed to our tech working, though, that it’s disconcerting when the phone calls don’t go through, when the internet doesn’t respond, when text messages won’t send, our ai-devices can’t answer our questions or the touch-free payment function doesn’t work at the checkout. We are dependent.


I can only hope our cyber defenses are up to the task if we are ever attacked. Imagine what would happen if all these systems fell apart. In this inter-connected world, we seldom think about just what would happen if the electrical grids are derailed, and if the information superhighway comes to a sudden dead end. Banking systems could fall apart and god knows what we’d do about accessing our personal funds — a particularly interesting question in a society where some of us can’t remember the last time we used cash.

I guess my mind turns to those questions as we look at the war unfolding in the Ukraine. Folks have pondered what else Russia might do there and what might happen if they decide to lash out at those nations that are supporting and arming the Ukrainians. It will be what it will be, but watching the horrific violence directed against innocents in the Ukraine is so unsettling that it’s hard not to let your mind turn towards all these sorts of questions. Putin, it seems, doesn’t care who dies, how many are killed or the families whose lives are torn apart. You start to wonder if psychopath isn’t the best description. He also controls Russia’s nuclear arsenal. THAT is something to think about.

Anyway, the afternoon didn’t fall into the peaceful easy rhythm I had hoped for. Even though I hadn’t looked at the news, my mind took the events of the day to wander back to what is happening almost 5000 miles away.

It wasn’t a bad day but, like every day this week, sadness and heartbreak refused to be totally ignored. That’s only right, I guess. But it has been wearying. 

Stay safe, stay strong, stand with Ukraine.

March 3, 2022

The wantonly brutal Russian attacks on civilians continues. If your heart doesn’t break a bit more with each report, I urge you to go see your doctor because there has to be something horribly wrong with it.  

I’d love to write a blog full of sweetness and light, but how can I do that when we are watching a nation in what is truly an existential crisis and one that it is bound to lose. 

This story likely won’t end, though, even if the nation falls in the face of this onslaught — something that is likely to happen. The ugliness very likely will grow worse. Putin will not tolerate resistance or dissent and god only knows where he will turn his sights next.

The global confrontation with this madman — and it’s hard to think of him as anything other than that — is deeply troubling. Confront him we must, but where it will lead — who knows. You have to hope that there are those in Russia who will choose not to let their nation be a pariah, hated and isolated by the rest of the world. Putin would not be the first leader to be removed when his excesses began to hurt even his rich and powerful supporters.

Of course, a leader can be removed through popular uprisings as well, but I’m not going to hold my breath for something like that to happen in Russia — a nation in which autocratic leaders have managed to ignore the common citizen again and again over the years.   

The regime isn’t going to hedge its bets though. As a new law will apparently go into effect tomorrow and if the news media prints or broadcasts any news the government has not sanctioned they can go to jail for 15 years. If you tell the public enough lies, and that is what they hear, they might just believe you.

Hmmm. Attack the media, treat them as an enemy of the state, and keep telling the big lie no matter what. Honestly — does that sound like ANYONE we know here in the US? Someone who has kowtowed to Putin, believed him ahead of our own government officials, and admires Putin’s “strategic genius” and “strength.” Any names come to mind? Any? Just asking.

In any event, I’m not going to hold my breath for Putin’s fall in the immediate future, but I can dream. It would make the world look a bit brighter. And we can use that.

Meanwhile, I have to admit that at least my personal world became brighter today. It’s amazing what a few minutes of laser zapping can do. The capsule behind the lens of my eye had been so opaque and so distorted that light could barely enter. Tonight things are brighter and clearer and aside from a bit of mild discomfort — which the doctor warned was likely — all looks pretty good.

That’s something to be grateful for, and we can’t forget, even as we bear witness to the suffering of those in Ukraine, the world goes on. Our families still need us, and we all still need each other. And we can still celebrate those things that bring us joy — a grandchild’s laugh, a devoted canine companion, the excitement of adventure and more. 

So I’ll keep trying to find, and maintain, my balance in these turbulent times. With luck we’ll get through them together.

Stay strong, stay healthy, and stand with Ukraine.

March 2, 2022

Happy Birthday to our daughter Tjiama. So glad that we could be with her and her family this evening. It’s always a joy, even though, with two lively dogs and grandkids aged 12 (soon to be 13), 11, and 5 (soon to be 6), you can imagine that the evening was not one of quiet conversations. I’ve never been afraid of chaos and noise, though. I was one of six kids. We had our own crew to raise. And every moment is to be cherished. 

We picked up some favorite treats from Choolaah, that has a variety of Indian-style fast food options, including a number of good vegan choices, that are pretty darn tasty. There was a young man working there who was so nice. He was working so hard, not only prepping the food and putting together the orders, but he took such pains to ensure that the vegan options were properly marked. He was worried that we might not be able to distinguish the regular naan that has dairy and the wheat naan that is vegan.

It was a pleasure to watch and I give him props. It doesn’t matter what the work is that we do. What does matter is that we give our best and that we take pride in our work. It just made me feel good and we take the good moments wherever we can find them. 


There was plenty to discourage otherwise. My heart breaks again and again as we watch the Russian’s relentless assault on the proud people of Ukraine. To see the indiscipline of the Russian forces is scary. I don’t think I’m wrong to suggest that it would be inconceivable that American forces would loot banks and grocery stores. The Russian forces come across more as thugs and criminal gangs than anything else. That IS frightening. 

Even more frightening is that the Russians are reported to have brought both cluster bombs and thermobaric vacuum. They’re designed to kill people… vaporize people in the case of thermobaric bombs.

A hundred nations have signed the convention banning the use of cluster bombs in warfare. Russian has not and they’re using them in Ukraine according to initial reports, irrespective of the massive damage they can do to civilian populations.

And thermobaric bombs? Acknowledging my lack of expertise, l turned to the web for the details. They’re grim:

“You have a huge pressure wave when it goes off, which is intensely hot and scorches and burns everything that’s within the cloud or a close range to it. Then there’s a tremendous near-vacuum created as the air tries to rush in that literally collapses your lungs and explodes your eardrums out and can pop your eyeballs out of your head. You’re going to fall to the ground and be incapacitated but not dead. You might have a minute or two of suffocating to death while your lungs collapse.”

And there’s more…

“The chemicals that are used to set it off are essentially a chemical weapon because they’re toxic. So, if you were in this huge cloud that might be 200 meters across depending upon the size of the bomb—it could be 600, 700 feet across—it’s probably going to kill you if it doesn’t detonate, because these toxic chemicals would likely be fatal to you.” 

The indiscriminate nature of the destruction caused by either of these munitions is soul-numbing. And how can we not ask ‘why?’ Why does Russia need to do this? Why do innocent victims need to die at their hand? There’s no reason. None. At least none that makes sense. 

 It’s hard not to feel your heart break with every report and it’s even harder to contain the outrage you feel towards Russia as it continues the slaughter.

I can’t close without venting on another source of outrage tonight. The Texas governor is now going after the parents of transgender children, ordering them to be investigated for child abuse for the medical treatments that they provide their children who are coping with the challenges of defining their gender identity.

These same Republicans are the ones who have demanded that we respect the rights of parents to redefine school curriculum or determine whether their kids should wear masks in school. The parents know best, they declaim. We have to protect the rights of parents. Unless, of course, they’re parents of transgender kids.  

Then parents’ rights apparently don’t matter. The hypocrisy is not a surprise. It’s been a hallmark of so many in the party these days. But it’s still another ugly moment in our culture wars and another ugly moment in a day that has been marred by too much ugliness.

Thank god that Tjiama’s birthday and time with the grandkids provided an antidote to recharge the spirit and the soul.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

March 1, 2022

Another month. Same issues.

It’s hard to watch the news about Ukraine but it’s important, I think, to bear witness to their struggle and to Putin’s brutal assault on them. The outpouring of support is so striking. If only we could find similar common decency and humanity when it came to those who seek to undermine our democracy, who attack our voting rights, who seek to reestablish Jim Crow laws and more. 

I know that is wishful thinking. But building a degree of shared commitment on an issue like Ukraine is a starting point and I’m thrilled that we see so many prepared to stand with Ukraine and reject Russia’s efforts to return us to a world of chaos. Even Fox News has seemingly realized that their efforts to justify Putin’s aggression went too far, and they are now changing their tune.

Tonight I’ll try to do some fundraising using the Engage Nepal platform, splitting any donations we take in for the next week or so with half going to Save the Children Ukraine and the balance to our projects in Nepal. It’s worth the effort. The first donation will be the honorarium I received for today’s presentation. 

I enjoyed doing it. The group to whom I spoke were part of the University of Mary Washington’s ElderStudy program. It was a Zoom talk and, although I miss the power of in-person engagement, I’ve found that you can still connect, even in the virtual world. We talked about diplomacy in a changing world — which could define my entire career, I think. And we talked about continuing to engage the world — and why it matters. They even got to meet the Ambassador’s Dog — after we spoke first about his book and Engage Nepal.  All in all, it was a well-spent two hours and I hope it was enjoyed by the class. 

It’s been a busy day all day and I’m tired. Perhaps tomorrow I can be reflective. Tonight I just want to be done. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.