May 2021

May 31, 2021

Memorial Day. It’s great that we take the time, as President Biden did today, to honor those who served our nation and gave their lives in doing so. Those who serve deserve our thanks and their sacrifice and their commitment should always be remembered.

We also remember those we have lost over the years. The parents, siblings, children and friends who are no longer with us. But I don’t need a special day to remember those who were part of my life. They are always with me. 

But I was reminded today as well that there’s plenty we have tried to forget as a nation — or that we never acknowledged.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the horrific attack on the black citizens of Tulsa. The devastation of what was called Black Wall Street was bad enough in itself, but even worse perhaps was the manner in which we then erased the event of that day from our consciousness. 

How is it that so many of us lived our lives in total ignorance of an event of such horror. And that was not the only example of the contempt of white America for the rights of black citizens. But we didn’t discuss this when we learned our American history. It wasn’t shared. It wasn’t acknowledged.

Why? Was it shame or was it indifference? It didn’t matter because the victims weren’t white? 

Our history isn’t always pretty, but we won’t do better in facing the future if we don’t understand the past.

I don’t want to believe that those who gave their lives in service to our nation offers that sacrifice for a nation that turns on its own or on the values that formed the idea of America that the President spoke about today. The idea of a nation that believed in the rights of all, a nation that believed all men were created equal.

We are still struggling to move toward the realization of those ideals. And this time our failures are not as easily hidden. They are revealed by cell phone videos and body cams that show abuse after blatant abuse. They are revealed by legislative actions in the full public view that seek to deny fundamental rights while perpetrating the “big lie” about stolen elections and fraud. 

Will we do better? We can only hope.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 30, 2021

I’m not one to live in the past. There’s always a new adventure, a new experience waiting for us.  But today I was reading through the text of my oral history interviews. And there were a few things there that touched me and stirred me. Things I felt strongly about when I had the honor to serve our nation and things I care about still. One of those things was the work that we did with young people in Nepal and Uganda.

And then, I looked at FB and a friend from Uganda had shared a memory of a post of mine from 6 years ago. It offered the text of a speech I had just given. 

I realize how much the issues I spoke about that night are still issues today. And the partnership with youth that we worked so hard on still should be part of what we care about in this moment in time. So… I’m taking the easy way out tonight in my blog. I’m sharing that Facebook memory and I send it out to all the young women and men with whom we partnered and who inspired me and gave me hope for the future. You all rock.

Scott H DeLisi.  Facebook.  May 28, 2015:

“Please find below the remarks from our youth reception last night.  Working with these fine young women and men has truly been a highlight of my time in #Uganda.  

Good evening, everyone!  I’m so happy to see all of you here tonight.  I think many of you know already what a privilege it has been for my colleagues and me to work with you during our time here, and we wanted to bring you together tonight simply to say thank you for your leadership, strength, and willingness to take a chance on partnership with the American Embassy.  The dreams, hard work, resilience, and promise of this group of young people have been so very inspiring me over the last few years.  You give me great hope that America’s massive investment in peace, prosperity, health, and democracy in Uganda will pay off sooner rather than later.

We need only to look around the continent to understand that we absolutely must partner with the young people of Africa.  Violent extremists threaten the fabric of society; AIDS continues to be a destructive force; poverty is a vicious cycle that leads to generations of hopelessness.  Challenges abound.  We can, and we must, offer young people a different narrative.  We must provide true empowerment; the empowerment provided by jobs, not by a gun.  We must create a narrative of opportunity and of hope that is founded in shared values respecting the inherent dignity and rights of us all. 

As I have said so often, we simply cannot afford not to engage youth. Young people are this continent’s future.  You already make up the overwhelming majority of the population, and you will ultimately determine whether your nation succeeds or fails.  Without the youth of this nation, there is simply no hope of achieving our shared vision for Uganda.  With you, there is simply no limit to what we can accomplish.    

You’re here tonight because your work, your leadership, and your potential caught the attention of our staff at U.S. Mission Uganda.  You’ve worked closely with Dan and Lisa and Erin and our talented local staff.  Some of you participated in the first iterations of the Young African Leaders Initiative, others are 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows.  Some of you are current or former members of Generation Change; others were selected for this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.  Some of you were Youth Advisors to Washington.  Whatever your relationship to us however, I hope that our collaboration propelled you forward in some meaningful way.

You have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating.  I do not see the vast youth population in this country and on this continent as a threat.   I know that you seek to be agents of constructive change for your generation and for your nation.  I know that you seek to channel your energy to inspire and lead, not to tear down.  I know that your vision of the future is one that is founded on positive engagement and inclusive economic development, and I know that respect for all is at the core of your being.  

I sincerely hope—even when faced with the many challenges you will surely encounter as you build your dream for this country—that you create a new model of service, engagement, and leadership.  I hope that you will resist the temptation of corruption, that you will have the courage to take the risks necessary for success, and that you will use your talents to lead others in a way that lifts them up and encourages them to build their own future. 

That’s exactly what Anne Kabahuma, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow, is doing with the Rwenzori Sustainable Trade Center out in Fort Portal.  Anne uses her enterprising spirit to help rural artisans improve the quality of their lives.  Her success in growing the Trade Center has been phenomenal, with products made by women in remote villages now reaching European, Canadian, and American markets.  Her tireless work on these women’s behalf has improved the quality of their lives by building their confidence, increasing their ability to earn for their families, providing a fair, sustainable market for their crafts, and supporting them in making healthy choices.  Everyone who knows Anne knows that she does this with a big heart and a huge smile.  

 Zilla Mary Arach, a member of Generation Change 2.0, is equally impressive.  She was the first female guild president at her university and has since made herself a leader in the male-dominated field of computer engineering.  She co-founded Lacel Technologies in 2013, develops apps for rural farmers, and has dreams of helping more women join the ICT world.  She has repeatedly broken down societal gender barriers and has only become stronger in the process.  Zilla has accomplished a great deal in just the last few years, but I have no doubt that this is only the beginning.

 Martin Ssali, a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow and participant in some of our entrepreneurship programs, is–like Zilla–forging his own unique path as what we at the embassy call an “agripreneur.” An agripreneur is someone who is committed to agriculture and recognizes it as a field with tremendous potential for innovation.  An agripreneur sees opportunities in the agricultural sector where others see none.  That describes Martin perfectly.  He is a food scientist working to develop soy foods for the Ugandan market and improve the soy value chain in this country.  He’s also the CEO of the National Soybean Network and consults with the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development.  Martin recognizes that agriculture matters; he sees incredible potential and is using his passion and skills to capitalize on that.  It is people like Martin who will ensure that Uganda transforms itself into the breadbasket of East Africa, and maybe even the continent.  

 In order to reach those economic dreams, Uganda must remain a safe and secure place to do business.  Enter individuals like Hassan Ndugwa.  Hassan is a member of our original Generation Change group and was also selected as a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow.  Why?  Because he has, over and over again, proven his leadership in promoting peace and countering violent extremism in Uganda and the region.  After surviving the July 11 bombings, Hassan co-founded the Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum.  He trains Muslim leaders to transform mosques into centers for community development instead of radicalization, he mentors Muslim youth to help them make positive choices, and he works to build understanding across the diversity of faiths represented among Uganda’s people.

Anne, Zilla, Martin, and Hassan are incredible individuals, each working in a different area, but all united in their desire to bring about a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, democratic Uganda.  I know that I could tell similar stories about each of you because all of you here tonight share this vision, as does the U.S. government.  You are at the forefront of social, political, and economic innovation in Uganda, envisioning new worlds of possibilities that will transform this country and the continent.  It excites me and energizes me to see your commitment and determination.  Watching you learn and grow has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my time here in Uganda.

I don’t know if you all know this, but after 34 years of public service as an American diplomat, I am scheduled to end my posting in Uganda this September and retire from our diplomatic service. I hope to find a bit more time to relax, to spend time with my children and grandchildren, and to reflect on what I have learned during my life journey. 

I believe, however, that having lived a life of service for thirty-four years you don’t just stop caring, you don’t just stop being engaged and you don’t just stop wanting to make a difference on issues that matter.  Passion and energy and commitment are not just for the young, you know, and I hope you’ll remember that as the years go on.  

Although I will certainly see some of you again before I depart to start my new chapter in life, the fact is that Dan and Erin are both leaving soon.  So this is probably the last time I will address all of you in a setting like this along with two of the colleagues who have been so instrumental in building these incredible partnerships.  

Therefore, I want you to know– and I speak for Dan, Erin, and Lisa and all my colleagues — that it has been an absolute honor to know you, to work with you, and to see you succeed.  I also want you to know that I’m not letting you off the hook.  I still have expectations of you, and they are very, very high.  It’s no easy task, but the transformation of your country is in your hands.  You must not fail.  And I know you won’t, because you’ve given me, every reason to believe in you.

All of us at U.S. Mission Uganda who are involved in youth engagement are very proud of each and every one of you here tonight.  You do difficult work, often with extremely limited resources and challenges that seem insurmountable.  Yet you overcome them, time and time again.  

You are an example to all of the young people around you, and you are the hope for Uganda’s present and future.   May you always find the inner courage and strength and confidence to succeed.  I believe you have all those qualities in abundance along with the moral compass you need to make Uganda the peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and democratic country that you and all your fellow citizens deserve.  

Thank you.”

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 29, 2021

It has been a cool and rainy day here in Haymarket. It has given me every excuse to stay in and work. And work I did. But just now I needed a break. I’m on my second and final review of my oral history and have only 80 pages left. I want to finish. To have one more task out of the way.  That is one of the goals for this weekend. One among many.

I am, however, easily distracted. The Kominsky Method’s season three just aired on Netflix. It stars Michael Douglas. Alan Arkin. Kathleen Turner. A variety of stars. I’ve enjoyed it enough that today included binge watching all six episodes of season three. Michael Douglas is 76 years old. Many of the others in the show were in their late seventies. It deals with a lot of issues, many about aging. About health. About life and love and relationships and sex. About dying.

The topics are handled with humor and honesty. The themes hit closer to home than they would have a few years ago and, I think, a bit like Frankie and Grace with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, it is geared towards those of us who have seen more than a few summers go by. It’s nice to find shows whose humor I can appreciate. 

It was a nice break. It was a chance to sit back and relax. Not think about any of the many things that are on our minds. We heard from our African “daughter” Suzanne in Uganda where they are fearing a second wave of COVID and anticipating another lockdown. There are similar stories told in other African states where they worry about dwindling vaccine stocks.  

Most of these countries rely on COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides free and discounted doses for lower-income countries and in which the US had invested $4 billion to try and help tame this challenge globally. But COVAX has been heavily reliant on India’s vaccine manufacturers, and they no longer supply the program because of India’s own Covid crisis.

I’d love to open a news site and find more stories of hope and promise than those of crisis and despair and political turmoil. I fear it is going to be a long time before there’s a day like that. And so we carry on. And, when needed, we take a Kominsky Method break. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 28, 2021

Today, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia — the DMV as they are called locally — lifted the last of their COVID mask and distancing restrictions. We’re celebrating the return to normal. Folks are flocking to the beaches. It’s great and there’s no denying it. Some of us remain a bit cautious and tentative about how we will celebrate this new day but it is good news.

I’ll feel better if we’re still as optimistic in a few weeks time, though. For the past year, holidays have been the bellwether of new waves of infections stemming from reckless actions. I am hoping that won’t be true again. I believe that won’t be true again. But I will certainly feel better when I KNOW that won’t be true again.

Perhaps I’d worry less if I wasn’t so keenly aware that even as we make progress here in America, the pandemic continues to ravage other parts of the world. Last night I spoke about us being part of the whole — that none of us stands alone. And I’m reminded about that again today. An out of control pandemic in India or Nepal can become a newly evolved threat to all of us. What happens elsewhere in the world touches us all one way or the other. And we can of course feel relief and hope with the progress we’ve seen here at home but still care about those for whom life and the future looks far less positive.

I’m going to be preparing yet another appeal for Nepal today. The news is devastating and frightening. Engage Nepal is already committed to over $62,000 in immediate support and we’re about to commit another $20,000 and more. The challenge is that the need far exceeds the resources. For every family we help there is another we cannot. For every isolation center that gets scarce oxygen supplies, there are others where the patients die gasping for breath. That’s part of the reality we are connected to as well. 

We can’t solve every problem but we can solve A problem And then another. And then another. We can help. We can touch lives. We can be part of something more than ourselves. We can be part of the whole. 

I’ll put a donation link in the comment below. I ask for your help. 

I never would have done that in the past but, as I’ve said before, there’s no shame in asking for help to do good, for help to save lives. So please. Help.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” 

Gandhi said that. And he was right. So shake the world… tonight.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 27, 2021

Tonight we heard from a dear friend that her grandchild has fallen ill. Fortunately, the family has access to good care but worry is inevitable, of course. So we will wait with her, albeit from a distance, for reassurance that all will be well. 

It so often seems, though, that divine providence, or the fates, or whatever force you believe guides our path in this universe, is generally kind and generous and loving when it comes to children. And so I’ll have confidence that all will be well.

But it is a reminder of how our uncertain life can be. Our lives can turn on a single moment in time. One phone call, one doctor’s visit, one unexpected turning and our lives change. I’ve experienced it in my own life and, as the years pass, most of us can bear witness to having been affected by these life-altering experiences.

Good moments and bad. Joy and loss. Scares and sighs of relief. They are part of the human experience. They are part of loving and caring, And there are times when our love is so deep and true that our very beings vibrate with a sympathetic resonance when those we love experience joy, or sorrow, or pain.

So tonight, I’ll share our friend’s worry. I need only think of our grandchildren and the connection is sparked. And on top of it, these days I tend to feel the resonance of relationships even more strongly than in the past. Perhaps it has been the COVID experience that has reminded us of how important our connections are. Perhaps the passage of years leaves me cherishing those who matter in my life all the more. All I know is that I want to hold more closely than ever to those I love.

There’s a reason we still quote John Donne’s “Meditation XVII” (“For Whom The Bell Tolls”) some 500 years later. We are all connected, we are all part of the whole. And what touches those we love touches us all. 

There is a power in these connections that science cannot quantify but it certainly exists. And with that thought in mind I’ll sit and wait with fingers crossed that comforting news lies ahead. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 26, 2021

As I sit waiting for the Prince of the Mountains to finish laser therapy for his hips and knees I thought I’d at least get a start on writing for the day. It’s one of the many benefits of modern technology, I guess, that our keyboards and electronic platforms can travel with us so readily. That is a blessing right? 

In any event, if you think that my blog posts are often unfocused or scattered,! hang on to your hats! Who knows what will come out of this one. As I drove to Fredericksburg this morning to do a radio interview on Nepal and the COVID crisis (yes, that is still with us and more serious by the day), I had the chance to listen to the radio. In fairness, I’ll report that Republican leaders finally decided to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene’s statements about the Holocaust I touched on the other day. I’m guessing the heat over their reluctance to speak out became too much. But they did speak out… so that’s something.

And meanwhile, the news couldn’t get enough of the story about the grand jury in New York being empaneled to look at the Trump organization and concerns about tax and insurance fraud at a minimum. Who knows where that will come out and unlike the media feeding frenzy I’ll let the facts come out rather than speculate mindlessly. One thing we can count on though is that Trump will assume the role he has perfected over the past few years… the victim. Poor misunderstood Donald. Life is so hard and of course the investigation has NOTHING to do with his actions and choices… it’s just pure political vendetta. That’s the chorus we’ll hear. Ugh.

I wish we could just let the law run it’s course. I wish. But it will become much more than that. And just when the respite from the Trump drama and the whining wheedling complaints has felt so good, it will likely begin again. The semi-silence from him has been so welcome — at least in my household. Ah well.

What else is there to talk about? Not much. I’m hoping that Lo Khyi’s laser therapy will do him a world of good. It really is supposed to be game-changing. And we have to take care of our pups. We owe them that much for all the love they offer us every day.

As I was working earlier after getting back from Fredericksburg, though, I had to debate whether to push back on the choice by a candidate to delete an Oxford comma from a document we had prepared for him. Hmmm. Oxford comma or not. God knows, if you look online the debate rages endlessly. Much like the apocalyptic battle over one space or two after a period. 

I know that for some, these issues spark all the fervor of a holy war. But I’m an agnostic. I had a pretty good education, but these fine points of punctuation, along with a variety of other grammatical rules that I hear folks pronounce on, were either not emphasized in the English classes of my youth or I snoozed through them. Not sure which. But I just can’t get jazzed up. Sometimes it’s one space. Sometimes two. Sometimes an Oxford comma, other times not. I know the rules matter (or at least I’m willing to pretend I believe that) but I write to write. Typos, misplaced punctuation, whatever… it’s part of my “creative process” such as it is. My mind rolls on, my fingers try to keep up, and whatever comes out, comes out w keep me on the path of grammatical virtue and to redirect all those misplaced keystrokes.   

Anyway, as I sit here I can’t help but notice a piece of “word art” on the wall that says “Enjoy the Little Things.”  And, as Lo Khyi comes sauntering out of the treatment room looking pretty pleased to be back with his people, I’ll take that as my instruction for the balance of the day 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 25, 2021

I am running out of things to do in the garden… lol. Tonight I planted a bit more basil in the garden and one big pot of sweet basil on the deck. There it joins a new lavender plant and the the oregano and a few marigolds. 

A few more liriope went into the ground and we have a red-veined dock border coming down the slope. The coleus are providing a bright and positive accent. The new salvia offer a splash of purple and in the upper garden we have butterfly bushes and a variety of flowers about to burst into bloom. 

I’ve redone the edging everywhere and reset the rock borders too. Today it was five more bags of river jack. My back didn’t appreciate it… but the garden does.

So I’m sitting, resting my back, and writing. Gracie is lying alongside my legs and the day is drawing to a close. There’s more to do — there always is — but I’ve reconciled myself to the idea that I’m just not going to get caught up today… and maybe not tomorrow and maybe not the next day. But some day. Some day I will. It’s good to have goals, right?

My immediate goal is to call it an early night as I’ll be up at 6 to drive to Fredericksburg to join colleagues there for a radio interview about the crisis in Nepal. They are a great and caring community of folks there. And so it’s worth the trip and it’s worth the time and I hope we can do some good for the people of Nepal.  

And that’s the start of the day. I need a few hours for work for State. There are thank you notes to do for donors. There are emails about oxygen plants and food aid. There’s an oral history to finish — I’m SO close. And then there’s Lo Khyi’s first laser therapy session in nearby Marshall, Virginia. It is going to be another busy day. Another day when I probably won’t get everything done. But I’ve still got those goals. 

Stay strong , stay safe, stay healthy.

May 24, 2021

If you happened to see the video I shared this morning, your day started with a smile. How could it not? Our three month old grandson in his little alligator outfit was rocking out big time to “Crocodile Rock.” And this wasn’t your garden variety, baby kicking his feet around video. That little guy has some MOVES. It kept me smiling through the day.

I just wish the magic of Gus’s performance could have also eased the days’ frenetic pace. But sadly his gifts don’t extend that far. And there’s still a ton left to do today, so this will, of necessity, be a short blog.  

I do have to at least give a nod, though, to a story that I’m guessing many of you have seen already. Yes, the Alabama governor gave the final nod yesterday, signing into law a provision that will allow yoga to be practiced in Alabama schools again for the first time in 30 years or so.

Yes… that insidious discipline that stretches our muscles, restores flexibility and uses the power of proper breathing in conjunction with body movements has long been on the banned list for Alabama schools!?!

“Why,” you might ask? But… do you really need to? My guess is that you can guess. Wasn’t it just yesterday I commented on nativism and the ludicrous absurdities that are part of the mindset that leads to a yoga ban. At least for a segment of the citizenry of Alabama there was a deeply felt fear that yoga could turn you into a… Hindu! *Gasp!* God preserve us from these pernicious threats. Obviously, Alabamans were pretty much convinced that Hindus had a master plan and Alabama was ground zero of their plot for world domination.

So, we might applaud the rationality of the decision to lift the ban. Perhaps the legislators are now older, wiser, and (perhaps most tellingly) stiffer than they used to be. Suddenly yoga doesn’t seem like such a threat after all. But, if you’re still worried about the Hindu threat to our commitment to being good red, white and blue bourbon drinking, steak and potato eating, monster-truck rally attending Americans, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief. 

The word Namaste — and meditation, chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, induction of hypnotic states, and guided imagery, all shall be expressly prohibited,” under the revised law. Oh, yeah… it also requires English names be used for all poses and exercises.  

Yes, ladies and gents, the American way is still safe. At least in Alabama.

I don’t mean to make fun of Alabama (though it’s kind of hard not to). A Georgia school district banned all this stuff too because parents were concerned about the threat of a Hindu conversion wave. We saw someone comment on a friend’s Facebook post on this story that years ago she was told she couldn’t teach yoga at a YMCA in the Midwest because yoga was “from the devil.”

We’ve come a long way in our country but there’s a long way to go. But this is what you get in a diverse and pluralistic society. Different views, different fears, different values and priorities. I might see it differently, but I understand that there are conservative Christian perspectives that see other faiths as antithetical to their beliefs in the “true” faith. It leads to some things that seem whacky but I can live with them. But when it leads to a group of politicians taking nativism to new heights and spinning webs of lies to exploit fears and exacerbate them that’s a different story. 

So this story isn’t quite as much “fun” as it seems when you think about it. But it’s still kind of fun. 

So stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy… and Namaste, y’all.

May 23, 2021

I’ve not written much about politics of late, though there’s plenty that we can talk about. I know there are many whose opinions differ from mine and that, of course, is fine. And I know that I offer no unique perspectives nor an authoritative voice. That’s OK too. I don’t have to be. When I write it is more about sorting out my own thinking than it is about seeking to influence others.  

So excuse me today as I grapple with trying to understand what is happening to our nation. I’m no historian, but I remember studying once about the Know-Nothings of the Native American  Party of the mid-19th century. Like many of the politicians on the right today they were nativists and they decried the plot against America they claimed was being hatched by Catholics responding to direction from the Vatican. They feared some ill-defined but insidious threat to the white Protestant values that they believed were the essence of our nation. 

That undercurrent has long been one thread of belief found in our nation and it has created a fundamental tension with those who believe immigrants and diversity bring strength to a society. It’s more complex than that of course, but that tension is what I have been repeatedly reminded of when reading the news recently.

At the extremes in our political life today we see such frightening craziness. The “Big Lie” about the elections is just one manifestation. For the Donald Trumps and Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetz’s, facts and truth are an inconvenience that gets in the way of their ideological crusade. Donald Rump now claims that the election database for Maricopa County, Arizona has been “DELETED.” It’s PROOF of the Big Lie. And maybe it would be worth paying attention to — IF it was true.  Even if it was partly true. But it isn’t. Not in the slightest.  

But, as I said, these folks don’t care about the truth. Marjorie Taylor Greene would rather offer offensive and inflammatory charges comparing the requirement to wear masks on the House floor to Nazis making Jews wear the Star of David. Genocide vs. public health. Sorry. I don’t get the equivalency. Oh… wait… there is none. But, again, that doesn’t matter. We don’t need to care about reason or truth. Today we traffic in fear and confrontation. If any of you have seen the video of Greene trolling various members of Congress on a trip to Capitol Hill a couple of years ago you know what she’s like. The pic of her with an AK-47 next to cutouts of AOC and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar says it all. Hard to believe that skin color and faith don’t shape her views. .She seems the very definition of a Know Nothing. 

But please. It might be easy to dismiss Trump and Greene and Gaetz and declare they’re all at the far end of rationality. It would be easy to say they’re too absurd to frighten me but it would be a lie. They frighten me plenty even in their ludicrousness. But they don’t frighten me as much as those who are supposed to be the responsible leaders of the opposition in Congress.   THEY frighten me more. Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Josh Hawley and countless others. They help spread the lies, they excuse and empower the extremists and they edge ever closer to embracing ideological craziness as the norm. They’ve abandoned truth in a desperate attempt to find relevancy and votes among a political base that demands to be pandered to; they don’t want leaders, they want a channel to express their fear, anger and hate. 

At a time when the challenges confronting our nation are more complex than ever and more global in scope, I am so deeply roubled by those who blindly tout a vision of America against the world. A vision of a white America embracing a conservative Christianity that sees Jew and Muslim and Hindu as the enemy   A white American in which those who don’t share their views — no matter their race or faith, are highly suspect or dangerous threats to the world they’d like to create. 

Almost a decade ago, there was an essay called  “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” It was done by two scholars. One center-right, the other center-left. CNN resurrected it in an opinion piece today talking about how it warned of “congressional extremists, their rejection of truth, and a party turning to authoritarianism” or “an apocalyptic cult.” They argued that the GOP had become “ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise, unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”  That was in 2012 during the Obama presidency.  

The analysis did not gain wide acceptance then. Republican leaders and conservative thinkers said it was overstated. That it wasn’t that bad. Today? It seems an overly generous assessment of what the party has become. 

And the Republicans who led the party then? Many have been driven out of politics. They were too moderate, too reasonable. Some have become pariahs. Charlie Dent, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, come immediately to mind, of course, but there are many other who have been forced out or who have walked away from a political landscape they no longer recognize. Long-standing conservative voices like Bill Kristol’s are not extreme enough for the appetites of today’s leaders on the right. It’s a mess.

All this was dismissed a decade ago. Then most Republicans shrugged it off. They shouldn’t have. No one should have.  

Hindsight of course is 20/20. It’s an old saying. But so is forewarned is forearmed. Don’t shrug this off. Don’t dismiss the crazies in your certainty that sanity will prevail. This is a struggle for the future. It’s a struggle for truth and for decency and the soul of the nation. Sounds dramatic? It is. Who would have thought we’d live in such times. But we do. 

When the heat eases, I’ve got some coral bells to plant. That seems a good antidote to political blues.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 22, 2021

The day is winding down.

Earlier we went to watch our granddaughter Sofie play softball. We haven’t really had a chance to watch her play for the past year or so… there has been this little thing called a pandemic. It was fun to watch her play and just as much fun to see how much their skills have developed. These weren’t little kids fumbling around on the field… these were young athletes testing their abilities. I enjoyed it. And so did Lo Khyi. He came along as well and, as is so often the case, he was the star of the (spectator) show. There’s something about him. People are drawn to him. As I was. It was fun to see that he still has it!

Speaking of skills development, it has also been so much fun to watch Nat and Tony marvel over the the way that Gus is developing his skills as well. Three months old and he’s pretty special too. If he takes a few cues on skill development from his cousin Sofie and a few more on charm from  Lo Khyi he’s going to be rocking and rolling too. Admittedly, he IS doing pretty well on his own already, but it never hurts to have mentors in the family! 

What else? I worked on our assistance to Nepal. Caught up on emails. Did a bit of yard work. I didn’t catch up on everything I wanted to but I made progress. There was a early evening run to the grocery store. On the way home I heard Margaritaville on the radio. I had to laugh. I had been thinking of that song this morning and I pulled out my guitar and played for a little bit.  Even with the thumb on my left hand aching I could still bring enough pressure on the neck of the guitar to play. That’s something I have’t done much of recently… either the guitar or piano. Being crazy busy has its price.

But every time I do sit down to play, suddenly I realize that it’s not a price I should be paying. Almost the minute I start my focus shifts. Worries fall away, priorities get reordered. It would be so easy to just give over an hour or two… or more… to what started as just a moment. That’s the power of music. I remember when I studied classical guitar while I was in law school. Sitting down to play a piece required letting all the distractions go. It was great. It was what I needed. It still is.

I was never a superstar musician. Never will be. But that doesn’t matter.  When I play it is like writing this blog. I play for me. I write for me. 

Once again, though, I let it get late. I’ll stop. But at least I wrote. The streak is alive at 437 days of writing. Rambling, ranting, or babbling, fingers have hit the keyboard nonetheless. I should get credit for persistence if nothing else.

And so it goes.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 21, 2021

Today was more summer than spring. Temps were in the 80s, the sun intense and the flowers in the garden were clearly thirsty. And now, the evening is falling. It’s still warm but it’s a pretty evening. Cardinals are doing loops around the yard before settling on the feeders. There’s a dove serenading the setting fun. It’s lovely.

It’s the sort of night that makes me think of childhood evenings. Those last weeks of May as we suffered from spring fever. Counting the days until the school year ended and we could be turned loose to roam the neighborhood from first light until our Moms forced us in as the sun set. And on Friday and Saturday nights in those last weeks of the school year when the sun was with us a bit longer you wanted to act as if summer had already begun. We’d race through  everyone’s back yards and ride our bikes through the alleys. We’d play freeze tag or a game of our own devising called “seven steps around the house.”

Those were good days. Life was a bit easier for kids then. Fewer worries for parents about what might happen. A skinned knee or elbow might be the worst that could happen. And at that time of year it was too early for the green apples on the Anderson’s tree next door to become missiles for a sneak attack. And chestnuts, which would fall from a tree down by the Armstrongs’ but f I remember correctly, they were not going to be available as missiles until the fall.

So we found other ways to amuse ourselves. We’d patrol the neighborhood with toy rifles or rubber band guns… our dramatic death falls at the top of the slope on Mrs. White’s yard led to grass stains and an occasion rip in our jeans as we rolled a final stop in my own front yard.

Lo Khyi would have loved being a dog in that neighborhood.  He loves kids, he loves to be part of the “gang.” 

Enough reminiscing though. There’s still lots to do tonight.  So I just made the Prince of the Mountains arise from his repose on the deck and come inside with me. He seems to feel a bit better today and we even did a short walk.
Now, we’ll enjoy the last light of the day and look forward to the weekend that lies ahead. It will still be busy but it’s the weekend nonetheless. I’ll make a fennel – leek quiche. Do something fun with the Brussel sprouts in the fridge. We’ll go watch our granddaughter play softball. And we’ll enjoy whatever comes our way. I hope that you do too.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 20, 2021

Ever have one of those days where you don’t feel quite like yourself?

That’s my day today. Nothing wrong. Nothing horrible… at least not on a personal level. We won’t count the news. Though that may be contributing to the malaise. The story in the news about what seems to have been the brutal abuse and murder of Ronald Greene in Louisiana is enough to sour any day. At least for some of us. What a horrible tale. George Floyd was not an exceptional case. His was just an unusually visual one in which none of us could escape the reality of the moment. 

I won’t belabor what we already know. I’ve talked about it more than a few times. Racism is still deeply embedded in our society and we can’t deny what the facts make painfully clear — it is deeply embedded in police forces across the nation. And no, not all police officers are racists just as not all Republicans are Trump clones. But many are.

The day was also colored by the frustration that stems from watching the tragedy unfolding in Nepal and wishing that we could do more. Much more. We have felt helpless so much of the past 15 months as we watched the pandemic ravage our nation. And I hate that I have to continue to feel that helplessness while the people of Nepal are suffering. I tell myself that we are helping, and we are, but I still feel that helplessness and I don’t like it.

Maybe it didn’t help that the day was disrupted by painters working outside and repeated rings at the doorbell. And my office at home was cold… it seems like I get colder these days than I used to. But that added to the discomfort of a day that already felt out of sync.

Then there were the emails. The Ambassador’s Dog customer whose books haven’t arrived. Subscriptions to renew. Putzy, time-consuming, and marginally irritating. Equally annoying? Websites that didn’t work. Junk phone calls. It WAS one of those days.  

On top of it, the prince of the mountains, Lo Khyi, is hurting.  His hips are bothering him and when he hurts, his people hurt. That’s the way it works. We’ve got him set up for laser therapy and a treatment regimen that we hope will have him moving pain-free again — or at least with reduced pain. And that would be good too.

Pain always throws you off your game and Lo Khyi is indeed off his. So am I. I’ve lived with back pain for years. I’ve dealt with it since my thirties. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. This week it’s worse. And I’ve started to learn more about the joys of arthritis this week too. You wonder how it will affect you as time goes on. You wonder whether things you’ve enjoyed may become harder to do. 

I’m not going to worry about it. We adjust and we carry on. And I’ll do that… tomorrow. Today, I’ll just be whatever version of myself I can muster.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 19, 2021

I needed to write, and think, about something other than the tragedy in Nepal that I’ve been preoccupied with most of the day. I looked at the news and so… 

There are many folks in our nation who, over the years, have been supporters of the Republican Party. I’m talking about neighbors and co-workers and family members who cared about fiscal conservatism. They stood for family values and they worried about threats posed to our nation by Russia and other foes.  They were concerned about the federal government overstepping its role and where champions for states’ rights. They loved our country and they still do.

And so I’m sad for those members of the Republican faithful who have watched their party and all that it stood for hijacked by Donald Trump and those who have joined him in the clown car.

Many of us who watched the attack on the Capitol on January 6 experienced the horribly heartsick feeling that our nation was under attack. We saw police officers attacked and beaten by those who profess that blue lives matter and you saw these self-described patriots attacking the very foundations of our government. We feared that it would end in bloody chaos. We wondered what our country was becoming and it accentuated doubts about whether we were the nation we believed ourselves to be. 

And now, we see Republican leaders turning their back on the independent commission that would have investigated the attack and the actors behind it. They are turning their back on an effort to fully understand what happened that day. And, in doing so, folks like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell and so many others in the Republican conference have chosen to offer profiles in political cowardice rather than profiles in courage.

They and others in their caucus are not really Republicans. Or at least they’re not the kind of Republicans I remember seeing over most of my life. To me, McCarthy and Graham and Gaetz and Taylor-Green and all the others aren’t Republican in the mold of McCain or Lugar or so many good leaders. Too many are Trump wanna-be’s and too many others are so afraid of Trump and of being “primaried” by his supporters that they hide their revulsion and mouth hypocritical justifications for supporting what they know to be lies and nonsense.

Republicans like that are the majority of their caucus now and they turn with a vengeance on Liz Cheney or any others who dare to speak out against Trump.  They are caught up their cult of the “Great Leader” and sadly there are many in our nation who flock to the banner of lies, racist dog whistles, and white privilege with a frightening eagerness.

l fear what they, and their erstwhile political “leaders,” will do to our nation.  The Republicans I respected, even if I disagreed with them, have lost not only their voice but their party. And I don’t think that’s a sad turn of events for them and for our nation. More than ever, we need to listen, we need to debate, we need to compromise and we need to find a way forward together. That isn’t going to happen with the party of Trump. And THAT is not good for any of us.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 18, 2021

There’s always something to write about. It may not always be interesting or entertaining or relevant to anyone but me, but there’s always something. That’s what this blog has become in some ways. An opportunity to check in with myself. 

And today the check-in found me telling myself to breathe. 

I’ve lived a life that is fairly active. I want to be busy. But at the moment, I realize I’m not paying enough attention to looking for the balance that I say is so important in life. I’ve been hopping from one task to another, not pausing to catch my breath. I enjoy the work I do at State. But it is busy right now in the early days of the administration. And I know that the work we do at Engage Nepal in this time of crisis matters. It really does.

How can you not engage when friends you care about reach out to share their heartbreak and distress. There’s not a family untouched. And it is so hard when you can’t do more to help. We’ve raised almost $40K and that’s good because we’ve spent closer to $50K.  And we can spend twice that much. Three times that much if we had it. And we still wouldn’t be able to cap the well of suffering. So yes… more hours, more work. But how can you not.  

So the day passed in a blur. So did yesterday. I took a break to have a bit of cooking therapy, but even part of that was spent on the phone, checking emails, and worrying about the next calls and the next email. I want to say that it didn’t affect the quality of the food… there was a red curry soup, a cauliflower peanut curry, and a Thai kale salad. It was good, but the process wasn’t as relaxing as I had hoped. It became something else that I had to do rather than a source of pleasure. That’s not balance.

Lot’s of folks live without balance for years. That’s where their lives have taken them and I get that. And I don’t mind an unbalanced focus when the circumstances require it. The circumstances in Nepal require it. But I don’t want that to be my norm. 

I know I’ve failed retirement. But that doesn’t mean I can’t fight to get the balance back. So that’s the next order of business. Just as soon as the latest challenges are met. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 17, 2021

Today I was reminded that not everyone has the same enthusiasm for the natural world that Leija and I do. Leo, our ten year old grandson, isn’t anti-nature per se, but he is at a point in his life where bugs do not float his boat. So, imagine his disgruntlement, at the invasion of the Brood X of cicadas. They crawled into their underground burrows 17 years ago as we all breathed a sigh of relief, only to reemerge now, just in time to creep him out with their bulging red eyes and discordant cacophony.

Yes indeed, they’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere. Except Haymarket. Here in what is a relatively new development  (the houses are probably 13 years old or so) we have no cicadas at all. Perhaps during the excavation to create the community any of the cicadas nesting deep in the ground were disrupted. Maybe they never settled in this area… not sure what was here before, but I know that they are not here now. 

But, after 17 years, they’ve re-emerged and at our daughter’s house they are everywhere. It is the cicada revolution. They are everywhere. On the trees, the bushes, the screens… all over.  The ground is pocked with the little holes from which they emerged. I am not sure what they have planned, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with world domination.  It seems a better choice than mate, die, and leave kids as they crawl back into a hole for 17 years. And they look like massive insurrection is on their minds.  

Leo gets it. He recognizes the cicada threat. And he wants nothing to do with them. He definitely wasn’t into bug photography and a detailed entomology study session. Maybe he’s the smart one.  

But I have to say they’re kind of fascinating. There is something compelling in their look, and their lacy wings are graceful and beautiful. Yes. I said it. Beautiful.

There is so much in nature that can be breathtaking and entrancing and compelling. We just have to look. And today we had a chance to see something I had seen only twice before — 2004 and 1987 – but I never really “looked” before. Today I did. And it was cool.

There will come a day when Leo will look too. Maybe in 2038. Or maybe it won’t be a cicada. Perhaps it will be a dragonfly or a bee or an ant. But I hope for Leo, Sofie, Luca, and Gus journeys of adventure and discovery throughout their lives. May they recognize the special moments of life for what they are — whether it’s a cicada, a puppy on a mountain trail, or the instant when they meet the love of their lives. Keep your eyes open kids… you don’t want to miss them.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 16, 2021

I snuck up on my blog this morning. It was a stealthy operation while the blog was still Astretching and shaking off the fuzziness of another late night post. Before it could escape, I pounced. And though I may have nothing of note to say, by God I’m going to say it before 10 pm in the evening.

I really do need to tackle this though. As I’ve said before, I find the process of putting fingers to keyboard for a few minutes each day to be centering. And today, I need to be centered. It may be a Sunday but crises don’t respect the day of rest. 

Of course I recognize that the crisis will be there tomorrow and the challenges will continue no matter what small role I play but that’s not the point. Even on the margins we can make a difference. Working with a partner organization, Nepal Rising, we can now report that we’ve procured 100 10-liter oxygen concentrators. And we’re also working on procuring oxygen cylinders as well and Engage Nepal has funded a modest number of those already.  Working with two other groups we may add 20 more concentrators to the mix by the end of the day.  We’ll see.

We’re focusing on the small community hospitals and the makeshift isolation centers that have been created. These are the A likely to be forgotten, or at the end of the line in big relief efforts (which have still to materialize in a concrete way). The concentrators and cylinders that they receive will save lives. And that is what it’s all about.

We’re doing outreach, as well, to identify vulnerable communities and assess how we can best help. Food will be one likely answer. Just as we did earlier in the pandemic we may be funding food and other basic care items for those who are in need. Again, it may be a drop in the bucket but it still matters. For the 100 or 200 or 400 families we help put food on the table for their children… it matters.

So today is more of the same. Sending deposits on the concentrators to ensure that they get on flights in the next few days. A Facebook Live chat with Manose Newa, a wonderfully talented Nepali flautist who is doing all he can to help. A ZOOM call with an informal COVID Alliance group of many young Nepali-Americans who are working hard to make a difference and whose engagement I applaud and admire, and much more.  

In between there are other tasks awaiting. The last section of my oral history for State still awaits its final review. There are other tasks as well.  Mom always said there’s no rest for the wicked… I must have been very bad.  

I’ll close by adding a photo that is a highlight of the past week and our trip to Minnesota. A selfie with Joe and Jess outside their home in St. Paul. So great to see them… having things like that to balance the business is critical!

And that’s it. I’m glad it’s a bit cloudy today. I’ll be less distracted by the outdoors, but I should still try to sneak in a walk with the pups as well. As I said… lots to do.

And, now that I have beaten my blog into submission for the day, I’ll get to it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 15, 2021

My younger brother Andy owns and runs the Big Bear Lodge on the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota. I’ve never had the chance to visit since he and his wife took this on, but others in the family have and it gets rave reviews. If you know about northern Minnesota you know the Gunflint Trail as it comes out of Grand Marais on the banks of Lake Superior. It’s not quite in the Boundary Waters but it’s close. 

Big Bear is on Poplar Lake. You can canoe, kayak, fish, hike the trails, or just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. There is no phone service. There’s no TV or cable. Tonight it sounds like just about the best thing we could hope for. 

We’re finally going to get a chance to experience it in all its north woods splendor next summer.  The entire family.  All our kids (we include spouse and partners in that term) and all the grandkids. We’ll go by road. We may take a dog or two. And I’m pretty convinced it will be one of those trips with our adult kids and grandkids that everyone will remember as one of those special experiences. 

And I’m not even daunted by the idea of being disconnected. Of course there IS wifi in the lodge, but I can’t imagine that I’ll be rushing there when the experience we want to have with the kids and grandkids will be enjoying the north, cooking as a family, or just sitting around the fire pit at night. (Temps up there are only in the 60s during the day in late June.)

I can’t wait.

Today has been non-stop again. Emails, WhatsApp, texts, phone calls. Working with partners we’re trying to get more oxygen concentrators into Nepal. Trying to fund a small oxygen plant. Trying to find planes to transport bigger plants and PPE, and more. And next we’ll be looking to provide fundamental needs including food.  Everyone is scrambling. Everyone is reaching out. And its frenetic. And there’s more to do still today. And it’s late already.

So back to it. With dreams of disconnected times in the north woods in my head.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 14, 2021

It’s going onto 9 PM… again. It seems to get later and later when I finally am able to sit down and do the blog. It is just too busy. The day was full once again. Very full. 

There’s a certain dissonance I’m feeling tonight as I do what I can to help with what is a full-blown COVID crisis in Nepal on the one hand and I hear the governor of Virginia join the chorus of “lift the mask mandates” here at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy — thrilled — at the progress we’ve made, but there’s a weirdness about all of it. So many disconnects. 

No one checks the COVID numbers these days as we did almost religiously a year ago. Though, ironically, as we applaud where we are now, the numbers aren’t that different from where we were a year ago when the idea of 35,000 – 40,000 cases a day were frightening. Today we see it as reason for celebration. 

We hope that the numbers will continue to drop. But it’s still not perfect. We know the vaccinations have changed the situation here in the U.S. But has it changed enough? I hope so. But I still wonder. We see that there’s plenty of confusion about what the new CDC guidance means, about how we should respond, about what comes next. I want to be hopeful, but, like many, I’m not sure that I’m ready to leave the masks totally behind.  

We want to move to normal, but I wonder if our rush to reach it may not leave us vulnerable. I have to believe ups and downs still lie ahead. Uncomfortable ups and downs.  

Meanwhile, as folks rush to do a victory lap, we see the incredible numbing tragedy unfolding in Nepal and India. We see the costs of feckless governance, we see the cost of irresponsibility, we see the dangers. And now the pandemic continues to spin out of control there. No victory laps to be declared. 

You can look at the US and Nepal and they seem to represent two different realities but, in this global world we inhabit, we’re all connected. As Nepal and India deal with a new and even more contagious variant, we have to ask whether it won’t find its way beyond the subcontinent. We have to wonder whether it won’t take on a new form. Whether it won’t spark new crises. Again, I hope not. But there has been so much uncertainty for so long I fear it will continue. It’s hard to accept the normal is within reach. I want to embrace it, but as I focus so much on the crisis in Nepal I have to say… maybe not quite yet. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 13, 2021

It’s Thursday night. It was a long day.  

In the morning I’ll order 40 oxygen concentrators from a medical supplier in China and send them off to Kathmandu. Engage Nepal has worked very hard to raise funds and we’re determined to help. Whether it deletes our reserves or not, we have to act. What is the good of sitting on the money if people are dying. So we’ll do what we can. What we need to do.

This is going to be a long-haul engagement. It takes energy and commitment. I could say it’s a young man’s game but that’s nonsense. Caring and determination aren’t just for the young.  And I like to think that the experience I can offer matters too. 

So I’ll stay that particular course. I’ll do the best I can. 

There are days when I look down the road and wonder what it will feel like when I really retire. There is part of me that would love the luxury of more totally unstructured time. And I think I could fill it. But I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet. I’m not sure that I’m ready not to be engaged. I’m not sure I can sit by quite yet when I think I can help. 

The world looks like a daunting place some times. Looking at the news reminds us that it isn’t about rainbows and unicorns and fairy dust. But we can manage it. We can find our way. All it takes is a bit of will, a bit of determination, and a desire to engage the world. All it takes is a bit of…


Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace

The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things,

Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,

Nor mountain heights

Where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.

How can life grant us boon of living,

Compensate for dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate,d

Unless we dare the soul’s dominion.

Every time we make a choice, we pay with courage

To behold the resistless day and count if fair.

  — Amelia Earhart

Those words focus me. At one of the most difficult times in my life they reminded me that to be granted the best of life we have to take the risks… we have to try. 

Another day awaits. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 12, 2021

The flight home to Virginia was uneventful. I spent it working on a new appeal on behalf of the people of Nepal. The situation there has deteriorated even more. Nepal now has the most severe crisis due to the pandemic of any country. I’ll be posting on Facebook about this. 

Tests are coming back at 50% positive and the positivity rate is likely much higher. Deaths increased by 50% from Sunday to Monday and again by 62% from Monday to Tuesday. There are no families untouched. No communities that won’t be scarred. We’ve lost partners we worked with to make a difference for kids we supported in Shankharapur. Other friends and partners are suffering right now. How it will come out is anyone’s guess.

Doctors are in despair. Government officials are at a loss to know what to do. There are no hospital beds left, no oxygen for many of those in the beds, and so there will be new openings as current patients die. And they will without help. That’s the reality.

I’m waiting for a proforma invoice from a Chinese company. I believe we can purchase 40 10-litre oxygen concentrators desperately needed by one hospital …one… in Thimi Municipality near Kathmandu. Their community of 83,000 plus is as desperate as all the others. But we have to do what we can. Even as our government and others prepare to step up to help, we know it still won’t be enough. It won’t be soon enough. It won’t be broad enough. This is a disaster that is daunting beyond words and our continued support will be essential. Every bit will help. Every bit will be needed.

So, somehow we’ll find $45,000 for these concentrators. And we’ll keep trying to find more funds for additional concentrators, for cylinders, for PPE, for sanitizers, for food for desperate families, for the essentials of life. 

We’ve donated. Many others have. Some of us more than once. We can’t help everyone but we’ll help no one if we don’t try. 

We will save lives. The question is how many. How much do we care if a mother or father dies tomorrow in Nepal because there’s just no oxygen. Or a hospital bed. Or a doctor who is able to fight the fight with them. 

Our flight passed quickly. There was a lot to think about. 

If you want to donate, here’s a link

Getting home after a week in Minnesota was good. I’m grateful for a comfortable home, for the dogs’ greetings and enthusiasm, and for the azaleas in glorious bloom and the first blossom on the peony that is always the first to flower in the garden across the top of the yard. It was a counterpoint to the worries of the day. Glad to be home

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 11, 2021

The other day I posted a Gary Larsen cartoon about the dog scientists trying to master the “doorknob principle.” We chuckled. If only those dogs had opposable thumbs. They’d show us! But, of course, they don’t and we do. So there!

The world has a way of taking us down a peg or too, though, when we get too smug with our opposable thumbs. In the past few days, my left thumb joint has betrayed me. It throbs, it aches, and it doesn’t like doorknobs. If my pups were here they might think it was karma. Jessica and Joe’s two cats merely watch me struggle and smirk. Such are the ways of cats.

This has come out of nowhere. In the past months I’ve had a few fingers that are a bit stiff and aching from time to time but this pain in this joint reminds me that there are things we just can’t change. Time changes us, it changes our bodies and there is inevitable wear and tear that builds as we live and move and act. And that’s ok. We adapt. 

It seemed fitting that Bonnie Raitt came on the mix I was listening to with “Nick of Time. These lyrics resonated particularly

“I see my folks are getting on

And I watch their bodies change

I know they see the same in me

And it makes us both feel strange

No matter how you tell yourself

It’s what we all go through

Those lines are pretty hard to take

When they’re staring back at you

Oh Oh Oh, scared you’ll run out of time”

I don’t know that I’m scared about running out of time, but I know that I want there to be much more of it. There’s too much more of life to live. There’s too much to do and see and experience. And I know that if I’m fortunate to be granted that time there will be more changes — they are inevitable. Things will get harder. So what. It happens.

My mother had her challenges. Hip’s replaced, other joints… including a thumb, if I recall correctly. Her last years were spent in a wheel chair… a power chair. Pain became a companion that she spent too much time with. I know she wished things could have been easier, but she still lived her life, she engaged it, and she didn’t let the challenges define her.  

I’ll take my cues from her. And I’ll figure out that doorknob one way or the other.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 10, 2021

Today we drove Leija’s mother, Evelyn, to Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, to visit family. What? You’ve never heard of Maiden Rock? Well, I guess that can be forgiven. It’s a tiny town on the banks of the Mississippi — Lake Pepin, actually. It is a naturally occurring lake on the river that is located in a valley carved by the outflow from an enormous glacial lake at the end of the last Ice Age. 

But I digress. It was a pretty drive. Through scenic farmland, passing lakes framed by poplars and birches, and along the St. Croix River and then the mighty Mississippi. Through towns like Ellsworth and Baldwin, River Falls, Lund, Stockholm and more.  We stopped at the Maiden Rock bank to deposit funds for the upkeep of the Stockholm Moravian cemetery where Leija’s dad and eldest son are laid to rest and where Evelyn’s stone marker is already in place. We visited the cemetery and Pine Creek (Pine “Crick” if you’re a local) where my mother-in-law recounted how she and her sisters would go to collect water when they were youngsters. She wanted to see the spring flowers in bloom and we saw a few, trilliums, may flowers, bell wort, and periwinkle.

Then it was down a long dead-end dirt road to Evelyn’s cousin Maxine’s home. Two other cousins – sisters – to whom Leija and I are particularly close joined us. Harriet and Barbara had visited in Nepal and they were such a joy. It was a grand reunion.

And it was, quintessentially midwestern. We sat around the kitchen table covered in a red and white check tablecloth reminiscent of countless other kitchen tables we’ve gathered around in Minnesota or Wisconsin. There was fruit salad, a noodle salad, pickled beets and sweet pickles that Maxine had made. And there were buns, of course. And coffee. Mugs of coffee — not too strong — at each place setting. 

Not everything was vegan but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that shared experience. That coming together over food in the heart of the house. Reminiscences were shared, stories told or retold. The ladies who had gathered together ranged from 83 to 90.  (I felt like the spring chicken at the table). And for Evelyn, Maxine, Harriet and Barb there were all the memories of life along the river in farming communities that were part of the heartland of our nation. Stories of family members long departed but still alive in the stories that they preserve.  

Their Scandinavian traditions might have been different than those of my ancestors from Sicily, France, Luxembourg, or Germany, but they felt the same nonetheless. It was fun to drive along those country roads and to see the fields coming to life and the trees budding out as spring finally takes hold.  

And it felt so far removed from the political bickering, or worse… the string of nine more mass shootings over this weekend. I wanted to lose myself today in something that had no connection to those things and something that took me back in so many ways to my own experience of growing up in a family whose immigrant roots were still alive and strong and who had adapted their own traditions to the Midwestern communities in which they had planted their American roots.

It was a long day of driving… six hours back and forth from St. Paul to Rush City to Maiden Rock and then back again… but that time around the kitchen table made it oh so worthwhile.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 9, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who might read this. I’ve done plenty of posts about my own mother who I though was pretty special, and she was. 

Today we’re with Joe and Jessica… Leija also heard from Tjiama and Tony… motherhood was fully and appropriately acknowledged. 

Once again, I’m not sure where the day has gone. It’s 9 PM and I’m just sitting down to write. It wasn’t that the day was busy but it was full. There was time to work on the crisis in Nepal. There were book orders to fulfill. There was a bit of errand running with Leija and Joe. The hours passed.

I didn’t listen to the news. But then I made the mistake of looking just a bit ago. I shouldn’t have. I could have laughed, I guess, but it’s not really funny. Trump once again found a way to make the headlines. As usual, it was all about his “big lie.” I hear he’s infuriated that his repeated nonsense about electoral fraud has been branded this way. “The big lie.” He hates it, supposedly. He, who prides himself on his branding skills, is not thrilled with the way this one has turned out.

So, what was today’s story? It has to do with Medina Spirit, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby, but that subsequently failed the post-race drug test. The jury is still out on Medina Spirit, but Trump will seize on what he can to continue to whine and complain and perpetuate his big lie.

He wrote, “So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country. The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!”

Everyone is laughing at us? A junky horse and the big lie. Oh yes… this all make sense. Sure it does.

It’s just so ludicrous. I have to shake my head. Stupid is stupid. Thank you, Donald Trump.  Some things don’t change. If nothing else he’s consistent. 

And so the day draws to a close. I don’t know that it is worth writing about. But that’s what stood out to me tonight and I’m too tired to write about anything else. So there you are. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 8, 2021

“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.” 

I don’t know who said this, but it seems so very true to me. Food is a joy. It is about sharing, it is about love, it is about life. 

As the quote said, we all eat. Some people are oblivious to what they put into their mouths.  Their dining choices are rote. A few favorite dishes… or perhaps more fitting, a few dishes with which they are “comfortable” and they build their diets around the safe and the familiar. That’s a choice they make and they can of course choose their own dietary path, but that’s not for me. 

I grew up with good food. My mother was talented in the kitchen. I won’t swear that as I child I’d eat everything she prepared. (Brussel sprouts. Cauliflower. Fatty meats.  Meat on bones. None were my cup of tea.) But she made so much I relished and enjoyed, from the most simple of treats to incredible meals. On your birthday, of course, you got to pick the menu. Food was one of the ways my mother showed her love. 

It has remained that for me as well. I love to cook for the people in my life. I love to feed the kids when they come to visit. It makes me happy. There’s nothing better than coming together over a good meal.  

And travel always offers opportunity to explore food options. As a vegan there are times when it can be a challenge to find good options, but that is part of the fun. Wednesday night it was wonderful vegan pizza from Pizza Luce. Thursday it was a wonderful Indian meal with dear friends at their home (all four of us were vaccinated), and we were reminded of the joy of companionship and good conversation to accompany delicious food. They say that “if you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” So true.

Tonight it was incredible vegan ramen. So tasty, so satisfying. Anyone who thinks that vegans don’t eat well, think again. Sitting over that meal and a cold beer with Joe and Jess is how memories are made. Good food, good conversations, good times. My waistline might pay a price, but my soul is richer for it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 7, 2021

These days in Minnesota have been far too busy. It’s not a leisurely trip to visit family and friends. That’s the challenge of our “connected lives.”

Text messages, Facebook messenger missives, emails, zoom calls, you name it. There are so many ways we’re connected it’s hard to escape. Of course, you can “just say no.” But sometimes you can’t. Right now the crisis in Nepal is real and it is devastating. I know that I’m not going to solve it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. So these were emails, and Zoom calls, and messenger calls that I didn’t feel I could ignore. 

So, yes, it’s been busy, and there’s been no time to relax. But still, it’s good to be here. It’s funny though what lurks in the recesses of our minds. Suddenly we were singing the Hamms Beer ad that I haven’t heard since I was a kid. 

We drove by Snelling and Larpenteur where Lido’s Restaurant used to be. It’s long gone, I guess, but it brought back memories of Sunday dinners with the family. We’d pile into the car and go to Lidos. Spaghetti and meatballs, bread and then Spumoni for dessert. It was a ritual. And it was fun.

Just beyond that on Snelling was where the first McDonalds in the Twin Cities popped up. And a trip there was always cool too. And there were the visits to the Dairy Queen on Lexington near University Avenue where we would stop on the way home from Grandma and Grandpa DeLisi’s. We’d drive by the fountain at Como Park with the colored lights that played on the water.  So many memories. 

I know that they mean little to anyone but me. But that’s OK. I’ll let dreams of Spumoni lead me into the weekend. May you have something as attractive to lead you on your way.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 6, 2021

It has been a pleasant day in Minnesota. The temps are in the low 60s. The trees are starting to bud out. The sky is blue and as I write this afternoon I’m doing something that feels quintessentially midwestern – I’m sitting on the front porch of Joe and Jessica’s house and watching the world go by. It’s a quiet neighborhood, but it’s nice to feel the warmth of the sun through the windows. The cats have joined me and are enjoying the sunshine, studying the world beyond, as well as the robin perched on the fence rail, with an intensity that gives credit to generations of cat ancestors.

I’m taking a few deep breaths after a pretty hectic morning. A couple of ZOOM calls about the crisis in Nepal, a few hours of work for State, a 50+ mile round trip to Rush City to where my mother-in-law lives. It’s been a full day. 

The one mistake I made was to listen to the news as we drove. I didn’t need the reminder of just how divided we are as a nation. I only needed to look at a billboard we passed to be reminded of just how differently some segments of the nation see things. Rural Minnesota is different from the Twin Cities. Along the road, somewhere near Stacy, Minnesota, I think it was, was the billboard for the Bullseye Gun Range and the image it touted was of a very Scandinavian-looking woman touting an automatic weapon. Seemed a bit… odd. And then, in Pine City where we stopped to pick up some packing boxes to bring to my mother-in-law, I was struck by the number of maskless folks wandering the Walmart.

One of them, a middle-aged man, wore a t-shirt that probably summed up his attitude pretty well. “Screw the rules… just play the game.” OK. Screw the rules… and my neighbors. I have no responsibility. I don’t have to care. And if I infect them and kill them, so what. It’s part of the “game.”

I’m not picking on Minnesota. God knows. We find this divide in Virginia and in many states. In some it is far more pronounced than it is here. Today Ron DeSantis in Florida signed his new “voter integrity” law into effect. It is, of course, a voter suppression bill intended to make it harder for people, especially people who are less affluent and less privileged, to vote. I really don’t think anyone who is intellectually honest would try to pretend this is really about protecting the integrity of the ballot — especially in a state where Trump and others had not long ago been applauding how well mail-in voting worked in Florida.  

But now Georgia and Florida and other states with Republican dominated legislatures are joining into the big lie theory of governance. Even their use of language. If you say it’s about election “integrity” it must be good, right? Suppression becomes “integrity.” Public health measures become “government repression.” Helping the poor and those who have been hit hardest by COVID is “socialism.” And you have leaders in Congress and in Republican circles across the nation telling stories that they KNOW are lies. The Democrats are giving copies of Kamala Harris’ book to every immigrant child – enriching her and indoctrinating them. A totally bogus story and they KNOW it is a bogus story. But they shill it shamelessly.

And then there’s the canard about Joe Biden being after our beef. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado claimed that Democrats “want to limit us to about four pounds [of beef] a year,” The right wing media, FOX in particular, picked it up and ran with it. And senior leaders, including Kevin McCarthy, who would be Speaker of the House if the Republicans win back House, continue to claim this publicly. “Only one burger a month.” That’s what they say Biden wants. They know that THIS is a lie too. Totally. But they shamelessly continue to spread that as well.

I believe America is well-served by a diversity of views and beliefs. I think we need thoughtful opposition voices. But we don’t need crazy and we don’t need lies. We don’t need dishonesty and bullshit from those who claim to want to lead us and we don’t need to feed into the streak of dangerous fantasy that four months ago today led to the attack on the Capitol.

Liz Cheney, the number three-ranked Republican in the House will shortly be removed from her leadership position. Why? Because she spoke out against the big lie. She refused to genuflect at the altar of Trump. And she refused to abandon her conservative principles — principles that I can respect even if I disagree some of them — to live in a world of lies and political manipulation. 

She said the other day, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution… I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.”

Sounds pretty spot-on to me. But for that, the men and women claiming to be Republicans, are turning on her and turning her out. They’re the same folks who boo’ed Mitt Romney the other day, who was the Republican candidate for President in 2008. How the world has changed. How the party has changed. These guys aren’t any Republicans I’ve known. They’re not conservatives. They are Trump lackeys and wannabes. And that’s pretty sad, in my view, for America.

So, if you think that the elections next year won’t matter. Think again. And again. Trump may not be on the ballot but Trumpism… and our future… will be. We need more Cheney’s, and Romneys, and Kinzingers and Burrs and all the others who stood up and did what they believed was right. And we need Democrats who are rational and thoughtful and willing to fight for our future as well. 

It’s not about our hamburgers, but it is about our future. It’s not too early to start to say… VOTE. 

And with that I’ll go back to porch sitting. It’s far better for the soul.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 5, 2021

I’ve been up since 4 AM. And I’m tired. It was a long day of travel. It was so good, though, to get to Joe and Jessica’s house and to see them both and to see their home for the first time. We had missed them. It had been almost a year and a half. I know that for many families that isn’t unusual. But I miss that connection. I miss giving my son a hug. I miss seeing them both. And so it’s great to be here.

The coming days will be spent largely, but not exclusively, helping my mother-in-law with a variety of tasks. She’s 90 years old and there are things that are just too hard. So here we are. It’s a shame, though, that there isn’t more time to spend visiting other family and friends. And it’s a shame as well that we don’t have the time to just spend a bit more time revisiting my roots. This is where I grew up. This is where I was shaped in so many ways.

Today on the way to Joe’s and Jess’ home we drove by the first home I ever knew which is not that far at all from their place. The house has changed a bit, but the “bones” are the same. The neighborhood had the same feel. So many memories. Lots has changed of course.  It HAS been 68 years. The little neighborhood stores are gone. The theater where my sister Chris and I would go watch double features is now a dance studio. The drug store is gone… the dime store too. But the neighborhood feels much the same.

I’d like to spend more time walking the paths of memories and thinking about how they brought me here today. But there will be time, and although the physical connection sparks the memories more readily, they are there for the examination nonetheless. It just takes a bit more work to dig them out.

Happily, they’re good memories. They’re worth examining and embracing. I’ll be interested to see where the walk down memory lane leads. But sleep is good too. And for now, that’s the priority.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 4, 2021

It’s 8 pm and I only now have come up for air. I was up at 6am today because a guy was coming — at 06:30, mind you — to repair the sprinkler system pipes that the landscape guys damaged. That was followed by the bushes getting trimmed, as I spent hours of work for State and plenty that needed to be done for Engage Nepal. And there’s still a little thing called packing to do because tomorrow we’re off to Minnesota. We can’t wait to see Joe and Jessica and we’ll be spending a lot of time running to Rush City to help Leija’s Mom.

We hope to see other family and friends too but there’s only so much time. Wish it was otherwise, but time will tell.

So tonight it’s just a quick note. But, as I pack and as I travel, I know that in the back of my mind I’ll be worrying about just WHAT the dogs are up to. I think I know what they’ve got planned and if they’re successful, life will never be the same. I’ll give you a glimpse with the attached photo. 

Ponder that while I go and pack.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay in healthy.

May 3, 2021

I’ve been busy writing today. But not my regular blog post. Instead, I’ve been focused on a crisis on the one hand, and a reason to smile on the other.

The crisis is in Nepal. Once again the words “I can’t breathe” are resonating in my head. Not, for the moment, as a mantra for those who seek racial justice, but as the heartbreaking plea of a father or mother in Nepal, ravaged by COVID, who struggles for a last breath. The pandemic is as much out of control there as it is in India. And oxygen supplies are exhausted in much of the nation. 

The national positivity rate is running at 45% I’m told. 93% in some of the hardest hit parts of the country. Those are parts of the nation where medical care is the most basic and where oxygen is, as my mother might say, “as scarce as hen’s teeth.” 

Deaths are projected to soar with as many as 7,000 deaths anticipated in the next month and that many again perhaps in the month that follows. Infections could climb to well over 200,000 a day in a country with only 30 million people. The toll in lost lives, in long-term health problems, in families that are devastated and more is shocking.  

“I can’t breathe” …gasping as the pandemic steals your life’s breath. We’ve seen it here… but I wonder how many of us can begin to grasp what is happening in Nepal or India. 

So I’ve written another appeal to our donors. I know we can’t fix it all. But we can try. At Engage Nepal we’ll try to put up to $20,000 on the table if enough donors care. Because it’s all about donors. Again, to quote Mom, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” 

But I believe we’ll find the resources somewhere. So we’re talking to partners. One knows someone with several hundred oxygen concentrators willing to donate them if we can get them to Nepal. Others are putting together an effort to buy concentrators and high flow nasal cannulas and distribute them wherever we know that they will be used.  Rotary clubs, municipalities and non-profits with whom we’ve worked before are all trying. Folks are scared and they’re desperate. This is far, far worse than anything we’ve seen to date.  

We may not be able to stop the pandemic, but we’ll stand with the people of Nepal. We’ll help where we can. We’ll let them know they’re not alone. If you want to help, I’ll post the link to today’s appeal here. It’s a hard time. A scary time. Please. Join us.

And where is the smile in all this? Today, Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller called “The Ambassador’s Dog” her “must read book of the week” on MPR’s “The Thread” podcast.  As a Minnesota boy, that made me smile. And I love that she appreciated the incredible illustrations that go with the tale, including the cover image of Lo Khyi. “The puppy is captivating with his pink tongue and startlingly blue eyes and indomitably curious expression.” Exactly! 

Thanks to Minnesota friend Susan Marsh who wrote to Kerri about the book. As Kerri said, she had only to read the words “puppy” and “Nepal” and she was hooked.

Here’s a link to Kerri’s podcast and the write up below as well. It was an antidote to the ever growing concerns about what will happen next in Nepal.

And that’s enough for the day!  As I look at all that’s left on my to-do list for today, I’m reminded again of Mom…”I’ve got more things to do than I can shake a stick at.” (That’s three quotes, Mom! I know you’ve got to be smiling about that!)

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

May 2, 2021

Another busy week lies ahead. We’ll be off to Minnesota on Wednesday. Leija’s mom needs help with a variety of tasks and that’s part of the reason. But just as important, even if it’s not as urgent, is the chance to see Joe and Jessica. It’s been over 16 months since they visited at Christmas 2019. When we were overseas it was at times inevitable that we wouldn’t see the kids for a period of time, but that seems less acceptable when we’re in the States. 

Of course, there has been this little impediment in the form of the pandemic. But with all of us vaccinated and with common sense and appropriate cautions in place, we have the chance to finally visit, to see their new house and to spend time together. How could we not?

So, today, I should be hustling. There’s plenty that needs to be done before heading to the airport. Even today, I should be out filling the bird feeders and walking the dogs. I should be watering the new plantings. I could be getting a head start on the week’s work for State. I should be reaching out to Engage Nepal donors and I could be finding new ways to market The Ambassador’s Dog. There’s plenty… plenty… to do.

But it’s Sunday. And so far I’ve essentially been relaxing. Relaxing! Isn’t that something we’re supposed to do more of as we get older? I thought I’d give it a try. Why not? It’s not a dirty word. Our lives don’t require that we engage every minute. I just have to convince myself of that. 

So, maybe the rest of the day will be as relaxing as it has been until now. Will I sneak a few of those tasks that await into the mix as well? I’m not telling – and no one really needs to know. 

So happy Sunday.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay healthy.

May 1, 2021

It’s May Day. I remember a year ago stealing from Camelot and talking about “lusty month of May.” It is a catchy tune. But this year, I’m not thinking about much more than sleep as I write this. It’s not THAT late. Only about after 10 pm. But I’m tired. It was a busy day. 

There was a nice walk with the pups this morning. A meeting with a possible dog-sitter for when we go to Texas next month to see baby Gus (and his parents, of course). And today was granddaughter Sofie’s 12th birthday. She and her brothers and her folks and their pups all came over to celebrate. I made Zuppa Toscana, some Cauliflower Parmesan, we did a chickpea pasta with pesto, I threw together a nice salad, and Sofie’s dad made his homemade Mac n Cheese that she loves. It was a lot of prep. 

And then there was a quick run to the dry cleaners and the grocery store, watering the garden after dinner amidst the romping dogs, the opening of presents, birthday song and cake and ice cream and then a rousing game of “Unstable Unicorns.” You can bet that by now I’m tired. 

It is striking how accustomed we become to the peace and quiet of a household without kids (or puppies). Just a bunch of seniors… people and dogs. And then suddenly there’s a lively cacophony. Little Luca who’s a non-stop talker eager to tell Papa about monsters in Minecraft and how to kill them. Ten-year old Leo has his very well-defined view of the world but he is full of curiosity and constantly adjusts his perspective as new data comes in. He has tech skills that far outstrip mine and I’ll be so curious to see where life takes him. And Sofie…12 years old! As I said yesterday, how DID that happen. Her humor, her comments, her attitudes… all changing, but there’s still as much of the little girl we’ve watched grow up as the teen she’s on the verge of becoming. 

Tonight it was fun too to share with them a story or two. A snippet from our time in Pakistan and talking about the surveillance that used to go with it. Telling them of the time in Beijing when their mom and her brothers bounced on the beds in the hotel exclaiming about all the “bugs” — we had told them that the rooms might indeed be tapped — only to have someone on staff come to the door to ask if they could be of any assistance (with a can of bug spray at hand). 

We talked about the “old” days. The time before Alexa, before cell phones, before YouTube videos. Leo wanted to know about the first tech game and we talked about Pong and Tjiama recalled Bounty Bob and Bard’s Tale, two of the earliest games our kids knew. It was a fun night even with all the chaos that inevitably accompanies gatherings like this.

One of the true joys of the past few years has been having the chance to be part of their lives. To have the rituals that seem to be part of most visits. Leo always helping Nana set the table. The kids anticipating a crack at Papa’s candy dish before they head home. Knowing that the pantry is fair game for raiding, that the chips on the island are there for the snacking, that the life savers can be “filched” from the jar on the cupboard and the apple juice and soda waters and the occasional root beer or Izzy is waiting in the fridge in the garage.  

I think there’s something about the unabashed and unconditional love of a grandparent that can be an important anchor for the children who are the recipient of that outpouring of caring. We don’t have to discipline… much. We don’t have to raise them, referee squabbles, or deal with the emotional storms that blow in from time to time. All we have to do is to love them. And we do. And I think that the kids feel it. Know it. Count on it. And the next challenge is to be a part of Gus’ life in the same way even though we don’t have the advantage of close proximity. We’ll find a way though. That’s part of the grandparents’ job.

So, yes, the day was hectic. And yes, I’m tired and ready for quiet again. And it’s true that only now am I getting the chance to write today. But it was worth it. So worth it. 

Time for bed.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.