September 2021 – Month 19

September 30, 2021

Today we needed to stop at a Target. It was interesting to see that so many folks continue to wear masks. Us included. They are second nature now to many — even to those of us who are vaccinated AND bolstered. Why take chances? Why put others at risk? Why?

Of course, there were a number of folks who weren’t masked. I’d be curious to know how many of those are also unvaccinated. I’m guessing that many of those wearing masks are, like us, vaccinated. And I’m betting that many of those who forego masks also have not chosen vaccination. But that’s just a guess. I don’t really know and I guess I don’t care. I can’t control or know what others are or are not doing and I try not to let them spin me up. I’ll do what makes sense to me and try not to about the choices others make.

The politicians managed to avoid a government shutdown. I just don’t think that we had to have the drama and the gamesmanship. I’m so tired of it all. I know I’m not alone in that. 

And we’re still going to have to watch them create another political circus around the debt ceiling. I don’t want to watch, but the less we care, the less we pay attention, the easier it is for crazies and extremists to push their agenda because, sadly, they ARE paying attention and they are committed.  

I don’t know. The world has changed so much and it’s hard, sometimes, not to feel a sense of loss. Loss of community, of comity, of shared purpose and values. The TV is on in the background and although the political ads are bad enough (Virginia has an election coming up in November) what really was jarring was the add for “The Nation’s Gun Show” this weekend at the Dulles Expo. Oh yeah. Can’t wait. They promised tables of guns and knives for you to choose from. How exciting. Classes too on concealed carry and more. 

When will we decide enough is enough? Over 500 mass shootings in America since the year began. More than 50 of them in schools. There were 16 mass shootings in the past week alone, with 18 deaths and over 70 injured. It makes me a bit crazy. And I just heard that there was yet another school shooting today — this time in Memphis, It is sad… and frightening. 

And our broken politics don’t give us reason to hope that we can deal with that issue or climate change or economic inequality or much of anything else. Democrats can’t agree on a path forward. Republicans can’t seem to agree on who or what their party is. Just who the hell is there to lead with vision and courage? I’m not sure. There was a time when we complained that there weren’t any real differences between the two parties. Now they are so different that a change in power threatens whiplash for our collective national psyche. How long can we swing wildly between two political poles while there is no progress on the real issues or consensus on priorities and values?

I do have moments of hope. In the first nine months of this year we’ve seen progress on the fight against COVID. We’ve seen the passage of a massive COVID recovery bill. And we’re seeing vaccine mandates having an impact. We may yet get the infrastructure bills passed. We may not. But, even if we see the bills passed, the underlying dysfunction of our politics does not give me a great deal of hope. 

I’ll stay aware and stay engaged in the ways that I can — but I’ll also continue to focus on those things that help me to stay grounded and that bring me some peace. And I’ll enjoy these beautiful autumn days and the walks with the dogs and we’ll hope for the best.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 29, 2021

Hmmm.  I don’t know the state of Tennessee well. I’ve driven through some small parts of it and don’t presume to know the culture or ethos of folks in the Volunteer State. But geez… the same folks who brought us the Scopes Monkey trial.

Back in the 1920s in Tennessee they thought it a grand idea to pass a law banning the teaching of any theory of creationism that contradicted the belief in the divine creation of man. John Scopes was the high school teacher who got caught in the crosshairs of the raging debate as those who interpreted the Bible literally sought to ensure that any other scientific assessment was treated as heresy.

Scopes was convicted, fined $100, and then the case overturned later on technical grounds. The law — the ban on teaching the theory of evolution and the idea of natural selection — remained on the books in Tennessee until 1967.  

It’s not that long ago. Maybe then it’s not a surprise that Moms for Liberty, a Tennessee group, is leading one of the cultural war battles against the teaching of critical race theory and seeking to ban a number of books that look at race and racism in America and try to help kids understand the challenges we have had as a society in admitting that prejudice is real and racism must be addressed.

This same group of “Moms for Liberty” launched an online attack on an LGBTQ Pride float in a homecoming parade. Two girls apparently kissed — briefly. The Moms turned it into flagrant French kissing and groping and even “recruitment” of elementary school kids by the older kids who shared “bi-week” information cards.

Yes indeed, two girls kissing on a float likely does mark the end of civilization as we know it. Right? But wait. There’s more. There’s the Mom for Liberty who is upset over a book titled “Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea.” It apparently includes a brief discussion of how seahorses mate and includes sizzling and salacious content like: “They twist their tails together and twirl gently around, changing color until they match. The two of them dance until sunset and then she puts her eggs into his pouch.”

But wait. There’s still more. Moms for Liberty also wants to ban a book about Johnny Appleseed because it’s “dark,” and they don’t think we should teach first graders about hurricanes because they are too young to hear about the storms’ possible devastating effects.  A book about Martin Luther King Jr.? Too divisive. Why? Damned if I know. Is the tale of a man of principle who stood up in the face of injustice divisive or is it because he stood against racism, which is one of the ugliest and most divisive characteristics of our society.  

You would have thought we were beyond dismissing science as heresy because of our religious beliefs, or because our political affiliations demanded that science be distrusted and condemned. But we’re not.

You would have thought we were beyond book banning because our sense of racial, or sexual, or cultural propriety is affronted. There’s always a need for common sense and common decency, but that’s not what this is about.

It is about a vocal minority determined to impose their views on everyone else. Sorry. You may not agree but that is how it feels. 

I’m tired of unreasoning bigots. You see, I hope that my grandkids learn about how seahorses mate. I hope that the tale of MLK will inspire our kids, not divide them. And I hope that for them two people kissing on a float is a cause for a smile not jeers and condemnation — no matter the gender or sexual identity of the kissers.

In a divided nation we will have many views and beliefs and that’s ok. But in a democracy, those views and beliefs shape who we vote for and what our laws look like and how our lives are lived. That’s what leads to bans on teaching evolution or de facto bans on abortion or laws that undermine the right of black and brown people to be readily heard or represented in our body politic. 

And that’s why I voted today. It’s one of the things that  everyone of us can do. The Moms for Liberty will vote. That’s their right and more power to them. I just hope that enough of us who love tales of shy seahorses will turn out too. There’s a balance waiting to be tipped in America.  I voted because I want to see it tip towards justice and equality. I want it to tip towards open minds rather than closed hearts.

Vote. It matters.

Happy Wednesday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 28, 2021

There’s a battle on Capitol Hill that is coming to a head. If you follow the news, it sounds like a replay of past debates. Will they or won’t they raise the debt ceiling? Will they or won’t they fund the government? And will they or won’t they pass the infrastructure bills? 

I think that when our legislators, Republican or Democrat, allow our government to shut down to score political debating points and to cater to their bases, it is the height of irresponsibility. The countless folks whose lives are disrupted in painful and even dangerous ways are just collateral damage. I am hard pressed to believe that the legislators pushing us to the precipice are giving any thought to them. If they did, we wouldn’t be here once again.

The back and forth over the infrastructure bills is troubling but for different reasons. Physical infrastructure and human infrastructure are both on the table. And the debate over what we do in regard to them is sparking intense politicking between conservatives, moderates, liberals, and progressives. As with the previous issue about funding the government, this is partly about political gamesmanship, but there is a more fundamental debate going on about what is the future we want for our nation.

The need for physical infrastructure to be upgraded is self-evident. We need to revitalize our roads, our bridges, and public transportation, including rail. We need to upgrade air travel infrastructure, ports, and broadband access. We need to go greener and encourage the manufacture and sale of electric vehicles. The debate is more about how much and in which priority area rather than whether there is a need. 

Human infrastructure, though… boy that can fuel the debates. It’s about people. It’s about expanding Medicare and caregiving for the disabled and elderly. It has provisions for universal prekindergarten, subsidized child care, free community college, national paid family leave, and extended child tax credits. It’s about people. 

We have to invest in families, in education, and in the creation of opportunity, and get our priorities straight. When I was young, my quarterly university tuition was measured in hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands. I can’t imagine what carrying the debt that so many young people do would be like as you start out in life. How do you save for a home? How do you build for the future when child care eats up so much of a family’s income? How is it that in the 21st century we still don’t have paid family leave.

To me, the choice about what kind of country we seek to be is clear. The bill, with its very significant price tag, doesn’t go far enough. They believe we need to do more to address fundamental inequalities in our nation.  

It’s so hard to know how much of what is unfolding is political theater and how much is about dramatically different visions of who we should be and what our values are.  

I’d like to say all of this doesn’t matter — but it does. It matters for our kids and for our grandkids. And so, we wait to see what emerges.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 27, 2021

One of the Storyworth questions I received recently asked whether anyone in our family had played a part in History with a capital H.

It was a bit of a cheeky question and presupposes, I think, that to be a part of the capital “H” history you had to be famous. 

Well, if that is the standard, there’s no one in our family whose fame is such that they’d be in the history books. Not one. No one whose celebrity is such that folks would say, “Oh wow.  You’re related to her/him?” Even Leija’s family tree, which has some much more interesting characters, probably does not meet that particular standard.  

Some might think that, as someone who has had the honor to serve as an American Ambassador, I might one day warrant a small footnote in some very detailed (and likely obscure) future history of US diplomatic ties with Eritrea, Nepal, or Uganda. But that is pretty unlikely, I think.  

That big H history isn’t just the story of Presidents, or Queens and Kings, or generals and political leaders. Sure, they’re all in there, but, ultimately, history is the sum of the lives and stories of all of us.

It’s about farmers and fishermen. It’s about teachers, seamstresses, engineers, merchants, scientists, soldiers, nurses and doctors. Heroes and villains. Visionaries and charlatans. All of them are part of shaping history and building the future.

And, every family has those ancestors who transformed the future for all who followed. Mine certainly did. They aren’t mentioned in the big H history books — but they set the future for us.  One of them was my mother’s great grandfather, Gaspard Munier, who crossed the Atlantic on a sailing ship to reach the new world. Another was my paternal grandfather, Agostino DeLisi, who boarded the S.S. Patria at the end of May 1920 bound for New York’s Ellis Island. They both left behind all that they knew to start a new life in a new world.  

They were bold and they were part of the building of the nation we live in today. To me that certainly counts as being part of a history. And my parents, who live on through me and my siblings, shaped our family’s history and added their own contribution to our collective story.

There are so many whose courage, whose values, and whose vision were central to bringing our family to where we are today.  

So I’m not going to worry about the small slice of the world’s story that is chronicled in the big H histories. That’s not what matters. The role we play in building on the legacy of those who came before us, does. Generation after generation, we’re all part of the story and all part of the history.  Our kids will shape it further, and Sofie, Leo, Luca, and Gus will too.  

We’re all connected, all part of the story, and all part of history — even the one with a capital H.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 26, 2021

It has been a glorious weekend in terms of the weather. Blue skies. Low humidity. Comfortable temperatures. And that means… work. What better time to revisit the garden that has offered so much lush richness over the past few months. Perhaps the wetter than normal summer helped. The azaleas had started to dominate their section of the slope alongside the patio and the weigela bush, too, had started to reach out just too far. Elsewhere, the last summer weeds, including thistle, were trying to lay a final claim on my garden and that had to be addressed. All of it was.

I’ve trimmed, I’ve weeded, I’ve done the initial fall prep. And now, three large trash bags full of weeds, trimmings, and garden clearing later, it’s done. It was probably no more work than in years past, but it felt like it was. As I get closer to the end of my seventh decade there are inevitably going to be days like that. But I still got a good walk in with Lo Khyi and Gyptse Jane this morning (the Prince is up to a mile-plus on his walks now) and had enough left in the tank to do the yard work, so I can’t complain.

I can only hope that our national leaders have enough in the tank too. Let’s face it. Biden is on the cusp of 80. So is McConnell. Meanwhile, Pelosi, Grassley, Feinstein, and Hoyer are now all past 80. I don’t want to disrespect them, but when I think of the complexity of the challenges and the demands of leadership, I have to ask whether they are really the voices we need to tackle the issues of a rapidly changing world. I’m not convinced that they are. But it’s hard to say who will emerge.

We have so many flavors of political thought these days from far left to far right. The jury is out on whose voices we’ll listen to and who will become irrelevant. I wonder how many of them are willing to take on the hard work of responsible leadership.I wonder if they can get past their self-serving partisanship and their struggle for power seemingly for power’s sake.

They seek to exploit the confusion and fear that so many struggle with and that was captured so well in an article today in the Washington Post. It focused on the small town of Blackstone in southwestern Virginia. With a few thousand people, they live next to Ft. Pickett where some of the Afghan refugee families have been sent temporarily. The reaction is a microcosm of America. Some folks reached out and wanted to help. Others spread reports of dangerous immigrants, armed with “homemade shivs,” heading into town to “rob and rape” and who knows what else.

Some folks felt compassion. Some fear. Some feel that all lives matter and others struggle to understand why we should care about these strangers from a distant land when there are so many here in the US who need our help. These are questions we have struggled with before in our nation’s history and we will likely continue to. Admittedly, some of the most extreme views in Blackstone seem to reflect the political claptrap that Trump and his allies have sought to propagate — insidiously telling us to fear the dark skinned foreigners and see them as robbers, rapists, terrorists and thugs.

But the author of the article resisted the temptation to try and turn this into a political debate about left and right. Instead it sought to present the honest questions and worries of good people trying to deal with complex questions about culture, faith, diversity, humanitarian assistance, and more.These are challenging questions, but not every tough issue needs to become a new battleground in the culture wars that plague us. Sometimes we are better off forgetting the politicians and trying, as the folks in Blackstone are, to find the answers that make sense. Sometimes it can be as simple as talking, and listening, and opening our minds and our hearts just a bit more than they were yesterday.

One of those who is leading the effort to help the newly arrived Afghan families is a 60+ woman who said she remembered her father taking in Vietnamese refugees back in the sixties. She remembered his compassion and his commitment to help and to make a difference. His example stayed with her. It endured. And perhaps this is why she looked at these refugees and saw not a threat but families in need. Families that had left everything they knew. Families that had fled with the clothes on their back and little else. Families facing the challenge of building a new life in a new land.

I was touched at the idea of her being guided still today by her father’s example. I can only hope that perhaps my own example will some day inspire my kids or grandkids. Maybe. Maybe not. I guess It depends on the nature of the example I set.

At the end of the day, all that any of us can do is to act in a way that reflect our beliefs and our values. And that is important, in and of itself because, at the end of the day, it’s our actions that will set the tone. It’s not the politicians who matter. It’s us.

There’s comfort in that thought — at least if we let it guide our choices and our actions. It’s worth thinking about.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 25, 2021

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 8 pm again. I totally lost track of the day. From walking the dogs, to weeding the yard, filling bird feeders, and then running errands to include a trip to Mom’s Organic Grocery where we stocked up on a variety of fresh organic veggies and other supplies.  It’s an overgrown coop in some ways and one of our favorite stores. 

We came home and I put together a vegetable risotto that, with a splash of green sriracha added, made for a tasty entree to go with a nice light salad. It was a healthy meal… I used no oil and I don’t think I added any salt except for the tiniest sprinkle on the roasted honeynut squash. 

We’re working hard to get the balance right on healthy, active, and mindful. It’s not always easy. Today, the “active” part was well on the plus side, the dietary choices were all healthy, and we even took time for “quiet.” It was a good day.

Earlier in the day, Sofie, our eldest grandchild, and only granddaughter, called because she wanted us to listen to her play a piano piece she is working on. It was fun to hear her play and to talk with her as well. And early this evening we got a call from son Tony to tell us about our youngest grandchild, Gus’ continuing effort to become fully mobile. What great bookends to the day.  

The kids and the grandkids are a big part of the reason why we’re taking wellness seriously. At the end of the day family has driven and shaped so much of my life, so many of the choices along the way. And no complaints about that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 24, 2021

The online world in which we live today has changed a lot of things. And that includes the nature of customer service. Add to it, the outsourcing of the work, the challenge of finding people to fill some of these jobs (in part a legacy of the pandemic) and a corporate desire to get unpaid labor — ours — to do the heavy lifting, and you begin to understand how much of a misnomer the term “customer service” actually is.

So, the latest battle with the voices on the wind, as I’ve come to think of the folks, took up about 4 hours of my day. I hate wasting time… it’s too precious to spend on hold, or listening to a parade of seemingly identical “agents” reading their canned scripts and taking care to make it clear that their lack of information about their own products is somehow supposed to be my fault. Or the unintentionally (perhaps) condescending tone as they tell you to “open settings… do you see it, Scott? Then click on ‘about’… is that ok, Scott? Do you see it?” 

They have no idea of my age. Of whether I’m 19 or 90 but they act as if the customer is a hapless technophobe huddling in fear before the daunting task of opening the settings on your new iPhone. You know it’s going to be a long day. All I wanted was to activate our new iPhones and change the rate plan to get the promised discount. 

I eventually got there. But it it took multiple calls, over six hours to get it done. The information they offered was wrong… repeatedly… and they struggled to answer even the most basic questions. I felt I had more information about their rate plans and the ongoing promotion than they did. It was frustrating.

And a bit eerie. No matter which of the countless “Team of Expert” clones you get, all the women sound identical as do all the guys. Their voices are muddied by their headsets which have to have the worlds cheapest microphones built in. Their names are always “almost-recognizable” but are mumbled and distorted enough by the headsets to leave you guessing.  And then there’s the accent. The women’s voices all are gratingly high-pitched and nasally and the guys all sound a bit like Latka Gravas from “Taxi.” I’ve done my share of travel… these accents are, I’m pretty sure, artifices that the teams work on to perfect in their spare time just to mess with our heads.  

And, of course, if we’re spending our time trying to guess just where they come from we just might not focus on the fact that what they have not taken the time to perfect is their understanding of their product. And then there’s the long list of troubleshooting steps we have to do, often resulting in disconnects and call backs and starting over again with a different agent who eerily has the same voice, the same patter, and the same stupid questions as the last.

Seeking computer customer support may be the worst, though, in terms of the hundred things they instruct you to do. And then there are the questions about the many different aspects of whichever product we are calling for help on. I’m not a novice when it comes to some of the tech issues but I’m far from an expert. I don’t want to be taught the basics of computer troubleshooting in a crash course over the phone. I just want a working product. 

Anyway, this wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my Friday afternoon but at the end of the day I emerge unbowed. iPhone 13 is activated. Account is adjusted. The promotion is sorted. And I’ve got a new toy to play with over the weekend. Sweet. It’s Friday night and life is good.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 23, 2021

Well, we made it to Thursday.

There’s a lot going on. The Haitian refugees in Texas are still very much in the news even as their numbers have been brought down from 12000+ to 4000.  Some, but not as many as stories might suggest, have been sent back to Haiti. There’s a lot of concern about everything from conditions in their makeshift camps to the horseback riding border patrol agents rounding folks up like cattle. At least that’s the way it looked in the pictures. 

But there are multiple issues here. Feeling compassion is an understandable reaction, but we need to look beyond the pictures and make decisions with both our heads and our hearts. If my years in government taught me anything it is just how complex issues can be. There aren’t perfect solutions or even “best” solutions for some of these problems. Only hard choices. It was true in Afghanistan. It’s true here.

As I understand it — most of these Haitians aren’t refugees fleeing the recent political violence or dislocated by the even more recent earthquake. Rather, they left Haiti some years ago seeking a better life in a variety of South American countries. They were economic migrants and now, as the pandemic has disrupted economies in Brazil and elsewhere they have come to the US hoping to find a more promising future there. 

I don’t blame them. That has motivated lots of folks. But leaving Brazil to come to the US because the opportunities are greater isn’t a basis for asylum. Nor should they skip the rules and enter ahead of those who truly are fleeing fundamental threats to their lives or those who have waited years to enter through our cumbersome legal immigration process. That’s not fair or right and it would open the door to further politicizing of the issue of migration. 

But the fact that these folks might not be real asylum seekers or even refugees under the law doesn’t mean that we stand by and ignore the crisis that has grown with them. On a strictly humanitarian basis we don’t want to ignore the squalor of life under the Del Rio bridge. Whether they are true refugees or not, they’re human, and they’re here. The government responding, folks are being shifted to other states, and they are being processed if they have legitimate claims. And some are being sent back to Haiti.

Yes, Haiti is a pretty crappy place to live these days and these folks may or may not have ties there these days. But what are we supposed to do? Agree to let them stay because Haiti stinks? If that was the standard, we might as well open all the doors wide.

So yes, there’s a problem under a bridge and we can help to ensure that people are fed, are safe, are kept healthy, and given temporary solace, but we need to think carefully about whether immigration policy should be driven by sympathy and compassion or something more.

And yes, it’s a huge challenge to know what to do, what is best for us, fair to the migrants, politically acceptable, humanitarian, and wise.  Where IS the wisdom of Solomon when you need it?  

I wish we could have rational assessments of these issues rather than outrage and finger-pointing, but we live in a nation where social media gives us all the chance to air our views — as I am doing I guess — and for many, that leads to the erection of barriers to protect them from contrarian views in the war of ideas… or at least in the war of opinions.  We all have them. And we’re all pretty much convinced ours are right.

I hope I don’t come across that way. Writing, for me, is a good way to marshal my thoughts and impose some order on my mind. But it’s moments like these when I wonder if my choice to share these essays just adds to the noise. That’s not my intent. I write anyway.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 22, 2021

Lots of news out there today. Progress on the Pfizer boosters. More grim news about the far higher death tolls in the states with the fewest vaccinations. More worries about pediatric COVID numbers. It’s hard to be surprised. But, as we have heard before, there is hope that by next summer much of this will be in the rear view mirror — IF there isn’t a new deadly mutation or some other craziness. I won’t put money on it but I’ll hold onto the hope.

I had been thinking about the challenges with the Haitian refugees in Texas and Greg Abbott’s tough guy posturing. But it’s already 8 pm and I don’t have the energy now to write about it.

It was another day full of errands, of work, of calls and more. I never did get my workout in and I feel a bit bad about that, but it was a tradeoff. Workout or head to the kitchen. The kitchen won.

The thing is, we really do try to eat fresh food, rather than processed, when we can. So, late in the afternoon I jumped into the kitchen. The salad was summer-bright. Different types of lettuce, peppers, scallions, celery, and cucumbers. And there were tomatoes and blueberries and red grapes and clementines. And the entree was a new recipe. Penne pasta cooked in a broth with sautéed onion and garlic and roasted red peppers and minimal spicing. It was topped with a sauce made from cashews, tomato paste and broth, and as it finished cooking I threw in three big handfuls of spinach. It was light, it was tasty, and not outrageous in calories!

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a bit more flexibility and will write before the evening. But for tonight I’m gratified to have the time to write at all.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 21, 2021

Today felt like it could have been a Monday. Just a lot to keep up with and get your head around. Leija’s back has been unusually wicked and unkind, so this morning we did a consult with a nurse practitioner that required a quick 40 mile round trip, but so worth it if she feels less discomfort.

There was a stop at Lowes and a Target. There was a prescription to pickup. There were sprinkler heads to mark so the lawn can be aerated and overseeded. At the same time, I had work to do for State and prep to do for the Engage Nepal board meeting that ended an hour or so ago. And, mid-afternoon, I did another round trip. This time to meet Leo and Luca as they came off the school bus. And then there was still time to swing by the grocery store. I’ve got a number of meals in mind for the rest of the week. A quiche and corn chowder. Lots of greens for salads. A honeynut squash risotto. A creamy roasted red pepper pasta. Some vegan butter chicken and dal makhani. And there are a few other ideas.

As busy as this day was, I am grateful that my life is sufficiently my own that I can adjust plans and do things like meet the kids, or run to an unexpected appointment. I don’t mind days like this. I don’t mind being busy, I don’t mind helping if and where I can. It’s good.

And staying busy kept me, again, from focusing overly much on the news. The heartbreaking story of the day was one that you know was coming… you just waited for the news to be confirmed that the recently discovered body was Gabby Petito’s and that the cause of death appears to be a homicide. It’s another tragedy, A life cut too short. And I can only imagine the heartbreak for her family.

But, even before anything was known, even before the body was found, the media was already zeroing in on her fiancé. The story became an obsession. I am sure it was good for ratings. But everyone was so ready to point a finger and seemingly to declare him guilty before the cause of death was determined, or even before it was known if she was even dead. That flies in the face of everything that our system is supposed to be about.

It’s hard to tell someone to be fair-minded in a case like this when our hearts and passions are already involved and we are outraged at the thought of one more girl taken from a family that loved her. But even as we stand with the Petito family and seek answers, justice and change, can’t we also take a beat and wait a day or two and let the evidence come in before accusations are made? It feels as though he’s already on trial in the media. I just wish that we’d let the process work.

The media can play such an important role. They can highlight the news about the missing girl. They can ask the public’s help. But let’s leave room for a judge and a jury to play their rather than having guilt presumed on national T.V.

The other thing that troubled me, I guess, is the question of why this case, and not the hundreds of thousands of other cases about folks who go missing in the course of the year. I know that not every case is going to generate the same level of attention, but why? Is it about the victim? The ratings potential? Or is it about the broader concern about missing and forgotten women across the nation. if the media truly cares, why isn’t there a lot more attention being given to that problem which is for greater than we realize?

I know that there are reasons too why folks are currently so very focused on the plight of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan. But what about the plight of women in many other countries where their futures are constrained by men in positions of power.

Why not spend equal air time deploring FGM or countless other issues that find women denied control over their lives, their resources, and even their bodies?

Or couldn’t a touch of the time spent pontificating about who “lost” Afghanistan instead be used to build awareness about the horrific treatment of the people of Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments. In Tigray, kids and moms are dying of starvation. Many of the men have already be rounded up and shot. A horrific humanitarian crisis is unfolding but the reporting is limited and quickly moves on to villains with whom we are more familiar, like the Taliban.

It just seems like we keep missing the boat so often, and on so much.

There’s so much that we could choose to prioritize but instead we find the media sucked in by Donald Trump and his continuing efforts to overturn the election. He’s still writing letters to Georgia’s Secretary of State and the press covers each word. It’s good TV. And if that’s what people want, that’s what the media will serve up. But to our detriment, I fear.

It’s not just the media that misses the boat, however. There’s the collision course the Senate is currently on. They need to either raise the debt ceiling or, alternatively, precipitate a budget crisis and cause government to grind to a halt.

And is there are grand principle of governance at stake? No. It’s not about principles or the moral high ground. Will the country be well served if the Republicans force us into a shutdown to score ideological points. Nope. But the partisan jousting continues and few of the politicians seem to truly care about the impact their petty bickering will have on the tens of thousands of Americans who will suffer. The politicians won’t suffer. They seldom do. But others will.

Anyway, my full day might not have been of filled with events of great import, but at least what I did felt real. So much of the news, and so much of what happens in halls of power, does not.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

September 20, 2021

The news today about the progress being made in vaccines for kids 5 – 11 is truly exciting. We think about our grandsons Leo and Luca (10 and 5) and we worry about them when they’re in school. I know that there’s a lot that drives the decisions in every community about going back to school, but I still can’t help hating the thought of those kiddos being at risk.

That’s the reality of our lives these days though, isn’t it? We are balancing risks, accepting the challenges that go hand in hand with living our lives in the midst of a pandemic. Back in March we thought we were beginning to turn the corner on this disease, but even with better leadership and a vigorous vaccination campaign it refuses to ease its grip.

Of course, we know that some of the reason rests with those who refuse to be part of the effort. But I’ve ranted about them more than enough. Well, okay, maybe not MORE than enough, but enough that I don’t have to dwell on it for now. Today I can just be hopeful that the boys will get vaccinated soon. That will be a good day.

Beyond that, the news is the news. The Republicans are feuding with each other. Trump won’t give up. The Democrats are squabbling too. I know that there are plenty of issues that matter that lie before us and that I should pay attention. And I do — at least most of the time. But. I have to say, I have little hope that they’re up to the challenge.

So today I haven’t been really all that attuned to the news. Sometimes it is better that way.

It is a challenge though. On the one hand, I think it’s truly important that we remain aware, and engaged, and that we try to shape the world we live in. The strength of our values, the depth of our beliefs, and our commitment to set an example should — and I believe does — matter. But the level of our investment is tempered by our expectation that our own engagement will be met by that of others.

Our hope is that we’ll find honest discourse, even if we differ, and an openness to addressing challenges together. And sadly, that’s not what current experience leads us to expect. And with so much that is crazy, and stupid, and just wrong and ugly out there it’s hard not to let the frustration and anger start become the feelings that control your life. And that’s not good.

To strike the balance, is hard. To not let the anger become too much a part of your life can be hard too. You have to make a conscious effort. But life is too short to let anger be a constant companion. And the older I get, and knowing that out rime is finite, we can’t let it be wasted in an unproductive emotional wasteland.

So today I’ll be happy to take the promising news about vaccines for the kids, and tomorrow I’ll try to find something positive to focus on too. It’s a good way to look at life. I can’t swear I’ll get the balance right every day. I can’t swear that some days I won’t feel compelled to vent, but at least I have something to aspire to! And if you have that much to think about on a Monday, that’s not too bad!

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 19, 2021

It’s three months until Christmas. It will be the first Christmas for little Gus in Texas. And no first Christmas for our grandchildren can pass without them displaying, for the first time, a Christmas stocking handmade by Papa and Nana.  I stitch. And then Leija turns it into a stocking.  

It’s a tradition by now. We’ve made stockings for everyone. All the kids, all their partners, all the grandkids, The stockings are all patterns from Shepherd’s Bush. They are all unique but related. Like us. 

So I’m working on Gus’ stocking now. And it’s tremendously satisfying. They’re something about the process… one stitch after another… getting the tension in each one just right.Watching the colors merge, images come together. It’s satisfying to me. And relaxing.

Some of the projects I take on are fairly complex. A variety of stitches, specialized flosses that go beyond the normal DCM cotton, and complicated arrangements, for me, who likes structure, and patterns, stitching is right up my alley. And there’s a degree of creativity that comes into play as well. It’s a good combination and is one of those little things that help to pass a very lazy Sunday.

This stocking won’t stitch itself, though, and so it’s back to work

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 18, 2021

Today there’s the rally in Washington to offer support for the members of the mob that attacked the Capital on January 6. 

And yes, we can be shocked and appalled at the idea that folks are actually rallying in support of those who brutally attacked police and desecrated one of the seats of our democracy. But we also believe in freedom of expression. So we try to be smart, fair and balanced.

But what is fascinating me is the coverage of the event. 

On the one hand we’re seeing an incredible police presence. They’re everywhere. They want to show that they learned the lessons of January 6 and they are ready to act. And yes, there is always a risk of something going wrong or someone doing something incredibly stupid or dangerous.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. The police are ready and the press is giving their deployment a lot of cover.

But so far it doesn’t look like they are going to be needed. The rally is expected to draw less than 700 and so far there’s virtually no one on site. The camera shots are pretty boring and the multiple talking heads and field correspondents that the networks lined up to cover the event look lost. Like the police, the media are ready. You wonder if they might not end up outnumbering the protestors. We’ll see.

The networks, of course, want to be ready to cover a story if it breaks. And, given the troubling currents of violence in our society and the anger fueled by fear and lies, I can understand why the media might see this as an occasion when there could be a story worth covering.

What stands out though is the drumbeat of anticipation sounded by the media. It only adds to the fear and anxiety that lies under the surface of everyday life for so many. They ominously ask “what will be the intentions and actions” of the protestors? They talk about D.C. “bracing” for the impact of the protestors “descending” on the city. They talk darkly about fear of violent protests running out of control and remind us about the ugliness of January 6 with news clips from that ugly day. 

That reporting may get viewers. But it’s not reporting news… it’s merely forecasting worries. To me it all feels alarmist, but it’s more about ratings than it is about informing or educating. 

I’ve heard many folks worry that we’ll never overcome the big lie and all the related trappings that go with that framework of beliefs as long as one a huge segment of our society gets virtually all of it’s understanding of current events from FOX or NewsMax or OAN or conservative talk radio. I thing there’s truth to that but I am equally troubled that CNN, MSNBC, and other liberal media outlets don’t mirror their conservative partners more than we care to admit. 

There’s nothing particularly earth-shaking in this. It’s been a truth we’ve seen for years. It just strikes me this morning that there must be better things we can talk about. 

At the same time, the failure of this rally shouldn’t lead us to discount the more serious threat that can come from domestic terror. That, I wager, will be a greater problem going forward. And it does not help at all that Trump has to compound the tensions as he proclaims that those arrested for their acts of violence on January 6 are being persecuted.  

But, no matter what is unfolding 40-some miles to the east, it’s a peaceful Saturday in Haymarket. Lo Khyi and I had a walk earlier and Gyptse will have one waiting for her when I finish this blog. So I’d best get to it. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 17, 2021

It’s a Friday afternoon and I don’t really have much to write about. After 18 months or more of worrying about the damn pandemic it is still so very present with us that almost any day I can write about that. I could note that pediatric cases are up by 2000%. Or we could mention that the daily death toll is once again in excess of 2000 a day and as bad as it has been any time in the past seven months.  Almost 20% of the nation is seeing the worst numbers that they have encountered since the pandemic began. Even the big cats at the National Zoo, all of them, have COVID, apparently. 

Tennessee is being rocked with cases and Idaho is so overwhelmed that they are being forced to ration care. You wonder how hard it has to be to decide which of the seriously ill patients in an emergency room will get the full benefit of care and which of them will have to wait. These aren’t easy decisions. Do you prioritize those most likely to survive or do you choose those most critically ill? They can be two different things. 

Meanwhile, the FDA just announced that it’s advisory panel will not recommend boosters of Pfizer for everyone, but for those of us of more advanced years, and for those who are at higher risk given their health or occupation, they seem to agree that it makes sense. Pfizer, of course, thought everyone should get boosters, but it has it’s own financial, and other, interests in play. That’s why it is good to have government review. We have said all along that we want folks to follow the science and study the data. And if there really isn’t a strong case for universal boosters, then let’s do what makes sense.  

We’ll see what the FDA itself decides. The CDC will weigh in too. It can be a tough set of calls.  We see the virus is still hammering us. We still have plenty of people who are refusing to get vaccinated and who, as a result, continue to drive the epidemic. And, if you are an older American who has been paying attention and who worries about the risks of waning immunity and more virulent variants, you may be glad if they approve the booster.  I’ll be one of them. I want to be as protected as possible — especially as we move into the colder months and the virus continues to to spread, evolve and, sadly, kill.

Meanwhile, we’re off to collect our smallest pup, Gracie, from the vet. We’ll worry about COVID later. Gracie had a procedure to remove a cyst and at the same time they did her dental work.  Last year she had a very bad reaction to anesthesia when she had her dental… we were dealing with seizures on and off for weeks until we got her on the right meds to control them.  So we were nervous, but her new clinic took great care to review what happened before and to research the best approach for her. The vets have been wonderfully helpful and conscientious and the initial reports, post-surgery, are good. We’re thrilled.  

Just as Lo Khyi is the Prince of the Mountains, Gracie is our “little princess.” She’s 13+ and the smallest of the gang but she’s a big presence in our lives. She is usually cuddled next to one of us whether sitting in a chair or lying in bed and if, to her irritation, I actually am at work at my desk, she’ll settle for snuggling down into the dog bed under my desk. She’s a good girl. 

And, with that, I’ll wind up. I’m ready to start the weekend.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 16, 2021

OK. Sometimes you just have to laugh. I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit of a dilettante lately when it comes to the news. The constant barrage of analyses and punditry and self-satisfied proclamations of certainty about what motivates any of the political actors who dominate the news becomes too much at times. And so I finally retreat, focussing on other things.

But I still dabble at the fringes of the news cycle. It’s hard to go cold turkey. There is a very real pandemic that still challenges us and there is information worth noting. So I stay in the game to some degree. And, occasionally, there’s a story that either sparks enough concern or outrage to warrant a comment or there’s one that is so ludicrous that I can’t help but shake my head in bemusement.

Such is the story about Joe Biden’s “mute” button that is supposedly controlled by some shadowy figure in the White House whose job it is to censor the President. Uh huh. Oh please, I beg, tell me more. And that leads to a review of the conservative media. They are so keen to portray Biden as old and feeble and out of it that his “handlers” are actually dictating his course and run the government in his stead. 

Well, any sensible person, watching and listening to Biden, would see this for the nonsense it is. Joe Biden has never pretended to be a gifted orator and he still struggles at times with the stutter that he overcame in his youth. He doesn’t have his lines perfectly memorized. He’s human. He’s Joe. Warts and all. That’s the way he has been for years and that’s the way he is today. And in part, that’s what I and many others like about him.

Lately he has spoken and acted on his beliefs… whether about leaving Afghanistan or pressing forward with mask mandates. Neither was a surprise. Neither has won him thundering acclaim.  But no one muted him in his explanations or the exposition of his thinking. Joe is Joe. And no matter how much Fox and Trump and others want to make up yet another nonsensical narrative, this time about the “mute button,” it doesn’t make it true.

I know that conservatives complained about Trump Derangement Syndrome, asserting that liberals were off the deep-end in criticizing Trump for even the act of breathing. It seems to me, though, that Trump give us a hell of a lot to be spun up about. But, be that as it may, the conservatives are as wild in their opposition to Biden and his administration as anything that liberals ever said about Trump. It’s such silliness.

So, from all this we get the mute button. And, as with so many other crazy conspiracy theories that are laughable on their face, we have to feel an underlying fear as well when folks who were once responsible leaders buy into them. They don’t seem to even understand how ridiculous they have become. What caricatures of the “crazy politician” they have become.

Case in point? Senator Jim Risch of Idaho. He’s the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He’d be the chair if the Republicans controlled the Senate. I wanted to believe he was a reasonable and thoughtful legislator who cared about our nation. But what did he obsess on when Secretary of State Blinken was before the committee to testify about Afghanistan? The mute button, of course. 

 “Look, we’ve all seen this,” Risch said. “We saw it as recently as yesterday. Somebody in the White House has authority to press the button, and stop the president, cut off the President’s speaking ability and sound. Who is that person?” Blinken said there was no such person but Risch insisted that it has “been widely reported. Are you telling this committee that this does not happen, that there’s no one in the White House who pushes the button and cuts him off in mid-sentence?”

“That’s correct,” said Blinken.

Really… honest to god… Risch seemed absolutely incredulous to be told that there really isn’t some unnamed figure lurking in the background who has the power to cut off the President in the middle of public remarks.

I wish it was true in a way. How cool would that be if we had the mind control technology to do that. I can think of more than a few folks I’d like to use a tool like that on. But it’s not true. It’s silly. But it’s truly frightening that Risch — and any number of true believers who follow Fox as if it offers the divine world revealed — think that it is.

What a world. But I probably have said more than enough. Someone just might mute me. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 15, 2021

It has been a slapdash sort of day today. It was up early again, this time to take Lo Khyi to the vet for his first post-surgical X-rays. They confirmed what we were guessing. He has healed incredibly well. Everything looked great and we’ve been seeing for some time that the limp is hugely reduced and he seems to be pain free. He might walk a bit more slowly, but time will tell how much of a spring he gets back into his step. Besides, the more measured gait suits his very dignified persona. Our strolls are a bit more leisurely. Two old friends out to take the air and assess the state of the world. It’s all good. 

There was back therapy today, as well… this time with the chiropractor. From the neck down to the bottom of the sacral spine, I don’t think he could find a muscle that wasn’t tight as steel. I think he wonders how I am able to move sometimes… lol. Actually, though, I’ve been working hard at doing my exercises and I’m more active than I’ve been in a year with walking dogs and various Apple Fitness Plus programs. Maybe the stiffness is the flip side of the activity, but the bottom line is all about functionality and mine is good, so I can’t complain about that either.  

There were work calls and emails.There were household chores. And then I shifted into the kitchen and made a quick vegan Ethiopian miser wat and atakilt wat. It was tasty. Very tasty. I don’t have homemade injera but a chapati was a very good partner with the stews.  

I loaded the bin outside with bird feed, cleaned up after the dogs in the backyard, and then finally sat down to write this blog.  

I could write about the vindication of Governor Gavin Newsom in California, but the landslide rejection of what seemed like a bogus recall effort speaks for itself. It cost the state $300 million dollars. Seems to me the money might be spent better elsewhere, but the same folks who brought us the big lie about election fraud were “all in” in California as well. Ironically, before election day was even half finished the leading Republican contender to replace Newsom was claiming “statistical analyses” proving fraud. 


I’d rather talk about food. 

Anyway, the day passed quickly. It felt busy, productive, and topped with a tasty dinner and great news about the Prince of the Mountains. I’ll be content with that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 14, 2021

With the use of social media and tech there are unintended costs and benefits. For me, I’m enjoying when iPhoto or Google shares with me pics from where I was five or ten years ago. I love being transported back to a great adventure, a wonderful trip, or getting a touching reminder of just how cute how grandkids have been each year along their way. A picture of apple picking four years ago reminds me that we have to plan a similar trip soon this fall to maintain what is becoming an annual event.  

And today, I was struck by a Facebook reminder of something that I posted six years ago as we prepared to leave Kampala. On some levels that seems like a different world, a different life.  And in many ways it was. But the message in the posting was about values and beliefs and service, and those themes are as much a part of my life today as they were then. And I’m more keenly aware than ever that, although there is much that has changed in my life, there are some things that I learned along the way that will stay with me forever.

Here’s what I had to say six years ago today:

“So… Monday is almost over here in Kampala and that means I have three days left as Ambassador to Uganda. Retirement from the Foreign Service won’t be far behind after 34 years. Leija and I consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have had amazing opportunities to experience adventures beyond anything we had imagined, to have made friendships that will endure long after service ends, and to have been part of advancing a vision that defines our values and core beliefs as Americans.  

Irrespective of the at-times-appalling rhetoric we hear on the political hustings, we have seen those values at work day in and day out.  We touch lives every day here in Uganda and around the world, and we save lives. We make people healthier, give children a better start in life, we offer encouragement and a helping hand to youth, we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and we strive for peace and partnerships founded on values and not just interests.  We aren’t always perfect and we don’t always succeed but as I look at my colleagues from the Foreign Service, USAID, CDC, Peace Corps, the Armed Forces and other agencies I know that we will continue to try and that the world is better for it.

We’re so proud to be part of that community of men and women. To have shared this journey with them is reward in itself. It has been an honor to serve.  

Two days and a wake-up!”


Three days later, I did indeed begin the journey into my new life and it’s a journey that continues today. And maybe six years down the road I’ll be reminded of one of my current posts and feel reaffirmed in my views or bemused at how mistaken I’ve been. Reading our words somewhere down the road can be humbling, but it is healthy too. Either way, though, I think that there’s merit in learning from each other, listening to each other (something we don’t do so well these days in America) and accepting that having different views need not be a call to do battle.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 13, 2021

Some days are harder than others to sit down and write. Today is day 552, though, of making the conscious effort to write something, no matter how mundane or trivial.  

As is often the case, though, COVID related subjects are “front of brain.” Part of it is because we’re traveling and there’s nothing like being in a mask all day long to remind you that COVID is very much with us and a risk.  

And there’s nothing more irritating — though I try to breathe deeply and not let it dominate my thinking — than walking through the airport and seeing the people, and there are too many of them, who think that their comfort and convenience gives them the right to put us all at risk. There are the “nose exposers” — the folks who can’t be bothered to pull their mask up over their nose. There are the “faux sippers” who pretend to be drinking from the closed water bottle sitting in front of them as if that is a perfect reason to strip off their mask.  And then there are the “I don’t give a damn” folks who flaunt their bare face as a battle cry for personal freedom.  

They’re not heroic rebels though. They’re just inconsiderate jerks. I don’t love wearing the mask but I do it to protect not just myself but all those around me. I do it to protect my grandkids who aren’t vaccinated. I do it to be a good citizen willing to make that trade-off between personal “freedoms” and my respect for others and desire to contribute to the greater societal good. 

So yes… those folks who are more concerned with themselves than others, those for whom “me” is the operative word, tick me off.

And they perturb me all the more when I know that breakthrough infections are real, and as I worry about folks I know and care about who may be dealing with exactly that. Time, and testing, will tell. Thank god for the vaccinations that reduce the risk of severe illness and death.  But even mild COVID is no fun. Mild COVID still means we can infect others. Mild COVID can hurt. And mild COVID can still become serious for some. And that stinks. Worse yet, there are still millions of people walking around who aren’t vaccinated and, no matter what I think of their decision to skip the jab that could save their lives, they don’t deserve to be put at risk by you not doing the right thing.

So mask up people. Be responsible. Care about others and not just yourself. Your personal freedoms don’t include the right to infect others or to perpetuate a virus that threatens us all.  You can choose not to get vaccinated and risk death from COVID, but keep it to yourself. Live with your choices, but don’t make the rest of us suffer because you’ve chosen to be reckless with your own life. Enjoy your freedom — but don’t infringe on mine. So cover your damn nose and put the mask back on when you’re not actively drinking and eating. 

These days, masks are beautiful. Your naked face in public spaces is not. 

We’re wheels up and heading home. Catch you on the flip side.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 12, 2021

Tomorrow we head home. It’s always good to get home and we know that the pups will give us a warm greeting that lets us know we’ve been missed.

But it’s hard to leave too. We feel that every time we visit Tony, Nat, and Gus, or when we have to say goodbye to Joe and Jess when we’re in Minnesota. The nature of modern life is that families are often living apart. It’s still hard when it’s time to say goodbye, though.

I remember my Mom telling me that the day I drove off to Washington to join my entering class in the Foreign Service that she turned to my Dad and said, “He’s never coming back.” And she was right of course. Sure, we visited as often as we could, but home was never again to be Minnesota.

So, we know about separation. We know about nurturing the bonds of love and affection from afar and we know as well how hard it can be to miss moments that matter. But love is powerful and its ties are incredibly elastic. No matter how far removed we are from each other at any moment in time they still hold us tight.They neither break nor slacken with the passage of time. At least that is what I have found to be true with our family and with those friends we hold dear.

I know that is not true for every family. So I feel incredibly fortunate to feel those bonds holding us close to each other. We’ll miss Tony and Nat. We’ll miss holding little Gus close, kissing his cheek and telling him how much he is loved. But perhaps he is already feeling those bonds that will hold firm throughout our lives. I hope so.

Whether in Texas, or Minnesota, or Virginia, our family times endure and we love every minute that we are together, every message that we exchange, every video chat or phone call, as together we weather the challenges, worries, victories and joys of our lives.

And tomorrow, as we fly home, we’ll be secure in knowing that all our brood, adult, child, infant, or even four-legged, are with us in our hearts. That’s what family is.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 11, 2021

I’ll resist the inclination to write much about 9/11 today. There’s more than enough commentary out there. I doubt very much that there is anything new or original I can offer.

The war on terror that we launched with such fervor twenty years ago, though, is still with us, but it has morphed in many ways. Today it’s not just about a war on foreign terrorists but also about the threat from domestic terrorists. President Bush said today that they are both “children of the same foul spirit.” He is right, I think.

His remarks really were thoughtful, and somewhat sad, as he reflected on the changes in our nation. He spoke of the powerful spirit of unity that brought us together as a nation after the attack that rocked us all, he mourned the fact that today we are, instead, at war with each other. 

I like to believe we’ll overcome this with time, but it will be difficult. We’ll face more shocks, I think, in the years ahead. 

Just look at our starkly different responses to the pandemic. To climate change. To issues of racial and economic justice, to freedoms of choice for women, and so much more. And, as technology sparks increasingly dramatic change, there will be many who resist it. There are those who will be frightened by new technology — who will declare it unnatural, not as God has decreed.  

Fear drives so much of what we see. Fear of the new and unknown. Fear of a loss of privilege. Fear of social change. We’ve seen it before. Those who refused to accept the idea that the earth wasn’t flat. Those in the church who saw scientific thought as heresy — blasphemy.  The Luddites. The Nazis. The KKK. The forces who fought against the theory of evolution. Those who want to believe that there is a pre-ordained supremacy for those whose skin is white or who believe as they do.

Sure there are still external threats such as we saw on 9/11, but today the threats are more insidious and more diverse. And I fear the threats from the modern day inquisitors and haters and extremists in our own society more than I do the threats that might emanate from Afghanistan. The divide between faith and science threatens to become ever more stark. Neo-fascists, religious extremists, and others will exploit the differences that we already see between those who believe in science and fact, and those who, quite simply, do not.  

As we remember the heartbreak of 20 years ago, we can’t be blind to the challenges and risks that lie ahead. I hope that we won’t have to worry about them but I fear we will. Today, though, let’s try to remember the spirit of unity we felt once before. Maybe we can find our way back there again.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 10, 2021

President Biden yesterday set the stakes higher yet in the battle over vaccinations and the future. And, although politics are inevitably — and sadly — driving the outrage, it is more than politics. So many of us are honestly struggling. In the face of a devastating public health crisis the debate over our duty to each other, our desire to bring this chapter to a close, and our determination to ensure that our personal autonomy is respected.

There’s no good balance, there’s no easy answer, but we have to try. 

But not today. Today I turned my thoughts elsewhere because when you’re spending a day with an incredibly cute six month old who also happens to be your youngest grandson… well, you have to know what the priority is going to be.  

How is it that five adults can spend almost their entire day sitting and watching a child at play? It’s easy. In fact it’s a joy. And it’s fascinating. Watching a child grow and learn through play. The simplest of toys… Fisher Price donuts on a rocking pedestal mount… can be endlessly fascinating to a little guy.  

The act of pulling them from their stand, waving them about, savoring them, inch-worming across the special rug that is rolled out for him to play on — all of it is about learning. Muscles grow stronger, the connections between words and objects start to take shape. All of it is new and exciting and exhausting. For him and for his grandparents.

He’s such a good baby. Laughter comes easily to him. Smiles light his face with each new experience. Giggling when his puppy guardian yips and prances nearby. Reveling in the feel of the cat’s fur between his fingers. Laughing as I lift him high, as he bounces on my knee, as socks become puppets playing with his toes. And there is nothing — nothing — as enchanting and heart-lifting as a baby’s laugh. As your grandchild’s laugh.

And so it was a good day. It was a very good day. Days with family always are. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 9, 2021

We’re climbing from 15,000 feet as I start to write today. What a world it is that we live in. There was a time when I’d be journaling by hand — a very different process than typing on a tablet with a keyboard. And that is transpiring while we’re connected to the internet. None of this would have been possible not that long ago.

A news story this morning asked the question of what 9-11 might have been like if we had had social media then. And I had to pause and reflect that, indeed, we did not have all the bells and whistles added to the internet back then. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and the many others (about which I have no clue) didn’t exist.  

It is crazy how the world has changed and how much we have changed with it. Our omnipresent devices. Having to make a conscious choice to disconnect from the phone, the texts, the news alerts, the weather warnings, or the pictures that might pop up showing us one of the grandkids doing something incredibly cute.  

Assessing the sociological and psychological impact of being part of a cyber-connected world will keep experts busy for years. And there will be a difference between those of us who bridge the gulf and remember a time before and those for whom the connected-world will be all they have even known.

My mother, who was ninety-two when she passed away five years ago, adapted incredibly well to the changes that she saw in her own lifetime. She learned to use a computer, she shopped online, she sent and read emails and she could surf the news.  She read books digitally and embraced change. She didn’t want to be left behind.  

I don’t either, so I try to keep up and understand how to communicate and engage in this brave new world. I rely on my watch to track my health, I count on texts to keep in touch with the kids when we’re too busy to talk, and I marvel at how much we can achieve sitting in an easy chair or in a plane at 30,000 feet. 

We can monitor our blood glucose, our heart rate, our respiration, our cardiovascular fitness. We can summon emergency help when we fall, we can connect ourselves wirelessly to devices to pulse our muscles and ease our pain.

If I should answer a call on my Apple Watch I’m taken back to images of Dick Tracy talking into the walkie-talkie on his wrist. I should, however, update the frame of reference. Every day we’re getting closer to the Jetson’s and farther from Leave it to Beaver. And, although those of my generation may feel like we’re a bridge between two very different worlds, technology’s break-neck advances will leave our kids or our grandkids marveling at the changes they’ll witness in their lifetimes. 

Change is inevitable. But in the past, I think we had more time to adapt to new innovations before the next one hit. We had time to figure out how to fit them into the fabric of our lives or to pass laws or regulations that helped us to manage their impact in a broader sense. But the changes are coming faster and faster. We are being pressed to adapt to change more quickly and even before we have gotten our minds around one new development another one is coming right behind. It’s kind of like the tropical storms and hurricanes that have been swooping in, one after the other, giving us little time to breathe before we’re in the thick of it again.

But back to the original observation about social media and 9-11. You have to believe that how we filtered it, saw it, and exchanged views on those tragic events, would have been far different if it had been curated for us by the pictures, videos, and commentary of hundreds of thousands of posts and tweets. The technology available to us shapes the reality of an event like this and how we understand it. There’s food for thought there, I think.

The bottom line though is the world has changed and the last twenty years it has changed a lot. And in the next 20 it will likely change even more. It’s neither good nor bad. It just… is. Fighting against it, resisting, or even fearing it, achieves nothing. It’s coming and it’s inexorable as the tides. 

So I’ll be like my mom, I’ll struggle to keep up, to learn and to grow. 

Now, if only someone would help me to understand crypto currency and whether I can use it at Starbucks.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 8, 2021

I’m trying, without much success, to understand why many first responders — men and women who have risked much to be there for those who need them during even the worst of the pandemic — are themselves among those who have resisted vaccination. Not universally, of course, but still to a notably greater extent than the general public.

I’m trying to understand it and hate to see the collision course that is coming as local governments are making the decision that vaccinations will be mandatory. For the first responders who have resisted vaccination it could mean the difference between their paycheck and even their pension and their… what? Sense of personal autonomy? Their definition of freedom?  Some may be driven by suspicion of vaccines and the government, and that, by many reports, is an understandable source of the hesitation in the black community.  

And there are some for whom refusing to be vaccinated is a badge of honor… they’ll show us all that COVID is bogus, a fraud, and lie perpetrated by all those liberals and progressives who want to use it as an excuse to gain control. No matter that we have lost almost 650,000 of our fellow citizens to the disease. No matter they themselves perpetuate it or put others at risk. They’re making a point. A stupid point. But a point nonetheless.

Some may balk at being told they must allow something to be injected into them that they don’t want inside them. I can understand it to a degree. But many, if not most, of these same folks have had measles vaccines and mumps, and rubella, and tetanus shots. Maybe they get flu shots. Maybe they’ve had the shingles vaccine. So why is this one where they draw the line? I don’t know.

We accept restrictions on our personal autonomy all the time. We accept that there are speed limits we must obey when we drive. We recognize, I think, that we can’t kill or steal or rape with impunity. We accept restrictions in order to have a degree of order and stability and certainty in our lives. But with the pandemic? How did we lose perspective about our duties to each other, to the basic rules of living together? 

I want to join with those who applaud first responders and front line health care workers for their sacrifices, dedication, and commitment. But if I needed their aid would I want to worry that when I’m sick or injured the person helping me might be infecting me with COVID? When I’m admitted to a hospital or go to see a doctor, do I really want to be surrounded by health care workers who themselves might put me and all the other patients in peril? Don’t officials have a duty to try and make the decisions that will protect us and serve a greater good?  

It seems crazy that we’ve come to this point. Like I said. I just don’t get it. 

But we’re off tomorrow to Texas. Tony and Nat and Gus await. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 7, 2021

It’s a challenge to make sense of the world we live in these days. The polarized politics, the pandemic, and the increasingly evident, and disturbing, signs of climate change are enough to throw us all off stride. None of them were things we had to deal with earlier in our lives, but they sure are now. Racism and misogyny on the other hand are not new. But we see them more clearly today than ever before. Our awareness has grown along with our revulsion for laws and actions that are embraced by those who want to return us to the America of 1940.

Never in my lifetime has the intent to preserve power and wealth to a select group been more self-evident. Texas is becoming the poster child for religious conservatism and the return to Jim Crow. Those god-fearing Texas Republicans seem determined to ensure that people of color will find it harder to have their voices heard and they seem equally committed, as the self-appointed interpreters of god’s will, that women won’t be allowed to make their own choices about their bodies and their future. Women who don’t believe in abortion, whose moral compass tells them it is wrong, can choose to carry their child to term. But there ARE other views, other choices, other understandings and women who see it differently should be equally free to choose their path. But not, apparently, in Texas, or in the other states with Republican dominated legislators who are rushing to follow suit.

The Republic of Gilead draws ever closer in the US while in Mexico, their Supreme Court today ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminalize abortion. Hmmm. Enough said.

Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have expected we’d end up where we are today but we did. Facts can be dismissed, science disregarded, our ideals about equal justice and opportunity for all disregarded if it is inconvenient for white men and women who don’t want to lose their privileged place in the power hierarchy. It’s a sad state of affairs.

I remain hopeful, however, because I truly believe that this won’t last. I believe that demographics, and economics, and the undeniable reality of climate change, accompanied by the mind boggle technological advances that are occurring every day will force change. And I believe that our younger citizens will force it as well. Sure, some are reactionary and racist and hateful and would rather brandish an assault rifle than ban them, but despite the noise they make I don’t believe their views will win out. I think there are enough people, particularly young people with sense and decency, who will ultimately get us back on the right path. 

 But it will be a rocky ride while those who are fighting to hold back change and keep the future at bay, throw all they have into the battle. It has become ugly and confusing and at times heartbreaking. 

I’ve tried to avoid dwelling on it too much because we can easily get sucked into a well of worry and even despair. I don’t want to be constantly outraged or angry or scared for my grandkids because of the world I worry that they will inherit. I’ll pay attention, I’ll speak out, I’ll vote, and I’ll support with passion the causes and candidates I believe in. But I will fight against the negativity because I don’t need that controlling my life. It’s a tough balance to hit, but as I’ve come to appreciate even more than ever, balance is the key.

So I’ve really tried to refocus myself. I’m paying attention to what I eat. I’m exercising and stretching. I’m walking the dogs. I’m taking the time to be aware — to be mindful. Breathing. Finding moments of quiet in every day. And late next month we’ll do a retreat that is focused on holistic and integrative wellness. Finding peace within matters. And that’s part of the journey  too. That’s part of the balance.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 6, 2021

Happy Labor Day.

It’s the traditional end of summer today.  I can’t believe so much of the year has already come and gone. But I know the calendar isn’t lying and there have even been a few mornings and evenings where there’s a nip in the air. It’s a foretaste of what lies ahead. 

I look forward to the seasonal change. But we aren’t going to get it in the immediate future. We’re off to Texas again soon to see Tony, Nat, and Gus. It will be in the high nineties every day we’re there, if the weather forecast is to be believed. It doesn’t matter, though, knowing that Gus is waiting.  

And yesterday was nice too. Luca decided he wanted to go to Nana and Papa’s house. So we had the chance to see the three grandkids here as well. It was so great to see them all — even our darling pre-teen granddaughter who is quickly mastering the art of being a pre-teen. So, even as summer ends we’ll happily jump back into the heat. Because family matters. More than most anything.

Before hopping on the plane, though, there’s plenty to do. Today I knocked a few of the tasks off the list. I went to the nursery and picked up some new plants. Mealybugs had attacked some of my orchids and a few of the other plants were struggling with the challenges of being root bound or the soil was pretty well-depleted. Everyone and everything looks green and happy now.  

And then there was my absolutely least favorite task… or at least one of my least favorite tasks. Household stuff, Engage Nepal stuff, “The Ambassador’s Dog,” stuff. Every few months I am left with no choice but to file things away. I don’t know why I dislike filing so much. But I do. It’s done, though. One more task out of the way. 

Getting things like that done before flying is part of my pre-flight ritual. Getting myself squared away. Getting organized. I hate to travel with things left undone. So I’m doing my best.  

Hmmmm… wonder if I can get the weeding done before Thursday.  It’s a thought at least.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 5, 2021

Since this pandemic doesn’t show any signs of going away or giving us a break in a meaningful  way, self care becomes all the more important. 

It’s not just about wearing masks or minimizing the risk of infection by keeping our distance. It’s about taking care of ourselves. It’s about exercise. It’s about finding time for silence in the course of the day. It’s about the choices we make in terms of diet and drink. I do, of course, want to be fit, to be healthy, and to minimize the aches and pains. I want, like most of us, to strip away the stress and anxiety of life. But it’s not only about our physical and mental health. It’s also about redefining who we are and who we want to be.

So I’m trying to make smart choices. And I’m trying to ensure that I carve out the time in the day to actually make those choices a part of my reality. And tonight my choice is to not write long because other choices require action — I’ve got a Christmas stocking to stitch for our youngest grandson. That’s my job and then Leija takes them the next step and turns them into stockings that we hope will be treasured for years. We’ve done them for all the family and now it’s Gus’ turn. My part comes first, though, and I’ve got to get to it.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is Labor Day, and I hope you’ll be able to rest from your other labors as I’ll try to rest from mine. And, as always…  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 4, 2021

I was glancing at Facebook this AM. I saw a report that one friend, who had lost two of her dogs, not long ago, had a new pup come into her life. What joy. And I saw another Facebook post from a friend whose family had lost their pup, a street dog who had become not just part of their family, but part of their heart. The post was a celebration of life and love but with love comes heartbreak when we lose those who choose to be our partners. In a home with four senior dogs the awareness is not far from our own consciousness.

Meanwhile it was a Saturday. Relatively peaceful… one of the aforementioned dogs had a vet appointment (all good). Before that, it was a rehab walk with Lo Khyi followed by a much longer jaunt with Gyptse. Then it was out to the garden. The yard needed a bit of policing (thanks to the aforementioned dogs) and the sunflowers that had chosen to spring up during the season now were finally succumbing to their own weight.

It was funny though, even though the faces that they had turned to the sun for weeks might have finally lost their luster, the underside of those heavy heads were infused with a buttery golden hue. I had never looked that closely at a sunflower before. It was lovely even as it’s time ended.I left the “volunteer” corn alone. It had sprouted up, I guess, from some of the corn that goes into the feeder for the squirrels. There are four or five ears growing. I wonder if they’ll every reach maturity. But, for now, it’s kind of fun to have them growing around the bird feeders. It feels like a little bit of the country. So why not?

So there was sunflower culling, weed pulling, yard cleaning, bird feeder filling, and then the vet The afternoon was spent in the kitchen. But that also meant a trip to the grocery store.

Like I said… it felt like a Saturday. A day filled with small chores. And, on my return from the grocery store chore, I set to work. It was all about what we had in the fridge and what we needed to get rid of before we head to Texas to see Tony and Nat and baby Gus later next week. The choices? A Potato-Leek-Great Northern Bean soup with roasted leek/beans/and fennel to top it), a broccoli-artichoke-fennel quiche (with other tasty additions), and last but not least, vegan blueberry-peach scones. The latter, one of which was dessert tonight, came out particularly well.

In the background there were reports on the climate crisis (and indeed there is one) and on Texas’s seemingly determined effort to become a real life Republic of Gilead, They are pretty depressing. And I’m sure that there will be more to say about that in the days ahead. But they couldn’t break into my happy place in the kitchen.

Here’s to Saturday. Small tasks, good food, and a quiet night.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 3, 2021

Communities come in many shapes and sizes. And sometimes it can be surprising where we find it.

Little did I know that when we started to organize an art sale to benefit Engage Nepal that we would find a new community that embraced our efforts and our cause, but we did. The folks at the Reston Art Gallery were just incredible. Not only did they agree as a board to give us their prime space for two days for the show, but they went out of their way to help us stage the show, manage the day-to-day, and when the show ended and we broke it down and reloaded it, another of the RAG team volunteered to take on the task of removing our nails, spackling the holes we had made, and touching up the wall paint. So, to Pat, and Rosemarie, Carol, Wayne, and Marthe (and anyone I missed), thank you.

We did pretty well. We have another $5000 to put into our account for the pediatric intensive care unit and we are able to ensure that all our artists are recognized as well. They have big hearts, but they still have to live, and I’m delighted that we can show them that we have not forgotten them.  

It was an exhausting three days of setting up, showing, and breaking down the event. And tonight we feel it. But I’m still buoyed by the generosity of spirit and the support offered by our new community in Reston. It would be easy to give way to the tiredness and feel overwhelmed by tasks that seem unduly daunting, but, as they say, many hands make light work, and they can also lift your heart. It’s good to know you’re not alone. And we were reminded of that this week. Thank you to the Reston Art Gallery team.

I realize that over the past few years I’ve found many such communities. And they’re the reason we’ve been able to do as much as we have in support of our efforts in Nepal. From the wonderful community in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who have made their sister city relationship with Kathmandu a truly meaningful partnership, to the Nepali friends (and friends of Nepal) in Boulder, San Jose, Dallas, or Chicago. 

Again and again we find kindness, and fellowship, and support — sometimes when we least expect it. And it is gratifying and heartwarming and sustaining. 

So tonight, in addition to being tired, I’m grateful for all those who care, who help, who make a difference. 

The sun has set since I started to write. It’s time to move on to the weekend and I’m ready. Enjoy.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

September 1, 2021

I’m pretty tired tonight. It’s not a surprise. The past two days have been hectic and tomorrow will be too as we try our best to raise funds for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit we have written about before.

I’ve barely looked at the news. This has been demanding and there has been no time. And the fact that it was unfolding as the remnants of Ida blow through the region doesn’t make it any easier. It’s all good, though. And if we can make a difference that matters it will all be worthwhile.

Today, a few kind folks who didn’t have the appetite (or room) for new art still opted to donate and that was deeply appreciated. We’d welcome more of that too.
And we’ll try again tomorrow. The weather Is supposed to be beautiful and I hope that it will get us even better results. All we can do is try. And that’s what we’re doing. But Ii is gratifying to tell the story of the artists whose generous hearts made this possible and I hope we’ll sell even more of the works that were given into our care.

Tonight though, there are dogs to walk yet and other matters to attend to, while visions of the weekend already dance in my head.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.