God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Been Away--With Family

The last week was a good week--the kind of time that makes us remember just how important family is and why, no matter what, this bond is special and rises above other concerns.

Casey, Ken and I drove 700 miles, give or take a few, to spend time with my brother and his family. They live in one of the special places in this great state of California--well, really, it is all great, isn't it? But their little niche, Grass Valley, really is quite lovely and beautiful and God blessed.

Casey loves going there as it is country--like his beloved Tuscany. My brother, Casey's Great Uncle, takes him exploring in the woods and trees. He comes home with buckeye pods, acorns and other treasures which in true entrepreneur spirit (a vocabulary word he lately learned in school), he offers to sell to me. I bit and bid $2.50 which ultimately became $2.00 as he lost one treasure while using his cousin's slingshot.

Casey blossoms in this environment--glows--and is happy and content. I wish we could give this to him but circumstances prevent it. Life does not always work perfectly. His great wish is to return to Italy and live among the vineyards, visiting the piazza and feeling free--a child's life. But, that's not going to happen.

My brother and I are on opposite ends of the political scale so the best way of being together is to avoid such discussions. There is no way, ever, that either of us is going to change or see the other's viewpoint. And, that is OK as some things trump politics--not much, but some! We do share spiritual beliefs and values--just see the means of achieving some of them in different ways. There is a book titled Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?. Clearly, we have different answers where really, the answer is "neither."

But, when I see Casey laughing with glittering eyes as he lines up a paint gun to shoot paper targets hanging on trees and shouting when he hits them, I love my brother for what he shares and gives my boy and all else fades away. Family is good.

Now we are home and tomorrow is a new school day. Casey has his Leonardo da Vinci report typed and almost ready--just the bibliography remaining to be done. Other than at first placing The Last Supper in the Duke of Milan's kitchen, he did a pretty good job. Since he actually saw this master piece last summer and it was on the wall of the refectory in the Santa Maria della Grazie convent, this was a strange point of confusion but one easily corrected. Importantly, through perseverance and 16 point font he has managed to get his 3 page, comprehensive report on the great man of the renaissance, completed. Now, if he and Ken can figure out how to make a model from the paddle boat drawings, Casey will be set. And we can all breath until the next Above and Beyond project is due in a few months.

So now we will get the Christmas decorations from the rafters, survey the wrappings left from last year (and the year before) and figure out what new things are needed--not much, I am sure. The next four weeks will be busy ones and then they will be gone and the new year will begin. I think it will be a good one.

Now..for some good reading: Check out Garrison Keillor's reflections on our new president--it's well said. Wow, America is Cool.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Wisdom in Obama's Cabinet and Appointments

It has been a fascinating experience to follow President-Elect Obama's selection of the women and men who will advise him and rule over the various departments of our government. I, for one, have been impressed with the quality of people with whom he is surrounding himself and the calculated speed at which he is operating. The knowledge, expertise, background and collective wisdom he is gathering to him as he prepares to lead is reassuring. Recently there have been two opinion pieces which speak to this.

Rosa Brooks offers a cogent defense as to why many of the picks were active in the Clinton or G.H. Bush administrations or are coming from strong political/government backgrounds. Some people have postulated that we are being offered retreads and a trip to time past. They seem to want posts filled with fresh faces. The fact is that we need experience now as there is not time to allow for a learning curve. The task of undoing the damage done by the current administration is too great.

Bush's Landmines for Obama

The second piece is by the left leaning conservative David Brooks. In this he clearly states his wish that he not find himself so impressed with what Obama is accomplishing and the brilliance demonstrated by the choices being made. But Brooks concludes: As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory.

The article provides hope that this country can get on course towards recovery and can reestablish the confidence other nations have in us.

The Insider's Crusade

This was written before the apparent nominations of heavy weights Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, both of whom will add additional stature to the new administration.

I think we are going to witness and participant in one of the great historical trials of our nation. The ride's going to be bumpy and tragic and difficult, a time that redefines who we are--built from our past and leading to our future. I think that future generations will see it as a time when once again the right leader was chosen and he lead well.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

President Elect Obama's Weekly Address

I'll try to post this each Saturday as it may be the easiest way for some of you to see it--that is, if you want to see it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who is Barack Obama?

On the trail which hopefully led to her oblivion, SP asked the question--"Who is Barack Obama?" I wonder...was she truly interested in the answer? My best guess being "no." If she were, a good place to begin her search would have been with his impressively written book Dreams from My Father.

To begin to understand this unusual man whom we elected to lead us, I am learning that it is important to understand the forces which shaped him and the personal odyssey he embarked on to find his place in the world--the quintessential search for self. Irrefutably, Obama's life is more unique than most of us can claim. Even those who share with him a biracial background do not share the twists and turns in life experiences that were not of his making and which formed him. His mother, who seems to have been on her own perennial search for self, loved her son enough to sacrifice for him and yet paradoxically abandoned him to her personal whims and odyssey. His father, leaving to fulfill his destiny in Kenya while the boy was still a toddler, sensed his obligation to his child but did not fulfill that obligation--there were other priorities.

To even try to understand this polished man of today, this man who speaks eloquently, who stands tall, who thinks deeply, who believes in conciliation, who has made our nation realize a dream that lay hidden somewhere in the future, his past must be opened. It is important to see the young boy, on the first day in his new and strange home of Indonesia as he watches his stepfather's servant hold the chicken in one hand and with his knife in the other, slice the chicken's throat then watch as it is thrown to the ground for its final death dance. It is important to visualize the education of a child who spends two years in an Indonesian Muslim school followed by two years in a catholic school before being sent, at ten, to live with grandparents in Hawaii. It is important to read of the struggles, experiments and confusions of a young man seeking and finding the world in which he belongs.

Today we listen to a man who exudes confidence, who has an enviable command of the English language, who uses words to draw people into his universe and vision, who is able to turn opponents into believers. Such wordsmithing is artistry that causes people to ponder the combined beauty of chosen words and the depth of creative thought buried within them.

We hear such a marriage in Obama's speeches and wonder about the speech writer; then we read his books and wonder about the ghost writer.* Surely, this talented man can't also have had the time and talent to write lyrical prose as he engaged the reader in the search for and success in finding self. But, the words are his as he takes us through the experience of exploring his dual heritage--white and black, American and Kenyan.

If SP really wanted to know who Barack Obama is, she should have read his book..and then she might have smothered the question as she admitted to herself that he is a man to admire and far beyond her reaches. She would have had her answer. And, along the way, she would have discovered what the "community organizer" did and just maybe she would have developed a touch of humility.

*Bizarrely, there are far right of right whackos who claim that Ayers was the ghost.

In an opinion piece, WWJD, Joseph J. Ellis writes of Obama's magic with words and a relationship he might have had with Jefferson and Lincoln--were they here today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Palin a la Dick Cavett

I know...the elections are over and it's time to stop Palin bashing: however, it is still so tempting--particularly when she continues to make herself so imminently bashable. A friend sent me a link to this masterful piece by Dick Cavett. For those of you not of my generation or a bit younger, you may not remember this master of the language we call English, his marvelous sardonic wit and the television show where he interviewed the headliners of the day.

While reading this opinion piece by him, I kept hoping it would not end--I enjoyed it that much. I hope you do, too.

November 14, 2008, 10:00 pm

The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla

Electronic devices dislike me. There is never a day when something isn’t ailing. Three out of these five implements — answering machine, fax machine, printer, phone and electric can-opener — all dropped dead on me in the past few days.

Now something has gone wrong with all three television sets. They will only get Sarah Palin.

I can play a kind of Alaskan roulette. Any random channel clicked on by the remote brings up that eager face, with its continuing assaults on the English Lang.

There she is with Larry and Matt and just about everyone else but Dr. Phil (so far). If she is not yet on “Judge Judy,” I suspect it can’t be for lack of trying.

What have we done to deserve this, this media blitz that the astute Andrea Mitchell has labeled “The Victory Tour”?

I suppose it will be recorded as among political history’s ironies that Palin was brought in to help John McCain. I can’t blame feminists who might draw amusement from the fact that a woman managed to both cripple the male she was supposed to help while gleaning an almost Elvis-sized following for herself. Mac loses, Sarah wins big-time was the gist of headlines.

I feel a little sorry for John. He aimed low and missed.

What will ambitious politicos learn from this? That frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences that ramble on long after thought has given out completely are a candidate’s valuable traits?

And how much more of all that lies in our future if God points her to those open-a-crack doors she refers to? The ones she resolves to splinter and bulldoze her way through upon glimpsing the opportunities, revealed from on high.

What on earth are our underpaid teachers, laboring in the vineyards of education, supposed to tell students about the following sentence, committed by the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High and gleaned by my colleague Maureen Dowd for preservation for those who ask, “How was it she talked?”

My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.

And, she concluded, “never, ever did I talk about, well, gee, is it a country or a continent, I just don’t know about this issue.”

It’s admittedly a rare gift to produce a paragraph in which whole clumps of words could be removed without noticeably affecting the sense, if any.

(A cynic might wonder if Wasilla High School’s English and geography departments are draped in black.)

(How many contradictory and lying answers about The Empress’s New Clothes have you collected? I’ve got, so far, only four. Your additional ones welcome.)

Matt Lauer asked her about her daughter’s pregnancy and what went into the decision about how to handle it. Her “answer” did not contain the words “daughter,” “pregnancy,” “what to do about it” or, in fact, any two consecutive words related to Lauer’s query.

I saw this as a brief clip, so I don’t know whether Lauer recovered sufficiently to follow up, or could only sit there, covered in disbelief. If it happens again, Matt, I bequeath you what I heard myself say once to an elusive guest who stiffed me that way: “Were you able to hear any part of my question?”

At the risk of offending, well, you, for example, I worry about just what it is her hollering fans see in her that makes her the ideal choice to deal with the world’s problems: collapsed economies, global warming, hostile enemies and our current and far-flung twin battlefronts, either of which may prove to be the world’s second “30 Years’ War.”

Has there been a poll to see if the Sarah-ites are numbered among that baffling 26 percent of our population who, despite everything, still maintain that President George has done a heckuva job?

A woman in one of Palin’s crowds praised her for being “a mom like me … who thinks the way I do” and added, for ill measure, “That’s what I want in the White House.” Fine, but in what capacity?

Do this lady’s like-minded folk wonder how, say, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, et al (add your own favorites) managed so well without being soccer moms? Without being whizzes in the kitchen, whipping up moose souffl├ęs? Without executing and wounding wolves from the air and without promoting that sad, threadbare hoax — sexual abstinence — as the answer to the sizzling loins of the young?

(In passing, has anyone observed that hunting animals with high-powered guns could only be defined as sport if both sides were equally armed?)

I’d love to hear what you think has caused such an alarming number of our fellow Americans to fall into the Sarah Swoon.

Could the willingness to crown one who seems to have no first language have anything to do with the oft-lamented fact that we seem to be alone among nations in having made the word “intellectual” an insult? (And yet…and yet…we did elect Obama. Surely not despite his brains.)

Sorry about all of the foregoing, as if you didn’t get enough of the lady every day in every medium but smoke signals.

I do not wish her ill. But I also don’t wish us ill. I hope she continues to find happiness in Alaska.

May I confess that upon first seeing her, I liked her looks? With the sound off, she presents a not uncomely frontal appearance.

But now, as the Brits say, “I’ll be glad to see the back of her.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama: My Highest Priority

If you did not know this already, our media-savvy President-Elect Obama will be posting his Saturday radio addresses on You-Tube. I like this as watching makes listening so much easier, at least for me, a visual/auditory learner.

This is today's where he clearly states his priority on the current economic disaster.

Monday, November 10, 2008

January 20, 2009

....we will be in Washington D.C.. A day that Casey will have forever in his memory--not taken from the TV screen but one that he forms for himself as he participates in one of our most historical days--a day that promises to be filled with the realization that anticipation can lead to dreams comes true.

For Casey, as he has written on his blog, this will be a day that has personal meaning. He sees some of his story in Obama. Perhaps it will be a day that helps him become the man he will be. Minimally, it will be a day that teaches him to dream.

The night before the elections, November 3, I called United--our airline of choice since we have beaucoup miles with them--Casey is even a premier flyer--and put three tickets on hold--figuring that if Obama won, tickets would go fast. We were lucky and able to get business class tickets using miles. So far, so good.

With the election behind us, first thing Wednesday morning, November 5, I made hotel reservations at the Grand Hyatt, a couple blocks from the White House and parade central. Rooms were pretty pricey but we had a free night and points for another night, so we only pay for 4. With free travel and two free nights, we are OK--it averages out not too badly.

Now, the challenge is to get tickets to the inaugural ceremony. Googleing brings up many sites selling tickets upward of $2,000. But, when the fine print is read, one finds that these sites do not guarantee that there will be tickets. The truth being that tickets are free--providing you can get them.

At this point, I have written both senators, our congressman and e-mailed the official site to obtain tickets. Casey has written a letter to President -Elect Obama and included copies of his blog entries about him. Casey's Letter. Our best hope is a friend who cares deeply about Casey and has some "contacts" in D.C. who may be able to help in the quest. We are all hoping for success.

But, if none of this works out, just being there, watching the parade and being a part of the excitement, spending time in the National Mall, wandering a couple of the Smithsonian museums and seeing the capitol of our country will educate Casey in a way books can't do.

His teacher has already assigned him the job of being a roving reporter, sending daily updates to his class mates. Another teacher suggested contacting a radio station to see if he can do "on the spot" interviews. We shall see.

Tonight when I put him to bed, his last question was: "Gramma, did you ever wonder what it would be like to be a kid in the White House?" It seems as if the dreams have begun. It'll be quite a ride to see where they take him.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Coming of Age

Does it all still seem improbable? Yes, for me it does. Some things seem so long in the coming and then when they happen it is as a blink.

Our nation has come of age. It is not that we elected a black person as our leader--which we did. It is that, as a people, we chose who should lead our country and the world through this monumentally perilous time and that choice was not based or negated on skin color. Who would have thought that so many people were ready to overcome our convoluted history and move forward to new vistas?

On election night, I heard two things which lifted spirits and spoke to the quality of the men who competed to lead the Nation.

One came from the defeated one-the honorable warrior, John McCain when he said:

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.

The power in the last two words is awesome as it speaks to the foundational belief of the United States. The humility in it teaches us all.

The other came from the victorious one--the new visionary Barack Obama when he said:

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

The burden for conciliation placed on himself in these words reaches to all people. Great humility is found in the donning of personal responsibility.

November 4, 2008, we, citizens of the United States of America, witnessed examples of what each of us can strive to be and what makes our Nation great among Nations.


On another note--a more practical one: If you are wanting to attend the inauguration, there are many sites selling tickets for upwards of $2000. The following link will take you to the Congressional Inaugural Committee which clarifies how to get tickets and makes it abundantly clear that sites attempting to sell tickets are not for real. My hunch is that they are scalpers who will eventually buy tickets from people who get them as described in the link and then resell.

Congressional Inaugural Committee This committee is headed by Senator Diane Feinstein.

This is a quote from that site: "Any website or ticket broker claiming that they have inaugural tickets is simply not telling the truth," said Howard Gantman, Staff Director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. "Tickets for the swearing-in of President-elect are all provided through members of Congress, and the President-elect and Vice President-elect through the Presidential Inaugural Committee. We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Night History Was Made


A Good Man

Speaking of his grandmother--Toot.

What a day this will be for all of us here in the United States of America! Looking at lines in Virginia, NC and othe states, it appears that many work places will be empty --lines are so long. This is an election that not one of us will forget--one of the defining moments in our country. Even Casey is watching closely, aware not only of the presidential race but most of the propositions here in California. I suspect he can have a more informed discussion than many adults.

Last night Casey asked if Obama's grandmother was in heaven. This morning his face broke into a spontaneous great joyful smile when he heard Obama say that his grandmother went "home" and that it was a time of joy. "Oh, I am so happy to hear that she is home" said ten-year old Casey. Then he left for school with an infectious smile on his face.

I love this picture from Obama's rally last night in Manassas, Virginia--the last rally of his incredible journey--100,000 people!

Next...Washington D.C.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Comedic Relief

OK--it is time to relax, take a breath and smile. To that end, I offer up my current hero--Mr. Brown, the orchestra teacher at Casey's school. This is the new 5th grade strings class. Could you do it?

In case you don't know, Casey is in the gray shirt on the far right. Mr. Brown told me that he is doing very well.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Once Upon a Time

I came across this today as I was perusing internet news and thought it was outstanding and worthy of sharing. It says so much about what we have lost as a nation in terms of our political parties ethics of working together for the common concern. This was left as a comment on a video by David Broder.

Once upon a time there were giants in the GOP:

"In poor health, drained from working fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen-hour days, Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois spoke quietly. Twice he gulped pills handed him by a Senate page. In his massive left hand, he held a 12-page speech he had typed the night before on Senate stationery .

"I have had but one purpose," Dirksen intoned, "and that was the enactment of a good, workable, equitable, practical bill having due regard for the progress made in the civil rights field at the state and local level."

He warned his colleagues that "we dare not temporize with the issue which is before us. It is essentially moral in character. It must be resolved. It will not go away. It's time has come." He quoted Victor Hugo, the historian and French philosopher who, on the night he died, entered these words in his diary: "stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come."
Dirksen declared, "The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied. It is here!" His last words were these: "I appeal to all Senators. We are confronted with a moral issue. Today let us not be found wanting in whatever it takes by way of moral and spiritual substance to face up to the issue and to vote cloture."

Never in history had the Senate been able to muster enough votes to cut off a filibuster on a civil rights bill. And only once in the thirty-seven years since 1927 had it agreed to cloture for any measure. This filibuster had gone on for 534 hours. The clerk proceeded to call the roll at 11:00 a.m.

At 11:15 a.m., Republican Senator John Williams of Delaware replied "aye" to the question. It was the 67th vote; cloture had passed by a vote of 71 to 29. The final count showed 44 Democrats and 27 Republicans voting for cloture with 23 Democrats - 20 from the South -- and only 6 Republicans opposed.”

Everett Dirksen had single handedly delivered the Republican votes necessary to pass Lyndon Johnson's civil rights bill.
...and so the Civil Rights Act came to the floor for a vote and passed.

....truly Country before Party - The GOP supported Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights bill and Lyndon Johnson went against Southern Democrats knowing he was writing off the South for generations.

Where are those GOP giants today?? The dearth of such men is what is wrong with modern Republicanism.

Posted by: toritto | November 1, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sarah and Sarkozy

Two radio guys from Ontario impersonating President Sarkozy of France prank called Palin. It is really quite entertaining for a slow Saturday afternoon. Among other things she agrees to go helicopter hunting with him as they conduct business. Enjoy!

Comedy Routine Part II

Of course, it is not comedy. It is high drama with a Halloween twist. Palin as vice-president of the United States of America should be found only in a Steven King novel (of which I have read none but hear are very, very out of the pale scary.)

Yesterday I mentioned her critical understanding of the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights. It seems that hers have been abridged by the negative and critical comments of Miss Princess which have found there way into the press.

I refer to her as Miss Princess as apparently that is the way she perceives herself. In the olden days royalty could order "off with his head" Certainly anyone who opposed the king did not look forward to a long life--maybe flaying alive was a deterrent to opposition. Miss Princess seems a throw back to those eras.

Then there have been more than a few dictators who have not allowed a free press or opposition to their misbegotten, evil ideas. We need only to look to the twentieth century to find some of the worst in all of known history.

So, Miss Princess is now aligning herself with this camp; although, even these most evil of people would laugh at her. She sounds more a crybaby than a threat--except evil, weak people have a way of overcoming sometimes.

The ignorance of the meaning of the constitution or the sense that she is above the constitution is beyond frightening in that in a few short days she could be the vice-president of our country and maybe president within the next 4 years. Do you think Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, et al, ever, in their wildest nightmares, conceived of this? Not only a woman, but a dumb one?

A friend sent me a link to an opinion piece on her statement about the abridgment of her rights. It is a good read.