Sunday January 22nd 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Life

The day began with the news of the unspeakable horror of the mass shooting at a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in southern California.

I kept thinking of my friend Jean’s 90th birthday party a half dozen years ago where her grandkids brought out a long elaborate paper dragon, bright red and yellow and held high to celebrate properly as they waved it up and down racing around the room in sheer joy. Their grandmother had survived Pearl Harbor as a teen. And so they themselves had come to be. She is with us yet.

That is what Chinese Lunar New Year should be about: a shared celebration of all that is good in life.

This afternoon, the doorbell rang.

It was our newest neighbors across the street, the mom and her two young kids–with her daughter holding out a tray covered in little things that were inviting but unfamiliar to me.

I was having a hard time hearing and I did not want to get this wrong.

It was Chinese New Year, they explained, and it seemed they wanted me to pick one of these. We are going around to the neighbors, the mom said; this is what we do on this day.

I said that I was unfamiliar with the tradition and wanted to make sure I got this right (while thinking, Richard, come!)

He had heard the bell and the voices and he did just that, he came up behind me and I got to introduce him.

Her little boy made a point of moving a step to the side to be right opposite my 6’8″ husband and looked up and up and up at maybe the tallest man he’d ever seen up close and thought it was so cool and they both enjoyed that moment together very much.

Pick one, they explained. And they thanked us for the pomegranates I’d brought them from my tree a few months ago.

I briefly touched a package holding what seemed like a baker’s rendition of a golden sand dollar and asked the daughter holding the tray, Which one would you pick?

The mom picked that one up and the two others like it arrayed like a set and held them out: I saw your daughter! Does she live here?

A few cities away but yes, in this area.

(Of course, my mother always taught me anyway that it’s good manners to take the one you touched so it felt just right that she wanted us to have those for each of us.)

Because this is what they do on Chinese New Year. They visit their neighbors. They share sweets. They made sure we had plenty.

They offered love and connection as a way of being in the world.

There were two wonderfully crunchy cookies in that first little packet and we can both attest that they were delicious.

A bridge too far gone
Tuesday January 10th 2023, 8:24 pm
Filed under: History

This very old bridge is scheduled to be replaced at long last and if you watch the Twitter video it’s obvious why.

I like how it looks like alligator jaws opening wide: Gotcha! (Man, that takes serious skills.)

Thursday January 05th 2023, 10:51 pm
Filed under: History

I can’t imagine believing all your life that your father had never learned to read or write and only finding out ten years after his death that he most certainly did. In a system going back to the 10th century.

I remember reading a profile of Richard Nixon years ago where he justified his intense racism by saying, All those people in Africa and across all of history they never even came up with a written language? They never kept records?

But they did.

Ajami, a modified Arabic, was never taught in school by the colonialists nor acknowledged.

With help from my friend Lise, I stumbled across this very cool story from my late father’s alma mater.

The Athena
Thursday December 29th 2022, 11:18 pm
Filed under: History

Meaning, Protector of the City.

Let me give you the link to her picture on Instagram: Miss Ukraine, competing for Miss Universe, in a costume that took four months to create under repeated power failures and missile strikes.

Beauty pageants are so not my world. But that costume is one for the history books.

When someone tells you who they are
Monday December 26th 2022, 9:59 pm
Filed under: History

The rain began about 6 pm and is expected to do the atmospheric-river-dumping thing for eight of the next ten foreseeable days, and maybe even more after that. Not fun, but so needed.

Meantime, this is a few years old, it is long, and I will warn you on the language, but someone clearly writing under a pseudonym wrote an essay on what it’s like to be an ordinary Russian living in Russia. With photos. It’s real, it’s heartbreaking–and it’s who the Ukrainians don’t ever want to be.

The author despairs that his countrymen will ever rise up against the corruption because, as he details it, they live it themselves every single day in order to survive. He gives the example of a child pointing out the injustice of an ingrained bribery at school and the teacher harnessing the power of bullying kids in order to have them be responsible for shutting him up so that she won’t get in trouble for what he said. And she wasn’t even the one being paid off.

The only video I clicked among the guy’s links was the one of the missile being officially blessed bottom to top with official holy water right before it went off.

It tilted left as it lifted, it tilted right, and then it flopped over and exploded right there on the ground.

I can just hear the Ukrainians of today giving their blessing on that outcome.

Zelenskyy and the Joint Session of Congress
Wednesday December 21st 2022, 10:20 pm
Filed under: History

It was to be on the anniversary of when Churchill spoke before Congress to tell them WWII really was our war, too.

Yesterday I was horrified: they leaked that he’s coming? They compromised his security like that? Why did we need to know this? Why didn’t he just visit by video again?

And yet: the actual presence of Zelenskyy with Biden. The clear admiration in each other’s faces.

Zelenskyy, again, did the right thing for his country and for his people whatever the personal risk to himself. I pray for his safety.

And then when he spoke to Congress! What a speech. What a riveting effect–on most, anyway, with reporters calling out the very few members of Congress who didn’t show or who did but refused to stand or clap, invoking for me the famous line from Watergate, Follow the money. Given that it has been documented that Putin funded the NRA who funded his favorite Republicans–he got his infiltrator Buttina back in a prisoner swap after she was convicted here of that illegal funneling.

But I took heart in the many, whatever their politics, who rose together as one to applaud long and hard the man and his cause of freedom from tyranny and death, who represented well all of us Americans who admire the greatness of what Zelenskyy has risen to become.

Here’s the video of his speech, which was given in English. Fast forward to about the 20 minute mark for his entrance.

I was waiting for the transcript so I could fill in the gaps that the captions didn’t always help with.

Here’s the transcript, behind a NYT paywall for now but I expect it will pop up in more places by morning. But the words alone cannot convey the depth of passion of the man in the righteousness of his cause and in the defense of his people.

Meantime, I wore my quite large bright yellow sunflower necklace from Oleksandra this afternoon while running an errand, wanting to mark the day that everything, I pray, will have begun to change for the better.

For every hero of Ukraine.

Saturday December 10th 2022, 11:10 pm
Filed under: History

We don’t have Netflix, don’t even have a TV (my desktop just guffawed) but I found myself Googling questions about subscriptions when you just want to watch one episode of one show.

David Letterman, interviewing his absolute hero President Zelensky in Ukraine below ground with air-raid sirens and trains overhead and being just in awe of the man in front of him, who is not only a great leader in wartime but such a truly decent human being.

The trailer is here. Definitely worth a viewing in its own right.


Edited to add, here is the Washington Post interview with Letterman about his interview with Zelensky that got my attention in the first place.

The runoff
Tuesday December 06th 2022, 10:55 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

A diagnosed, demonstrably mentally ill man who has put a gun to both his ex’s head and his own?

Or the thoughtful, compassionate, accomplished successor to Martin Luther King, Jr?

I’m not sure why it was even a question. But thank you Georgia for doing right by all of us today. It feels like they’ve got the best of Sam Nunn back.

Saturday November 12th 2022, 9:09 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

We did it. They just called Nevada. 50 in the Senate. Done.

All those people in Georgia who told reporters that yes, Walker was a terrible candidate but they were going to vote for him anyway for the sake of Republican control of the Senate–

–but now that that’s not happening, they can vote in the runoff for a person they want to be able to proudly tell their grandkids years from now that they had. Because Warnock is a profoundly decent human being who puts people first, and we will only learn more about that as these next six years happen.

So very kind of you to take such good care of those conflicted Georgians, Nevada. Thank you.

In order to form a more perfect union
Monday November 07th 2022, 10:28 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Tuesday we the voters decide whom the faces of our states will be before the rest of the country:  whom we choose and thus who *we* are.

Destruction of the social good? Of the election process? Overt fascism like my father put his life on the line to fight against to the death if need be?

How many people cheering on those committed to ending Medicare and Social Security are thinking this through? Why do the grandmothers need to starve in the streets so that (name any oligarch) can become even more twisted in their substitution of money and power for human empathy and connection?

Why do women have to be afraid of pregnancy for fear that a miscarriage will land them in jail? This has already happened. But only to women who aren’t white.

Do we want a Beto O’Rourke who drove to every county in Texas to meet and listen to people he knew would never vote for him, but whose voices he wanted to hear in hopes that he could represent them well? Who tried to make the gravity of the power of the Senate a personal responsibility both for him and for those whom he met up with? Who made democracy feel real?

Or Herschel Walker, who held a gun to his ex-wife’s head and threatened to kill her? Who paid for his girlfriend’s abortion and tried to coerce a second but would throw you in jail if you had one? Is there anybody that thinks that man would put anybody else’s anything before himself?

More just. More united. More committed to the ideals of democracy. To supporting and cheering on one another as our fellow Americans. United we can stay standing.

The Ukrainians have gotten a taste of what it’s like to have people in power with integrity who care passionately about them and about their country, and they want to preserve that with everything they’ve got.

We should, too, and all we have to wield is a ballot.

We can do this.


Monday October 31st 2022, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

A few months ago I saw some handwoven blankets on Etsy from the Carpathian mountains and saved a few to my Favorites just so I’d be able to find them again–just to admire.

Knowing none of that, my friend Anne sent me a link yesterday to a video about those same craftspeople, and I loved getting to see who they are as they worked, the gorgeous hills they live in, so many details close up.

There–right there at the six minute mark, what I’d caught a small glimpse of was suddenly plainly visible: the woman was wearing the same vyshyvanka I was wearing right then as I watched her. (This one is very close.)

Mine had come from her part of their country.

I wondered if the needleworkers knew each other. Each region has traditional patterns and colors…

Should I ever buy a blanket of theirs (that would make me toasty-comfortable in winter and my husband way too hot), I’ll send those weavers a picture of me holding their blanket. Wearing our shirt.

Slava Ukraini.

From Ukraine with determination
Saturday October 29th 2022, 10:07 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Yesterday, the day after the gerdan arrived, the doorbell rang.

It was almost deja vue–if only the war had ended.

The mailman (the guy who shows up on our regular guy’s day off, which rotates forward one day of each week) had a package for me to sign for, and clearly he’d read the return address because he exclaimed, “Kherson?!”

“Yes, where the fighting’s been going on.” I told him; “It’s a dress for my granddaughter. They also sell t-shirts that are anti-Putin and anti-Russia.”

I didn’t have to say, Nerves of steel there, man; he felt it. We both looked at each other in amazement as I handed him back his little handheld and its pen, at the sheer determined ordinariness of commerce in the face of all that.

At least I have this one thing I can do for them, and the means to do it.

Same company the birds t-shirt had come from (in a completely random color but they got it out of there.) They’re still getting things mailed. (The dress only came in the one color.)

I think it’s actually too small and might have to be a gift to a niebling’s toddler, but I’d still really like one for Lillian.

We just might end up with a do-over on that conversation.

Sunflower sized
Thursday October 27th 2022, 9:25 pm
Filed under: History,Life

The little globetrotter finally showed up after its second trip from Kiev: the beaded sunflower necklace with an upper flower split like falcon wings raised triumphantly to the sky.

It’s big. It definitely announces its presence.

Oleksandra went through so much to make this and get it safely here. I put it on in great glee. (Not pictured: the sunflower ponytail holder she added as a surprise.)

The war, however, did not end, no matter how much I told it to. Darn it.

Not yet.

But it will. And Ukraine will win.

As one person put it today, the US and Russia both believe in freedom of speech: the difference is the US believes in freedom after speech.

And Ukraine is quite willing to give voice to its opinion about which of those two outcomes it chooses.

Maybe it will work
Monday October 24th 2022, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,History

The best of my Anya apricot attempts. This was a kernel in my fridge two years ago. And now I know it’s going to be glorious to have in the Fall as well as at harvest.

Last night I was talking to my knitting zoom group friends and mentioned that the hat I was working on was the overall gist of the various patterns that someone in Ukraine had embroidered onto three blouses for me; that I wondered how, especially given current circumstances, I could get it to her in Kiev. I wanted to be able to thank her beyond words for all the hours she’d put in on my behalf.

But it had to be a small enough package that she wouldn’t get hit with customs duties. So, a hat.

Note that this is the same soft ball of Mecha that my granddaughter knitted herself a finger puppet out of.

We brainstormed ideas, with one person saying what about going through the embassy?

I have no idea. But I like that one, and I can try. That does make me want all the more to make one for every vendor there I’ve done business with; I can’t imagine what they’ve had to go through.

But only one of them embroidered by hand to order and knew who the recipient would be as she did so.

And I want her to have this.

Democracy requires bearing witness to truth
Wednesday October 12th 2022, 9:19 pm
Filed under: History

The Jan. 6 Committee announced a hearing today for tomorrow, Thursday, at 1:00 pm Eastern, 10:00 a.m. our time.

I am in sudden need of replenishing my brainless-knitting-project inventory.