At the Corner of Grief and Joy: Sending Blue to College

IMG_0659It’s official, Plan B is underway.

We are sad.  We are angry.  And we are grieving.

For those who are not pet lovers, I imagine our deep grief is foreign and difficult to understand.  After all, Blue’s just a dog.  But those who are–or those who know us–know that Blue is a valued member of our family.  We watched him grow from a frisky puppy weighing a few pounds into the loving 66-pound dog he is today.  We care for him, feed him, walk him, play with him, hug him and ensure he has regular check-ups with our neighborhood veterinarian.  As with a child, it is difficult to believe that we could find anyone who could–or would–take as good of care of Blue as us, his parents.

But we have.  And this is our joy.  Blue will be headed back East to my brother’s family.  A family that consists of his loving, caring and intelligent veterinarian wife and two extremely active teenage boys.  They know Blue.  They love him.  And he loves them.  We couldn’t have asked for a better home.

Years ago during a holiday in Hawaii, I met a man by the resort pool.  He struck up a conversation and began asking about my family.  I explained that I was adopted from Korea as an infant.  “I don’t know why anyone would adopt; you won’t love someone who isn’t biologically yours as much as you would love your own child,” he replied.  I assured him that my parents loved me as much as they did their biological children.   And then I told him about a former classmate of mine who also is adopted.

After giving birth to her first born she expected to feel an overwhelming emotional bond with her daughter simply because it was her biological daughter.  In her typical suffer-no-fools manner, she plainly stated, “I didn’t feel that bond.”  “I love her, of course,” she continued, “But it was the day-to-day care I provided her that created my bond with her–nursing her, changing her, holding her, soothing her, sleeping with her.  It wasn’t instantaneous.”

I then asked him if he had ever owned a pet.  Yes, he had.  Had he loved the pet?  Yes, he had.  Had he cried when the pet passed?  Yes, he did.  Point taken, he conceded.

We have bonded with Blue.  And the love we’ve given him has been returned in spades.

Knowing where Blue is going helps to dull the sting of our impending separation.  But it still hurts.  I like how my Mother put it as she was attempting to allay a bit of my grief, “Just think, it’s like you’re sending him off to college.”


Reexamining “The Small, Happy Life”

In today’s The New York Times David Brooks‘ column, “The Small, Happy Life,” the journalist expresses surprise that a “number of people found their purpose  . . . by pursuing the small, happy life.” Given his journalistic pedigree, I can understand why he may have thought his readers would “dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world.”

Lofty ideas and ambitions are what dreams are made of.  And they are to be nurtured.  But sometimes we forget that all life dreams and goals can be ambitious in their own right.   And sometimes we, as a nation, diminish those quiet praiseworthy qualities, such as kindness and generosity, and erroneously place a premium on materialistic and other worldly desires.

Indeed, one’s belief that he or she has a “small font purpose,” doesn’t lessen the impact of the written content.  Each decision written by the essayists and called out by Mr. Brooks has significant implications for our world.  Planting a garden ensures our the continuation of a functional ecosystem and shuns the dictates of Big Agra.  Being a present and loving spouse and parent teaches commitment, communication and patience to the next generation.  And being kind and generous demonstrates humanity and humility.  These individuals may not be a Musk, Zuckerberg, Sandberg or Welch, but their contribution to society is equally as great.

My Mother worked inside the home.  Raising children and supporting her husband, yes.  But she also created crossword puzzles published in many of the same publications as Mr. Brooks’ writings.  To some, her life must seem very small.  But to those who know her, it is larger than life.  She raised four children, one who served in the U.S. Navy, three who graduated from college, one who received a Ph.D., and one who has a law degree.  She taught Sunday school at church, volunteered at our schools, attended our sporting events, and dutifully suffered through our band and choral concerts.  She is an active grandmother to five grandchildren.  She is a caring daughter.  And a loving wife.  I know she would tell you her life has been–and is–a happy one.  And to all those she has touched, nurtured, educated and loved, her life has been anything but small.

The pursuit of happiness is innate.  To some, happiness means an abundance of wealth, popular or professional recognition, or material success.  To others its means love, relationships, and kindness.  To be certain, the pursuit of such goals are not mutually exclusive.  But from my experience, training to win one major race in life leaves little, if any, time to adequately pursue other endeavors.  I know.  I traded a law practice for a commitment to my now-husband.  And I traded consulting work for a child.  Some may say I too live a small, happy life now.  But my life is interwoven with the lives, goals and ambitions of family, friends, acquaintances, former business contacts, former clients, former colleagues, members of my worship community, and neighbors–and can only be described as a big, beautiful, kind, generous life.

I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

Feeling the Love

Yesterday was a sad day for our family as we contemplated the very real possibility that Blue will not be able to travel to Okinawa with us.  I was consumed by worry.  Where would he go?  Who would take him?  Would he find a good home?

That evening, I sent an e-mail to a select few, explaining our situation and asking recipients to consider fostering Blue until we return–our Plan B.  I was asking for a substantial undertaking and a considerable commitment.  A tall order.

Within minutes of my pressing the send button, three people responded.  One who was certain they wanted to be our Plan B; one who was reasonably certain they wanted to be our Plan B; and, one who asked after Blue’s ability to get along with a mastiff and two elderly cats.

Our family is grateful.  Thank you.


Thinking the Unthinkable and Preparing for Plan B (PCS’ing Without Blue)

Blue and [S], best buddies.
When we began this journey, bringing Blue to Okinawa with us was non-negotiable.  In turn, we were reassured that–if we jumped through some hoops–he would be able to make the trip.  We did as we were instructed; we started early.   We made appointments with the base veterinarian, shots were given, tests completed.  Everything was on track.

But we still had to arrange to transport Blue from San Diego to Okinawa.  Alas, the long wait.  When we were booked on the chartered AMC flight, Blue was booked with us.  But my Husband wasn’t.  And we were booked on a flight to the incorrect destination.  We fared no better trying to make reservations for the four of us on a commercial flight.  American Airlines doesn’t fly pets to Japan.  We were then booked on a flight that allows pets and a reservation for Blue to fly as cargo was made.  But the second leg of the trip was coded in such a way that we were unable to make reservations for Blue from Narita (Tokyo) to Okinawa.

To ensure Blue would be permitted to enter into Japan, we submitted our 40-day advance notification to the Animal Quarantine Service.  Within three business days we received our approval to bring Blue into the country, an e-mail detailing where to go upon arrival, and a map of the airport.  Unsurprisingly, it appears that Japanese government efficiency puts our government to shame.

This week–a month after our first flight reservation was made–we were booked on all pet-friendly flights.  We only had to arrange for Blue to fly from Narita to Naha (Okinawa).  This morning I sat at my computer, picked up the phone and rang All Nippon Airways. Yes, a reservation was made for Blue under my Husband’s ticket.  Yes, I would like a call back to confirm that there was space on the domestic flight.  Yes, the fee would not be an issue.  I hung up with a feeling of lightness that comes only from ensuring your entire family is traveling together, without issue.

My husband and I have spent numerous hours speaking with airlines, civilian government employees, travel office agents, and third party pet movers, attempting to move heaven and earth to get us all on the same flight.  And it had paid off.  Finally.

Minutes later my silent moment of victory was shattered by the ringing of my mobile phone.  Yoko, the customer service agent with whom I previously had spoken, politely informed me that because our pet and his kennel exceeded 100 pounds in weight, he would not be permitted on the flight.  There were no exceptions.  He was not permitted to fly as cargo.  We could not pay an extra fee to allow him passage.

According to airline requirements Blue requires a giant kennel (series 700).  It is the largest, non-custom made kennel on the market, measuring 48″ in length x 35″ in height  x 32″ in width, and weighs 42.5 pounds.  Some pet transporters and airlines alike have suggested he would fit in a smaller extra large kennel.  But I’ve measured him more than a dozen times, as has my Husband and my Father.  Each of us separately reaching the conclusion that Blue won’t meet international standards flying in a smaller kennel.  And there’s the rub.

As someone once said, a real problem is one that cannot be resolved with money.  We cannot in good faith attempt to put Blue in a smaller kennel and risk that he is prohibited from flying with us.  So while we continue to work the phones to find a solution, we need a Plan B, for his sake and ours.  We need to find someone willing and able to love and care for him until we return.

My heart aches when I contemplate leaving Blue in the States, no matter how good of a home for him we find.  But I can’t help but wonder whether his remaining in the States is in his best interest, regardless of my (very selfish) feelings.

RE:PRINT (NYT): FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Sepp Blatter Isn’t Among Them

Picture of the FIFA logo at the Home of FIFA

“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. . . .

We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.”

Statement by FIFA Regarding Arrests of Officials earlier today.

Sepp Blatter should resign.

At the very (very) least, he should withdraw his name from this Friday’s election to remain president of the governing body of international football (soccer to many Americans) for a fifth consecutive term, since 1998.  Those who have been following FIFA and its tournaments–yes, including the FIFA World Cup–know that allegations of corruption and bribery have plagued the organization and its leader for years.

This morning’s arrests of top football officials in Zurich, Switzerland, for violation of United States federal corruption laws is shocking only because action was taken by a law enforcement agency, not because there may be truth behind the allegations.

Additional details regarding the charges against the men arrested will be forthcoming and I, like many fans, am looking forward to seeing how the government’s case unfolds.  FIFA has, in large part, created–and governs–a multi-billion dollar industry, one that spans developing and first world nations alike.  Of course corruption exists.

The reasons why are simple.  First, the organization is vast and receives bids for nearly each aspect of a tournament, from potential host countries to exclusive broadcasting rights, and everything in between.  Second, the president has been in power for far too long.  Indeed, I find Lord Acton’s words particularly instructive, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.”  And, lastly, much of FIFA’s activity is shrouded in secrecy.

As a dedicated World Cup junkie, when I watch officials oblivious to flagrant fouls, repeatedly rule in favor of one team, or issue cautions inconsistently, I can’t help but wonder in whose pocket they belong. Whispers of systemic corruption have cast a long shadow over the sport.   Here’s to hoping the game returns to being played in the light.


* * *

RE:PRINT (NEW YORK TIMES):  FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Sepp Blatter Isn’t Among Them

ZURICH — Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.

As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plainclothes Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs.

The arrests were carried out peacefully. One FIFA official, Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, was led by the authorities from his room to a side-door exit of the hotel. He was allowed to bring his luggage, which was adorned with FIFA logos.

The charges, backed by an F.B.I. investigation, allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.

Several hours after the soccer officials were apprehended at the hotel, Swiss authorities said that they had opened criminal cases related to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — incidents that, more than any others, encapsulated FIFA’s unusual power dynamic. “In the course of said proceedings,” the Swiss officials said, “electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.”

The arrests were a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades.

The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. Blatter has for years acted as a de facto head of state. Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him.

An election, seemingly preordained to give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday. A FIFA spokesman insisted at the news conference that Mr. Blatter was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing and that the election would go ahead as planned.

The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.

The soccer officials charged are Mr. Li, Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolás Leoz.

“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” the organization said in a statement.

Charges were also made against the sports-marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis. Authorities also charged José Margulies as an intermediary who facilitated illegal payments.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.

The Justice Department built its case with help from a former FIFA executive, Chuck Blazer, who secretly pleaded guilty in federal court in 2013. Mr. Blazer forfeited $1.9 million when he entered his guilty plea and agreed to make a second payment at sentencing.

The case is the most significant one yet for Ms. Lynch, who took office last month. She previously served as the United States attorney in Brooklyn, where she supervised the FIFA investigation. Ms. Lynch and F.B.I. Director James Comey were scheduled to hold a news conference on Wednesdday at 10:30 a.m. in Brooklyn.

With more than $1.5 billion in reserves, FIFA is as much a global financial conglomerate as a sports organization. With countries around the world competing aggressively to win the bid to host the World Cup, Mr. Blatter has commanded the fealty of anyone who wanted a piece of that revenue stream. He and FIFA have weathered corruption controversies in the past, but none involved charges of federal crimes in United States court.

United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.

Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.

Critics of FIFA point to the lack of transparency regarding executive salaries and resource allocations for an organization that, by its own admission, had revenue of $5.7 billion from 2011 to 2014. Policy decisions are also often taken without debate or explanation, and a small group of officials — known as the executive committee — operates with outsize power. FIFA has for years functioned with little oversight and even less transparency. Alexandra Wrage, a governance consultant who once unsuccessfully attempted to help overhaul FIFA’s methods, labeled the organization “byzantine and impenetrable.”

Law enforcement officials said much of the inquiry involves Concacaf, one of the six regional confederations that compose FIFA. Concacaf — which stands for Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football — includes major countries like the United States and Mexico, and also tiny ones like Barbados and Montserrat.

According to the indictment, several international soccer events were tainted by bribes and kickbacks involving media and marketing rights: World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf region; the Gold Cup, a regional championship tournament; the Concacaf Champions League; the Copa América; and the South American club championship, the Copa Libertadores. The indictment also claims that bribes and kickbacks were found in connection with the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup.

Concacaf was led from 1990 to 2011 by Mr. Warner, the longtime head of Trinidad and Tobago’s federation. A key power broker in FIFA’s governing executive committee, Mr. Warner had been dogged by accusations of corruption. He was accused of illegally profiting from the resale of tickets to the 2006 World Cup and of withholding the bonuses of the Trinidad players who participated in that tournament.

Mr. Warner resigned his positions in FIFA, Concacaf and his national association in 2011 amid mounting evidence that he had been part of an attempt to buy the votes of Caribbean federation officials in the 2011 FIFA presidential election. A 2013 Concacaf report also found that he had received tens of millions of dollars in misappropriated funds.

But according to the rules of FIFA at the time, Mr. Warner’s resignation led to the immediate closure of all ethics committee cases against him. “The presumption of innocence is maintained,” FIFA said in a short statement announcing his departure.

Many critics found the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be flawed from the start: The decision to award two tournaments at once, they said, would invite vote-trading and other inducements. Since only the 24 members of the executive committee would decide on the hosts, persuading even a few of them might be enough to swing the vote.

Even before the vote took place, two committee members — Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti — were suspended after an investigation by The Sunday Times caught both men on tape asking for payments in exchange for their support. It was later revealed by England’s bid chief that four ExCo members had solicited bribes from him for their votes; one asked for $2.5 million, while another, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, requested a knighthood.

As new accounts of bribery continued to emerge — a whistle-blower who worked for the Qatar bid team claimed that several African officials were paid $1.5 million each to support Qatar — FIFA in 2012 started an investigation of the bid process. It was led by a former United States attorney, Michael J. Garcia, who spent nearly two years compiling a report. That report, however, has never been made public; instead, the top judge on the ethics committee, the German Hans-Joachim Eckert, released a summary of the report. In it, he declared that while violations of the code of ethics had occurred, they had not affected the integrity of the vote.

Within hours, Mr. Garcia had criticized Mr. Eckert’s summary as incorrect and incomplete, charging that it contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts.” Nonetheless, FIFA moved quickly to embrace the report’s absolution of the bid process. Qatar World Cup officials said the review had upheld “the integrity and quality of our bid,” and Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told reporters, “I hope we will not have talk about this again.”

The issue was, in fact, raised again Wednesday. When pressed by reporters at the news conference, Walter de Gregorio, a FIFA spokesman, repeatedly said that FIFA would not consider reopening the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Correction: May 27, 2015
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the year of the FIFA presidential election that Jack Warner was suspected of attempting to influence. It was 2011, not 2010.

The Comfort of Long Lasting Friendships

Friends since kindergarten.
Our daughter with a dear friend and her son.

Friendship.  For many women, including myself, the word friend–let alone the actual friendship–can be complex and complicated.  Indeed, the portmanteau frenemy, defined as one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy, is not a recent creation.  It is as with any relationship, I suppose, that jealousy, petty annoyances, impatience, and pride, may cause a divide.  Although friendship is unique to other relationships, such as relatives or colleagues, because one is able to choose one’s friends.  We are born into our family, marry into our partner’s family, are thrown together with co-workers because of our expertise or skill-set, identify with classmates from our Alma Mater, and feel a spiritual kinship with those who attend the same house of worship, gym or local coffee shop.  But our friends are those few individuals with whom we click.  We want to get to know them; they want to get to know us.  And despite doing so, we still have an affinity towards one another.

My close friends are vastly different from one another.  Some are married, some aren’t.    Some work, others don’t.  Some are financially well-off, others struggle.  Some are parents, some are not.  Regardless of wealth, career path or marital status, I can ring any one of my friends and begin a conversation as if we never stopped talking.  They know my family.  They know my past.  They know my heart.  And they know my friends–if not by personal introduction, by name.

Like all weekends, this weekend was precious.  Weekends are our family time.  And weekends are our free time.  But this weekend also was one of our last in San Diego.  Indeed, we have two weekends before movers begin to arrive; and, three weekends before we move out of our home.  So what did we do this weekend?  We spent it with friends visiting us from Arizona.  To be certain, they are not just any friends, but good friends.  I’ve known her since kindergarten; I’ve known him since before they were married 17 years ago; and, I’ve logged many hours with their three children.  They are the kind of friends that fit you like your favorite well-worn cashmere sweater–they warm you, they comfort you.  They are people with whom I can spend all day and not be bored or annoyed.  Despite political, philosophical and religious differences, no topic is off limits and no punches are pulled, for we respect, care for, and appreciate one another.

They came to purchase one of our vehicles.  But I know that they also came to say goodbye.  There were no tears when we parted.  There never are.  We know we will see each other again.  While we are abroad we will talk, FaceTime, and write.  And this visit will not be quickly forgotten.

As we were taking our morning family walk, my mobile rang.  They had arrived at our home.  We’ll be right there, I replied.  As we turned the corner a block away from our house and our guests, Blue began sniffing the air with abandon.  With what can only be described as unbridled enthusiasm, he began pulling me down the sidewalk.  His tail was wagging wildly.  His head held high.  As we cleared the trees and turned the corner, three boys raging in age from 10 to almost-14 years stood there ready to greet him.  My friend stood smiling, as if we had seen each other yesterday, with her arms full of books for our daughter.  As we made our way inside, I welcomed the familiar chaos of a house full of children and the incessant conversation of adults catching up on new jobs, the end of the school year, moving arrangements, food allergies, finances, vehicle purchases, family relations, and future plans.

After spending the day at La Jolla Shores, we returned home to eat pizza and ice cream cake in celebration of our husbands’ birthdays.  The next day they joined us for an informal lunch and after a few hours left to return home.

That evening she text messaged me that they arrived home safely and thanked us for our hospitality.  I thanked her for the books and their time and told her she would be missed.  Indeed, I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to spend a weekend than in the company of a longtime friend, to whom explanations are unnecessary and desires are already known.

“Don’t count us out for a visit.  If we can make it happen, we will,” she responded.  I smiled and thought to myself, “Of course, it goes without saying.”

Here’s to friendship.